CariFLAGS: SVG court ruling on discriminatory laws a shocking disappointment

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Last Friday, February 16, 2024, Justice Lorene Esco Henry of the High Court of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, ruled that she did not find sufficient evidence to overturn the country’s laws criminalising same-sex intimacy on grounds that they constituted a breach of human rights. The Court also concluded that the claimants did not meet the threshold required to give them legal standing.

Not only is this decision deeply disappointing, it is also in stark contrast to recent rulings in Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Barbados, where similar laws were declared unconstitutional, based on violations of rights to privacy, personal liberty, freedom of conscience, expression, equality and protection from discrimination.

The oral ruling relied on the outdated notion that laws criminalising same-sex intimacy are required for public health and morality. “This is a total fallacy as UNAIDS and other global subject matter experts have shown that these laws only continue to serve as a barrier to healthcare services and fuel stigma and discrimination which propel HIV,” said Dane Lewis, Regional Programme Manager at CariFLAGS. “Isolation from family members, displacement from home and community; job market discrimination, police brutality and sexual violence against LGBTQ+ persons continue to be some of the realities fuelled by these laws which have created inequalities for LGBTQ+ citizens around the Commonwealth,” Lewis added.

Overwhelmingly, courts across the Caribbean region have ruled that discriminatory laws, including those criminalizing same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing, are a violation of human rights. Every loss, however, continues to disenfranchise LGBTQ+ people, and increases their liability to violence, abuse, prejudice, ostracism and other harmful outcomes. CariFLAGS stands in solidarity with LGBTQ+ persons around the region, who strive for justice on a daily basis and take action to move our respective countries and region forward.

As we observe World Day of Social Justice on February 20 under the theme “Bridging Gaps, Building Alliances,” CariFLAGS renews and amplifies its call to governments in the region to protect the human rights of ALL Caribbean people. CariFLAGS reiterates its call for the removal of discriminatory criminal laws and encourages decision makers to save lives by creating a more just and tolerant society where everyone has the opportunity to realize the full enjoyment of their rights.

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