‘Null and void’: Judge drops Saint Kitts’ anti-gay law

Gay rights groups are hailing the decision to loosen colonial-era anti-gay laws in the eastern Caribbean country.

Published on 30 Aug 2022 30 Aug 2022

The supreme court of nine eastern Caribbean countries and territories has ruled that homosexual acts and practices are protected under the right to privacy, overturning colonial-era laws that made it a crime of the law on homosexuality in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The anti-gay laws were challenged in court by the Saint Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) and Jamal Jeffers, a gay man, in January last year according to Loop, a Caribbean news agency.

“This decision strongly affirms that a person’s sexuality should never be the basis of any discrimination. We welcome the recognition of this fact, which we have been advocating for a long time,” said Tynetta McKoy, SKNAFE’s executive director, according to Loop.

Gay people have faced discrimination there, and the ruling has been hailed by gay rights groups as a step towards equality and freedom. SKNAFE and Jeffers argued that the right to freedom includes the right to have consensual sex with a person of their choice.

They also argued that the right to privacy is not limited to protection against illegal searches.

A St Lucia court upheld the claim, with High Court Judge Trevor Ward saying that sections of the 1873 anti-homosexuality law infringed on “the right of individuals to make their own decisions.” , who choose to display their sexuality in private with another consent. a great person.”

Ward said in the judgment that the laws were “null and void”.

The local government failed to argue that sexual opinions are not covered by the guarantee of free speech. They also argued that toleration of homosexual acts would open “the floodgates to practices that could alter and compromise the survival of the Federation’s culture and identity”, which they argued was based on “a belief in Almighty God and the dignity of the individual”.

Evangelical groups also led efforts to support the law. The chairman of the Evangelical Association of Saint Kitts, which is made up of about 30 Christian churches, had issued a statement in support of the law that “the morality and religion of the community should influence any interpretation of The Constitution.”

The court rejected the accusations, stating that “public behavior has nothing to do with religious teachings or public opinion.”

The law was not proposed but was amended in 2012 to increase the maximum penalty for indecent assault against men from four to 10 years, including the possibility of hard labor. According to Loop, the process still works in cases of inappropriate sex and child sex.

“We have made history,” said Kenita Placide, executive director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality. “Affirmative action means yes to privacy and yes to freedom of expression.”

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS expressed its support for the decision, calling it “good news.”

St Kitts and Nevis is the latest country to declare laws that criminalize LGBT people unconstitutional.

Read our statement 👉🏾 https://t.co/Q2s2qtmmZk pic.twitter.com/P9AyDPpEnW

— UNAIDS (@UNAIDS) August 30, 2022

Courts in Belize, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda have previously found similar laws unconstitutional. Other cases in Barbados and St Lucia are pending, and Loop reports that LGBTQ organizations expect those challenges to end by the end of 2022.