Queer travelers have a good reason to book a trip to the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda — decades-old laws prohibiting consensual same-sex relations have been struck down.
The ruling by Honorable Justice Marissa Robertson repealed sections 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act of 1995, which punished sex between men with up to 15 years in prison and "sexual indecency" (any sexual act other than intercouse) between anyone of the same sex with five years in prison. Robertson found that prohibitions on private, consensual behavior violated constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, personal privacy, and protection from discrimination.
Dating back to colonial-era laws — Antigua and Barbuda were once British colonies and are now part of the British Commonwealth — sections 12 and 15 were rarely enforced as of late, but still contributed to stigma, threats, discrimination, and violence.
“We welcome this historic decision from Antigua and Barbuda,” Maria Sjödin, acting executive director of LGBTQ+ advocacy group OutRight Action International, said in a statement. “As we work with LGBTQ groups in the Caribbean, we view this as an important step towards equality and respect for LGBTQ people in the region. Our hope is that this ruling will have a ripple effect as archaic, colonial-era laws, such as section 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offenses Act, are retired and human rights for all are advanced.”
Caribbean nations continue to take steps forward — and backwards — when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands recently upheld rulings that prohibit marriage equality.