Caribbean Court Strikes Down Gay Sex Law

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

By NAN Staff Writer

NEW YORK, NY, Aug. 30, 2022: The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has struck down a law banning gay sex in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Court struck down sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against The Person Act which banned the “abominable crime” of “buggery” that had carried a maximum penalty of 10 years with hard labor.

Jamal Jeffers, a gay man in St. Kitts, brought the constitutional challenge in January 2021 arguing that sections 56 and 57 breached constitutional rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and should be made null and void.

Joined by advocacy group St Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality, the claimants sought orders for same-sex acts to not be an offence if committed privately between “persons 16 years of age or more.”

Judge Trevor Ward overturned the parts of the act that criminalized “unnatural offences” and compared them to “bestiality,” which he said was unconstitutional.

“The absolute nature of the prohibition created by sections 56 and 57 are not reasonably justified in a democratic society in circumstances where they proscribe sexual acts between consenting adults in private, which involve no element of public conduct or harm to, or sexual acts, with minors,” he wrote in his judgement.

“To the extent that it criminalizes the private lives of gay persons in this year, the law is excessive and arbitrary,” he continued, adding that the sections “fail to meet the constitutional qualification of being … in the interest of public morality,” Ward added. “Section 56 of the act shall be read as if the words ‘This section shall not apply to consensual sexual acts between adults in private’ were added at the end of the section.”

The court’s verdict immediately went into effect.

Saint Kitts and Nevis were among the first islands in the Caribbean to be colonized by the British, bringing with them centuries-old laws that outlawed homosexuality.

Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines all have similar laws on the books.