IACHR celebrates Court ruling on colonial-era laws that criminalized consensual sexual activity of LGBTI persons in Antigua and Barbuda

July 15, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the ruling in the case of Orden David and others v. the Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda, that found that sections of the colonial-era Sexual Offences Act of Antigua and Barbuda -which punished adult consensual same-sex activity- contravene the Constitution.

In its historic July 5 decision, the High Court of Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court held that the offences known as ‘buggery' and ‘serious indecency' are unconstitutional to the extent that they offend the rights of persons with legal capacity to consent to sexual activity. In particular, the Court found violations to the rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection for discrimination on the basis of sex. The decision used a human rights approach which analyzed international jurisprudence, including Inter-American standards protecting the rights of LGBTI persons.

The Commission celebrates the work of civil society and human rights activists in the Caribbean who are challenging laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This has allowed for the evolution of legislation and policies. Moreover, IACHR is pleased to note that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, in general, did not oppose the claimants' motion and accepted that the provisions were inconsistent with fundamental rights and freedoms

The criminalization of consensual relationships violates the principle of equality, non-discrimination and the right to privacy. These laws help maintain an environment that condones discrimination, stigmatization, violence, and social control over LGBTI persons since they have been used to justify the arbitrary arrests, detention and even torture. The mere existence of such laws impacts the mental health of LGBTI persons, as sources of anxiety, guilt and depression.

The IACHR calls on all the States in the Inter-American region to repeal any laws that continue to criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults or allow for the prosecution of LGBTI persons in any other form. States must also take positive action to create a legal framework to protect LGBTI persons against all forms of discrimination.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 162/22

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