Civil society scores victory for LGBTQI+ rights in Dominica — a global issue
  • opinion Written by Ines M. Pousadella (Montevideo, Uruguay)
  • interpress service

A similar decision was made antigua and barbuda, saint kitts and nevis and barbados 2022 – but then progress threatened to stall. Dominica’s changes have revived hope for LGBTQI+ activists in the remaining five English-speaking Caribbean countries (Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) that still criminalize same-sex relationships. Sooner or later, it will be one or the other. A small island has brought about big changes.

wind of change

The criminalization of consensual homosexuality in the English-speaking Caribbean dates back to British colonial times. All former British colonies in the region inherited identical criminal laws against homosexuality, targeting either LGBTQI+ people in general or gay men in particular. They typically retained them after independence and through subsequent criminal law reforms.

That’s what happened in Dominica, which gained independence in 1978.That 1998 sexual crimes law It retained criminal provisions dating back to the 1860s. Article 16 of the law describes sex between adult men as “banditry” and provides for a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and mandatory psychiatric confinement.

Crimes listed under Article 14, “Gross Indecency,” were originally punishable by up to five years in prison if committed by two adults of the same sex. 2016 revision increased the penalty Until age 12.

Like other Caribbean countries with similar provisions, prosecutions for these crimes have been rare in recent decades and have never resulted in a conviction. However, they stigmatize LGBTQI+ people, legitimize social prejudice and hate speech, enable violence, including by the police, impede access to essential social services, especially health care, and prevent people from being subject to the full scope of the law. It has been effective in denying people protection.

Change has only begun in the last decade, but the pace is rapid. The ban on same-sex relationships was overturned by courts in Belize in 2016 and Trinidad and Tobago in 2018. More soon followed.

legal lawsuit

In July 2019, an anonymous gay man calling himself “BG” filed a lawsuit challenging sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act.of defendant Named in the complaint are the attorney general, the Bishop of Roseau, the Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Church. The Dominican Association of Evangelical Churches was also named as an interested party.

The case was supported by Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom), the country’s leading LGBTQI+ advocacy group, and three international allies: the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, and Lawyers Without Borders. Ta. The law was challenged as discriminatory and enabling violence against LGBTQI+ people.

The High Court will hear the case in September 2022, and on April 22, 2024, Justice Kimberly Cenac-Fulgens ruled that Articles 14 and 16 are constitutional protections for applicants’ freedom, freedom of expression, and privacy. The court issued a judgment explaining why Articles 14 and 16 violate constitutional rights. Invalid.

Repulsion

LGBTQI+ advocates around the world welcome the court’s decision, As was the case with UNAIDS. – United Nations agency leading global efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS. However, the resistance did not last long.

Dominica’s most influential religious groups were quick to denounce the acquisition of LGBTQI+ rights as a loss of moral values.The day after the verdict was announced, the Dominican Catholic Church statement Reaffirming his position that sex should only take place within heterosexual marriage, he reiterated his belief in the centrality of traditional marriage and family, while expressing compassion for LGBTQI+ people. Seventh-day Adventists expressed concern that the court’s decision could lead to same-sex unions and marriage. Some religious leaders have openly expressed bigotry, with one prominent figure saying: to call Same-sex sexual activity is an “abhorrent act.”

road ahead

Dominica, which has decriminalized same-sex relationships, currently ranks 116th out of 198 countries on Equaldex’s equality index, which rates countries according to their LGBTQI+ friendliness. It is clear that there is much work to be done. Unresolved issues include protection from discrimination in employment and housing, marriage equality, and adoption rights. LGBTQI+ activists will also continue to push for recognition of non-binary genders, legalization of gender change, and banning of conversion therapy.

The Equality Index reveals that, like all Caribbean countries that have recently decriminalized same-sex relationships, legal reform remains far ahead of social attitudes and there is significant public homophobia. . As the immediate conservative reaction to the court’s decision suggests, changing laws and policies is not enough. Changing social attitudes must now be a top priority.

Dominican LGBTQI+ activists know this, which is why they have been working to counter prejudice and promote understanding long before they launched legal challenges. This is also why we believe that a victory in court is not the end of a journey, but a stepping stone to further change.

The challenge for LGBTQI+ civil society in Dominica is to overcome the vicious cycle of legal prohibitions that reinforce social prejudice, while legal advances normalize the presence and social acceptance of LGBTQI+ people, resulting in their legal enshrinement. The idea is to replace it with a virtuous cycle of effective access to people. right.

But they will be emboldened to be part of broader regional and global trends. While working to ensure that rights are realized at home, it will also provide a powerful example of how change can impact global affairs. 64 countries Countries around the world that still criminalize gay sex, including five holdouts in the Caribbean Commonwealth. More progress will come.

Ines M. Pousadella CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, Co-Director and Writer civilus lens And the co-author is Civil society status report.

© Inter Press Service (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Interpress Service

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