IACHR welcomes the decision issued by the Dominica High Court in favor of equality

May 6, 2024

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the ruling issued by the Dominica High Court, which declared unconstitutional, null and void section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act prohibiting 'gross indecency' punishable by 12 years imprisonment and section 16 prohibiting 'buggery' punishable by 10 years imprisonment and/or committal to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Legislative provisions that criminalize private consensual same-sex relations are against international human rights standards, as they violate human dignity, privacy, and freedom of expression. It is also worth noting that the Dominica High Court in its decision highlights international and Inter-American standards which stipulate that laws criminalizing consensual intimate relations between persons of the same sex are against the principles of equality and non-discrimination in the American Convention.

With this landmark decision, Dominica has aligned itself with other nations whose courts have struck down criminalization provisions as human rights violations. Most Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries now comply with Inter-American standards on decriminalization.

The IACHR has noted that even when these laws are not enforced, they have a negative impact on society, as they foster prejudice, encourage acts of violence, and enable a culture of impunity. In 2020, the IACHR emphasized that such criminal prohibitions interfere in aspects related to the private lives of individuals on the basis of a protected category of the American Convention without reasonable justification, in violation of human rights standards. Furthermore, they constitute barriers for persons with non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities to access other rights, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, health, employment, access to justice, among others.

All States in the region that still maintain these forms of criminalization are called upon to repeal laws that facilitate the persecution of LGBTI persons in any form and that encourage acts of violence due to prejudice and discrimination. In addition, the States of the region are urged to continue advancing the social inclusion and real equality of LGBTI people. The IACHR reaffirms its commitment to States and Civil Society Organizations to assist in the processes to create a legal framework that protects LGBTI persons from all forms of violence and 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. 091/24

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