Discriminatory laws against LGBT people continue to plague the Eastern Caribbean. The countries that continue to exhibit this homophobic culture include, but are not limited to, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Eastern Caribbean countries continue to implement and enforce buggery and indecency laws, which criminalize consensual sexual activity among people of the same sex. The discriminatory laws adversely influence the social culture in these countries. Additionally, the direct and collateral effects of the laws carry serious irreversible physical and psychological threats to LGBT persons in these countries. Continuing to enforce these laws would violate human rights obligations to prevent discrimination and fail to protect citizens from violence and fear.
In their report concerning discrimination against LBGT persons in the Eastern Caribbean, the Human Rights Watch conducted interviews to illustrate the impact of the homophobic laws and the surrounding culture. One interviewee, Rosa, started the first LGBT organization in St. Kitts, the St. Kitts/Nevis Alliance for Equality. She was a lesbian who felt discriminated against but emphasized that two females could kiss in public, while a “man on man could never do that.’” She explained that gay men are attacked, threatened, and abandoned by their families. The homophobic culture seeping into families was common, Ernest from Barbados explained: “My mom called her brothers to beat me. I think they were trying to beat it out of me, convert me. But this is who I am, I can’t change it.” Not only are members of the LGBT community being physically assaulted by family members, but it is a common phenomenon among strangers as well. The interviewees expressed that, as a result of the discrimination and oppression, they often experienced “depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-inflicted harm.”
The Eastern Caribbean countries, with the exception of Antigua and Barbuda, are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This covenant enforces the protection and respect of the civil and political rights of individuals. These rights include the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and privacy. Additionally, the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) harnesses the core duty of upholding the “respect for the essential rights of man.” The Eastern Caribbean countries are also parties to the Caribbean Community (CARCIOM), whose core values include the security of each citizen and the guarantee of human rights and social justice.
Further, the ACHR specifies that parties must ensure the rights and freedoms to all citizens “without discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or any other social condition.” In 2012, the Inter-American Court specified the meaning of “social condition” by prohibiting “any regulation, act, or practice considered discriminatory based on a person’s sexual orientation.” The buggery and indecency laws, by only applying to those who engage in same-sex sexual activity, discriminate against persons based on sexual orientation. By enforcing these laws, the countries blatantly violate the ACHR. Similarly, because of the mere existence of the laws in combination with their direct and collateral effects, the countries violate the CARCIOM by failing to protect human rights.
The governments of the Eastern Caribbean countries are failing to protect their citizens against violence and discrimination. Moreover, by enforcing discriminatory laws targeting the LGBT community, the countries violate international human rights ordinances and treaties that they are obligated to follow. For example, the buggery and indecency laws violate the ICCPR because they suffocate the LGBT persons’ right to privacy in their sexual activities and their freedom to safely be themselves.
By enforcing discriminatory laws, the countries create an environment of welcoming and normalizing discrimination amongst its citizens. To combat this, the governments of each of the affected countries in the Eastern Caribbean should repeal any law that criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct and pass laws against the discrimination of the LGBT community. Additionally, the police should focus on properly investigating allegations involving threats and violence based on sexual-orientation. When the police begin to condemn and punish discriminatory behavior, the phenomenon will begin to transform from being seen as widely-accepted to being seen as wrong. Additionally, the LGBT community will feel safer and less-inclined to feel like they need to hide.