In July 2022, the High Court of Antigua & Barbuda struck down discriminatory criminal laws that targeted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Same-sex sexual activity was prohibited under the Sexual Offences Act 1995, which criminalised acts of ‘buggery’ and ‘serious indecency’. These provisions carried a maximum penalty of 15 and five years’ imprisonment, respectively. Both men and women were criminalised under the offences, which were originally imposed on the Caribbean country by the British during the colonial period.
The Court held that in criminalising private, same-sex sexual intimacy between persons aged 16 or older, the laws offended the Antiguan constitutional rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex, which the Court recognised includes sexual orientation.
The judge agreed with the Claimants that “the right to privacy extends beyond the right to be left alone and includes the concept of dignity of the individual, aspects of physical and social identity, and the right to develop and establish relationships with other human beings.”
The case was filed by an Antiguan gay man and local organisation Women Against Rape, with regional LGBT umbrella organisation, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, convening the process.