The UK has neglected LGBT+ people in British Overseas Territories in their hour of need

The flag of Bermuda flies in Hamilton

Little is discussed in the UK about the 14 territories still under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Spanning the likes of the Cayman Islands through to Bermuda, these countries saw the UK criminalise homosexuality in their countries, yet it appears the country is nowhere to be seen when it comes to decriminalising the likes of same-sex marriage. In an exploration of what LGBT+ rights are like for queer people in British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, academic Dr Leonardo Raznovich argues that the UK has abandoned the territories in LGBT+ citizens’ hour of need.

The UK has six British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, some known for their financial services. They are the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Montserrat, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos.

Although largely self-governing territories, the UK retains constitutional power to legislate and to step-in regarding internal matters. Put simply, they remain colonies of the UK.

For example, the UK repealed their sodomy laws in 2000 against their wishes and exercised direct rule in Turks and Caicos in 2009 by deposing its government for corruption.

In fact, the UK has the legal duty to ensure that these territories are governed responsibly and comply with international law. Indeed, the UK extended the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to each of them; they are bound, like the UK, to comply with it.


Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Nonetheless, these territories have laws and policies that discriminate against LGBTI people, in breach of the European Court of Human Rights.

In August 2015, politicians in the Cayman Islands government incited violence and sexual hatred against LGBTI people, avoiding prosecution through parliamentary privileges.  

Statements in the local legislature included describing homosexuality as a ‘deviant behavior’, ‘wicked and immoral’ and a ‘social and moral evil’, threatening violence towards homosexuals and making remarks that equated homosexuality with bestiality and paedophilia, including suggestions that ‘crushing a baby’s skull and sucking their brains out had become a human right’.   

In September 2016, Colours Cayman, a LGBTI organisation, petitioned the UK government regarding these breaches, pleading for assistance. The UK government refused to act regardless of its constitutional powers to do so.

 in July and October 2017, the Immigration Authority of the Cayman Islands refused to apply its own precedent set in July 2016 – in which it needed to establish rights for the same-sex spouse of a foreign worker to reside in the Cayman Islands as a dependant – to benefit LGBTI Caymanians. This decision, in effect, expels LGBTI Caymanians from their own country, leaving them with just one option: to live overseas as a family unit, against basic principles of equality and natural justice.  

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