Great News for the LGBTQ Community: The Dominica High Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Relations

The Dominica High Court overturns the ban on consensual same-sex relations that dates back to the colonial era. 

The Dominica High Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Relations

In a historic judgment on Tuesday 22nd April, the High Court of Dominica decriminalized same-sex relations. Making Dominica the fourth eastern Caribbean republic to decriminalize gay sex and upend biased legal provisions. 

Before the ruling, engaging in same-sex relations, regardless of gender, and heterosexual couples engaging in anal sex was illegal. Anyone found guilty served a maximum of 12 years imprisonment and was subjected to mandatory psychiatric treatment.

An anonymous Dominican gay man who brought the case argued that the law was violating his constitutional rights. According to the man, the law compelled him “to suffer unending fear of legal punishment for engaging in consensual sexual acts” and has provoked “violent and hostile behaviours directed towards him and fellow LGBTQ individuals”.

What This Means

The ruling has been welcomed by LGBTQ activists as a noteworthy milestone in the unending fight in the Caribbean area for LGBTQ rights. 

The Dominica High Court declared sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Law that criminalized consensual same-sex acts between adults unconstitutional. 

According to Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence, the court found certain parts of Dominica’s Sexual Offences Act were against the rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and personal privacy protection, as defined in the constitution of the country. 


In response to the ruling, the founder of the Charity Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom), Daryl Philip noted: “This ruling marks a promising path for Dominica aiming to restore individuals’ dignity and safeguard the LGBTQ community’s rights to health, privacy, and freedom from mistreatment and torture, by international human rights commitments. 

He further added that, while the ruling is a step forward, it doesn’t mean the homophobia will end soon. “It’s a gradual process”. Said Mr. Philip. 

Outright International, a human rights organization advocating for LGBTQ rights, noted: “Decriminalization creates an ample atmosphere for the LGBTQ community to openly live without fear of harassment, allowing them access education, healthcare, and employment without encountering discrimination”. 

“The removal of these discriminatory Laws is clear evidence of the tireless endeavours of advocates, activists and allies that campaigned persistently for equality and justice. It is a mark of victory for human rights and a noteworthy milestone in the unending efforts for LGBQ rights in the Caribbean”. Said the executive director of Outright, Maria Sjödin. 

According to a report by Outright, Laws criminalizing sexual acts between same-sex individuals in English-speaking Caribbean countries were first imposed in the 1800s by the British during their reign. 

Several English-speaking Caribbean nations like Barbados, Saint Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, Tobago, Belize, Nevis, and Trinidad have withdrawn such laws in recent times. There’s also a pending case in St. Lucia. However, there are several Caribbean countries like Grenada, Jamaica, Grenadines, and Guyana where same-sex relations remain illegal. 

Although laws criminalizing same-sex relations in the Caribbean are infrequent, they are broad and vaguely worded, leading to the normalization of hostility and prejudice towards LGBT individuals. 

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