Barbados has become the fourth Commonwealth country to strike down discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws this year alone.
The country’s High Court made the decision to repeal Sections 9 and 12 of the Barbados Sexual Offences Act, also known as the “buggery” and “indecency laws”, which criminalised consensual same-sex intimacy.
Punishments for convictions under Section 9 could be as severe as life imprisonment for men engaging in such activity, while Section 12 could result in 10 years imprisonment for both men and women.
The oral decision handed down on 12 December will be followed by a full written one in January 2023.
Activists and charities have hailed the ruling as a “resounding victory” for LGBTQ+ people in Barbados.
Téa Braun, Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, an international human rights organisation, said: “This is a resounding victory for LGBT people in Barbados, which is the third country in the region to decriminalise through the courts this year.
“The Trust is immensely proud to have provided technical assistance to these cases since 2015, and we heartily congratulate the whole team, especially the local litigants and lawyers who have doggedly pursued justice in the many years leading up to this momentous day.
“There are now only six countries in the Americas where laws linger on the books that have been in place since colonial times criminalising LGBT people.
“Today’s decision makes clear that the remaining few must now accelerate the repeal or striking down of these stigmatising laws.”
Excellent news from #Barbados, the fourth Commonwealth country this year to see discriminatory anti-LGBT+ laws struck down. Congratulations to all the Bajan activists who have worked so hard for this day. https://t.co/ahWaxow7HX
— Kaleidoscope Trust (@Kaleidoscope_T) December 12, 2022
The case was initially filed by two LGBTQ+ advocates in Barbados with the support of Equals, a local organisation fighting for equality, and the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, who convened the process.
“When I got into civil society organising, I quickly understood I was building on the work of countless others before me,” said one of the case’s litigants. “I was benefiting from the gains they made, and I had lived examples from the hardships they faced. Today’s ruling is one step, one action of many impacting the LGBTQ+ community of Barbados. As it resonates with me, I already know there is more work to be done. We will continue on together.”
Another added: “Today was a pivotal moment for equality for all Barbadians and one more step in the journey towards more inclusivity for LGBT citizens.
“This will definitely mean that I and my community can navigate life with just a little more ease and comfort, in the knowledge that Barbados has taken a step to understand us and respect us.”
Similar laws were struck down in both Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis earlier this year.