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Home World News Washington Post World News St. Kitts law criminalizing gay sex found unconstitutional

St. Kitts law criminalizing gay sex found unconstitutional

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The highest court for nine eastern Caribbean countries and territories has repealed a colonial-era law against homosexual behavior in St. Kitts and Nevis, ruling that sexual orientation falls under the right to privacy.

Celebrating Tuesday’s ruling by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, LGBTQ activists noted that gays on the twin island tend to avoid medical care for fear of losing their jobs, being attacked or being persecuted or stigmatized by health care providers and the government.

The nonprofit St. Kitts & Nevis Alliance for Equality and Jamal Jeffers, a gay man, had sued the small country’s attorney general, arguing that the right to freedom allows people to choose an intimate partner and have consensual sex. with whom and how they want.

They also argued that the right to privacy in the local constitution is not limited to protection against unlawful searches.

The St. Lucia court ruled in their favor, with High Court Judge Trevor Ward writing that the sections of the 1873 Act dealing with sodomy “infringe on the plaintiffs’ right to determine in what manner they, if individuals, choose to express their sexuality privately with another consenting adult.”

The local government had argued that free speech does not apply to sexual orientation and claimed moral standards were the foundation of St. Kitts and Nevis: culture and personality of the Federation,” which she said was “based on the belief in Almighty God and the inherent dignity of each individual.”

Although rarely invoked, the law was amended in 2012 to increase the maximum sentence for indecent assault against men from four years to ten years, including the possibility of hard labour.

The president of the Evangelical Association of St. Kitts, which represents about 30 Christian churches, had filed an affidavit in support of the law, arguing that “the moral and religious nature of the community should influence any interpretation of the Constitution.” said the ruling.

The court rejected those arguments, writing that “public morality is not synonymous with religious dogma or public opinion.”

“We made history,” said Kenita Placide, executive director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality. “An affirmative decision means a yes to privacy and a yes to free speech.”

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS tweeted its support for the ruling, calling it “great news.”

Previously, courts in Belize, Trinidad & Tobago and Antigua & Barbuda have found such laws unconstitutional. Other cases in Barbados and St. Lucia are pending.



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