Types of criminalisation
- Criminalises sex between men
Commonwealth member state
Section 57 prohibits attempts to commit “the said abominable crime” or any “indecent assault” upon a man is liable to up to four years imprisonment. The terms “infamous crime” and “abominable crime” are not defined.2
The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Saint Kitts and Nevis stated that there were no reports of the government enforcing the law in recent years.
In its first UPR cycle, Saint Kitts and Nevis explained: “despite the existence of [anti-gay laws] on the books, there has been no known prosecution of sexual activity between consenting adults in private within recent years. This therefore means that the law has not been used in any discriminatory manner against such individuals.”
All recent cases that have been reported in the press tend to suggest either a lack of consent, or a victim under the age of 16.
Statements by Public Figures
At the 2019 Youth Forum, held in February, senior government figures stressed that protections under the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis extend to all citizens irrespective of their sexual orientation. In response to a question about the rights of LGBT people in the country, Attorney General, the Honourable Vincent Byron Jr stated that “The Constitution gives each and every one equal rights under the law and so no one should be able to assault any other individual regardless of their gender, choice or whatsoever it is. The rule of law in our country dictates that each one of us has a right to live the life that we choose once you don’t interfere with other people’s rights.”
At the same event, the Minister of State with responsibility for Gender Affairs, the Honourable Wendy Phipps said: “last time I checked… persons who were lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual were first and foremost people. Your orientation of a sexual nature as far as I am concerned is a matter of personal choice.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Premier of Nevis, the Honourable Mark Brantley stated that “the government has no business in people’s bedrooms. Everybody is equal under the Constitution, but as you rightly pointed out there are still laws on the books which criminalize certain behaviour,” Premier Brantley said.
At the Caribbean launch of the UNAIDS-Lancet Commission report in July, Prime Minister, Timothy Harris made an address as the CARICOM Lead Head for Human Resources Health and HIV. The Prime Minister highlighted some of the lessons from the report that included increased focus on populations at higher risks: especially our girls and young women, men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers. The Prime Minister stressed “that Caribbean countries must continue to confront the issues that are related to the elimination of stigma and discrimination and disentangle them from the misperception that this is a gay agenda.”
In June, law enforcement officers and other security personnel in Saint Kitts and Nevis took part in a four day LGBT sensitivity training course. The course was intended to bring about a greater understanding of sexual orientation and better equip law enforcement officers and other public service workers with knowledge of how to deal with individuals in communities that are most vulnerable. Assistant Commissioner of Police, Vaughn Henderson, lauded the initiative, stating: “I think it is timely and I believe that education brings a deeper understanding for people of different beliefs, different cultures and different sexual orientation.’ Maurice Tomlinson, Jamaican attorney and LGBT rights activist, was the course facilitator, having undertaken similar training in Suriname, Barbados and Saint Lucia.
During a special sitting of the High Court in October, Queen’s Counsel Dr Henry Browne advocated for a national debate on the issue of same-sex marriage. Browne said: “Governments, lawyers, scientists and societies included must grapple with new beliefs and practices trending in our several communities. Same-sex marriage or union is one such phenomenon… This is no light matter. Sooner than later our national conversations would have to be engaged in this delicate regard. I look forward with all progressive thinking lawyers to preparing our minds to take up and inform and master challenges such as this which lies ahead.”
During an address focusing on human rights and AIDS at the PANCAP Justice For All Consultation in April, then Prime Minister Denzil Douglas explained that stigma and discrimination were the most challenging issues that could erode the gains in the AIDS response. One of the elements highlighted by the Prime Minister of the “Justice For All Roadmap” was: “Actively promoting and identifying the processes for reducing and eliminating those laws that actually contribute to discrimination on the basis of gender, race and sexual preferences, and those that particularly infringe the rights of the LGBT communities.”
In September, Archdeacon Valentine Hodge, head of the Anglican Church in Saint Kitts and Nevis drew a distinction between legal and moral rights: “Yes people should have the right to do whatever, the right to freedom to engage in whatever activity they wish to engage in…. I know that in other parts of the Caribbean you’ve had the decriminalization of homosexuality and that’s consenting adults, it’s not a crime, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a sin.”
While in office, former Prime Minister Denzil Douglas called for more tolerance towards the LGBT community. He expressed his desire for people to “be light” when dealing with LGBT individuals within their community, as they have a right to express their identity just like anyone else. The Prime Minister stated that he would like everyone to “[d]iscuss the issue, stop the discrimination, stop the stigmatization and let us therefore discuss this matter in an open, matured and frank way so that we can deal seriously and comprehensively with the spread of HIV.” He added that “rather than judging homosexuals, the Caribbean national should support them, particularly around helping them get tested for HIV.”
The former Prime Minister advocated for greater tolerance for homosexual individuals in a bid to combat the spread of HIV, explaining: “if you condemn that person as being a homosexual, that person will be afraid and reluctant to go and get tested. If he doesn’t get tested and does not get the care, treatment and advice needed if he is positive; or if he is positive, but does not know he is positive as he is afraid to go and get tested because of discrimination, the virus spreads.”
Persecution and Discrimination
The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Saint Kitts and Nevis highlighted the persecution and discrimination faced by the LGBT community. The report stated that: “Negative societal attitudes towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community impeded the operation of LGBTI organizations and the free association of LGBTI persons. The government asserted it received no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, unofficial reports indicated that violence and discrimination were problems. LGBTI activists reported an increase in threats of blackmail and fear of discrimination. During the year the LGBTI community and the police conducted gender sensitization training.”
Two gay men, Dermot Sargeant and Rolston Ryan, seeking asylum in Canada reported on the homophobia they had faced in Saint Kitts. One described how he had faced discrimination and violence because of his sexual orientation; when he was stabbed, he filed a report to the police but they failed to investigate. He also claimed that police had used homophobic rhetoric and derogatory epithets when interviewing him. Both men were granted refugee status in Canada; Ryan in July 2016, three years after he fled Saint Kitts.
In August, it was reported that a gay teen lost his sight and was paralysed from the waist down after he was shot in the head and chest by a neighbour in 2012 at the age of 16. He is openly gay and believes that his sexuality was the motivation for the attack. Appearing on a radio programme, he said that he had often been the target of homophobic rhetoric.
During its first UPR cycle, the national report submitted by Saint Kitts and Nevis claimed that sexuality remained taboo and stigma and discrimination continued to be major barriers to accessing VCT, treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and seeking care and support for HIV infection. Stakeholder information submitted noted that Saint Kitts and Nevis had supported the OAS resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in each of 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Concerning discrimination against LGBT people, the delegation stated that the reality was that, despite the existence of a piece of legislation, in terms of the society at large, such persons did enjoy the same rights and privileges as everyone else. No instances of denial of job opportunities or attacks against such people took place. There was a culture of tolerance in respect of those individuals in the society.
The UN General Assembly adopted the “Report of the Human Rights Council” rejecting the hostile amendment which sought to halt the work of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Saint Kitts and Nevis, despite criminalising consensual same-sex acts, was one of the 84 countries that voted against the amendment.
In its second UPR cycle, Saint Kitts and Nevis noted the recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations.
In March, Saint Kitts and Nevis voted against a failed Russian proposal at the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to overturn the UN Secretary-General’s decision to extend UN staff benefits to married same-sex couples.
In its first UPR cycle, Saint Kitts and Nevis accepted that the criminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults was controversial. While it was aware of the many arguments advanced by those who would wish to see them repealed, the Government of Saint Kitts and Nevis explained that it had no mandate to do so. In fact, there was strong opposition to them being repealed. However, despite their existence on the books, there had been no known prosecution of sexual activity between consenting adults in private within recent years.
Saint Kitts and Nevis rejected recommendations to decriminalise sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, but confirmed that it would continue to engage on the issue through a consultative process.
Saint Kitts and Nevis did, however, accept the recommendation by Sweden that it take measures to effectively combat discrimination on all grounds, including on grounds of sexual orientation or identity and maintained that: “Chapter II of its Constitution prohibits discrimination against any person on the grounds of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, and, as such, any person of the view that his or her rights have been violated could, at any time, seek redress before the Court… The Government regards seriously its commitment to protect all members of society from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation.”
1. Offences Against the Person Act 1986, Section 56 Sodomy and Bestiality
“Any person who is convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding ten years, with or without hard labour.” Full text.
2. Offences Against the Person Act 1986, Section 57 Attempt to Commit an Infamous Crime
“Any person who attempts to commit the said abominable crime, or is guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, commits a misdemeanour, and, on conviction, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding four years, with or without hard labour.” Full text.