HRW urges Eastern Caribbean countries to repeal ‘buggery’ laws

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A report by Kylee Clark for Jurist.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged Eastern Caribbean countries to repeal colonial “buggery” laws [report].

Among a variety of requests, HRW urged the countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to repeal all laws that criminalize consensual activity among sex couples, pass laws defining rape in gender-neutral ways, and conduct awareness raising campaigns for the LGBT community.

HRW stated:

All seven countries have versions of buggery and gross indecency laws, relics of British colonialism, that prohibit same-sex conduct between consenting persons. The laws have broad latitude, are vaguely worded, and serve to legitimize discrimination and hostility towards LGBT people in the Eastern Caribbean. They are rarely enforced by way of criminal prosecutions but all share one common trait: by singling out, in a discriminatory manner, a vulnerable social group they give social and legal sanction for discrimination, violence, stigma, and prejudice against LGBT individuals.”

Upon interviewing various citizens of the Eastern Caribbean countries, HRW reported that members of the LGBT community fear coming out to their families or communities due to experiences of already being ostracized for their identity. HRW also asserted that members of the community have experienced homelessness due to lack of financial support making them increasingly vulnerable to an array of abuses. The discriminatory laws, HRW claims, prevent members of the LGBT community from reporting on these issues, where they have experienced lack of protection and empathy from the police.

Despite Eastern Caribbean laws, international law protects the LGBT community by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. HRW confirms that all countries mentioned in the report have ratified international treaties requiring them to protect the LGBT community.

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