Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
Commonwealth member state
Sexual Offences Act 1998, Section 14 Gross Indecency

Section 14 criminalises acts of “gross indecency” between persons of the same sex, encompassing sexual intimacy other than sexual intercourse. Acts between men and between women are penalised under this law.1 Following an amendment in 2016, this offence carries a punishment of twelve years imprisonment.2

Sexual Offences Act 1998, Section 16(1) Buggery

Section 16(1) criminalises “buggery” between adult men with a penalty of ten years imprisonment with the possibility of admission to psychiatric hospital for treatment. Only such acts between men are criminalised under this provision.3

Sexual Offences Act 1998, S. 16(2) Attempted Buggery

Section 16(2) criminalises attempts to commit “buggery” with a penalty of four years imprisonment and the possibility of admission to psychiatric hospital for treatment.4



According to the US Department of State Human Rights Report on Dominica, the Government reported rare enforcement under the gross indecency and buggery laws in 2017.


In a July statement to Caribbean Media Corporation, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit asserted that Dominica does not enforce its law against homosexual activity, at least in private homes, and has no plans to do so. “This has never happened in Dominica and I don’t think that will be happening any time now or later.”


In May, responding to an article which stated that “between 1995 and 2000, 35 people were arrested by local authorities and charged with buggery”a Dominican police inspector, John Carbon, dismissed the claims. Whilst admitting that 35 people were arrested, he claimed that police reports show nobody was sent to jail. The article also indicated that 15 women and 10 men had been arrested, charged with ‘gross indecency’ and sentenced in 2001. Inspector Carbon similarly referenced police reports to deny these claims.


The Kaleidoscope Trust reported that two men were arrested for having sex on a cruise ship which was docked at Dominica.


Reports suggest that the law is only rarely enforced. A Caribbean HIV Aids Partnership (CHAP) Dominican Sector shadow report revealed that between 2000 and 2010 there were 50 reported cases of buggery. The report emphasised, however, that these statistics do not show whether those arrested were gay men (the sodomy law applies to both homosexual and heterosexual couples), and did not show whether they involved a lack of consent.

Statements by Public Figures


In October, opposition Senator Isaac Baptiste expressed concern regarding the continued criminalisation of buggery in the Sexual Offences amendment bill: “We must be real, we have to be consistent, we cannot be hypocritical; I am suggesting that the continued criminalisation of buggery as it is now provided for to the extent that the court can subject that person to psychiatric observation and treatment, is not consistent with what is happening internationally.”


In July, Coordinator of Minority Rights Dominica (MiriDom), Daryl Phillip, called on the government to repeal the part of the Sexual Offences Act of Dominica relating to buggery, arguing that the Act “discriminates against people because of their sexual preferences.”

Speaking to the 30th biennial conference of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) in Dominica in May, CUT President Marvin Andall said that “we have to begin to see the rights of people with different sexual orientation as that of basic human rights.”


In July, in response to a request from MiriDom to re-examine the Sexual Offences Act, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he was prepared to meet with MiriDom at any time, but that he would not support same-sex marriage. “I will make it clear that there are some things that this Government will not accept and we will never allow for the state to recognise same-sex marriage in our country. If other countries want to do it, that’s a matter for them but there are certain guiding principles that we must follow.”


In May, the President of the Dominican Association of Evangelical Churches, Michael Daniel, called for the government to keep the country’s anti-gay laws: “The DAEC unequivocally calls upon both the ruling party and the opposition to take a unified stand and oppose the LGBTI agenda to legislate their sinful behaviour.”

Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, spoke on the issue of criminalisation in May, arguing that Dominica will not repeal its buggery laws: “The government’s position in relation to this matter is stated in law and this matter is still on our books and will remain there for the foreseeable future… The point is, it could be buggery today, tomorrow it will be incest and what other law they will want the government to repeal?”

In his statement, the Prime Minister did at least suggest that the law does not apply to consensual acts committed in private: “As it is now, anybody who wants to engage in whatever activities can do so in the privacy of his home but one should not believe that the government is prepared, or thinking of or wanting to make this a public affair.”

As it is now, anybody who wants to engage in whatever activities can do so in the privacy of his home.

Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister

Bishop of Roseau, Gabriel Malzaire, speaking for the Catholic Church of Dominica, argued against the continued criminalisation of homosexuality in the country: “I wish to make it clear that the Catholic Church in Dominica adheres to the call of the Holy See in its statement to the 63rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Declaration of Human Rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, ‘to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as to urge all States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them.'”


In July, former Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Sir Brian Alleyne, criticised laws criminalising homosexuality: “I think it is totally wrong. What a person does in the privacy of his home with another person is his business, he is answerable to the Lord and not to anyone else.”

Persecution and Discrimination


The US Department of State Human Rights Report states that societal and employment discrimination against LGBT persons was common, and victims of violence or harassment often avoided reporting incidents to police due to stigma. Stigma and fear of abuse and intimidation prevented LGBT organisations from developing their membership or carrying out activities such as pride marches.


In 2017, Human Rights Watch published a report on discriminatory laws against LGBT people in the Eastern Caribbean. A gay man from Dominica observed that: “the buggery and gross indecency laws say that we can’t be ourselves… These laws allow the negativity towards gay people to exist, the bigotry, [the] law allows people to insult and do anything [to us].” He went on to say that “Coming out was one of the biggest mistakes I made, if I could turn it back I would… I learn to adapt, I have to put on that fake face.” The report also recounted the experience of a trans woman who had experienced extreme violence, the worst being when she was choked on the street by a stranger after a verbal altercation.


In the report, LGBTI People of the Commonwealth, a lesbian woman from Dominica stated that: “Being a lesbian in Dominica embodies one word – invisible… I have been the victim of sexual harassment, discrimination and often the butt of a threatened man’s joke; with no law enforced for my protection.”

In 2014, the first Women and Sexual Diversity conference was held in Dominica. The workshop was organised by the Caribbean HIV/AIDs Partnership in support of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). Head of PAHO’s HIV programme, Massimo Ghidinelli noted, “there is a serious lack of knowledge about these groups’ real health problems – they are basically invisible.”

Legislative News


On 19 July, a case was filed by a gay man to challenge the criminalisation of private, consensual same-sex sexual activity under Sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act 1998. The case is being supported by Minority Rights Dominica, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program and Lawyers Without Borders. In a statement, the individual claimant said: “These laws are not only discriminatory themselves, but they incite and encourage hateful and violent conduct towards LGBT individuals. The laws also condone police discrimination and inaction against such acts of harassment and violence.”


During Dominica’s second UPR cycle, the Sexual Rights Initiative indicated that: “Human rights defender groups in Dominica are forced to operate underground because of fear that their members will be victimised. Those who are openly gay complain of acts of physical abuse and are often victims of vandalism committed against their positions, as well as being expelled from home.”

In response, the delegation noted: “The Constitution of Dominica guaranteed all individuals protection from discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed or sex and, also, guaranteed the right of freedom of association. The Government had never used fear or intimidation to prevent defenders of any cause from exercising their rights, and there was no law requiring individuals to state their sexual preference or conscientious position when associating. The relevant legislation only criminalized specific sexual acts, and not what might be considered as physical manifestations or association, and nobody had been arrested or prosecuted for such acts.”

The delegation further maintained that “the Government was not prepared to introduce any legislation to Parliament decriminalizing sexual relations between adults of the same sex.” Dominica did not directly respond to the recommendations made by other states with respect to the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct and increasing efforts to reduce discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, in its concluding remarks, the delegation pointed out that: “Dominican people hold no animus towards persons who have same-sex relationships. Stating that Dominica, either state institutions or non-state actors, persecute and/or discriminate LGTB persons, is a serious misrepresentation of the reality. Non-governmental organizations should respect the right of peoples to self-determination, including the right to determine the laws which will govern them. Dominica strongly expressed its concern about these reiterated attacks that falsify the reality of the LGTB persons’ situation in the country.”


During its first UPR cycle, Dominica rejected recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual conduct.

1. Sexual Offences Act 1998, Section 14 Gross Indecency

“(1) Any person who commits an act of gross indecency with another person is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an act of gross indecency committed in private between an adult male person and an adult female person, both of whom consent.

(4) In this section “gross indecency” is an act other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural) by a person involving the use of genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.” Full text.

2. Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2016, Section 7

“Section 14 of the Act is amended—

(a) by deleting subsection (1) and substituting the following:

(1) Any person who commits an act of gross indecency with another person is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment—

(a) if the complainant is a person sixteen years of age or more, for twelve years” Full text.

3. Sexual Offences Act 1998, Section 16(1) Buggery

“(1) A person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for—

(b) ten years, if committed by an adult on another adult;

and, if the Court thinks it fit, the Court may order that the convicted person be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

(3) In this section “buggery” means sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person.” Full text.

4. Sexual Offences Act 1998, Section 16(2) Attempted Buggery

“(2) Any person who attempts to commit the offence of buggery, or is guilty of an assault with the intent to commit the same is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for four years and, if the Court thinks it fit, the Court may order that the convicted person be admitted to the psychiatric hospital for treatment.” Full text.

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