Island nations of Saint Lucia and Saint Kitts and Nevis yet again refuse to legalise gay sex

Saint Lucia

The island nations of Saint Lucia and and Saint Kitts and Nevis have once again opted to uphold a cruel colonial-era law criminalising homosexuality.

The two eastern Caribbean islands refused calls from the UN Human Rights Council to decriminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults, which their penal codes still view as “buggery” and “abominable crimes”.

The crime carries up to 10 years imprisonment in both countries, while Saint Kitts and Nevis includes an additional punishment of hard labour.

While the laws are rarely enforced, they have pernicious impact in reinforcing societal prejudices, effectively giving social and legal sanction for stigma, discrimination, and violence against LGBT+ people.

Both countries were urged to repeal the laws following the UN Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review, a comprehensive five-year report on human rights developments in all 193 UN member states.

According to Human Rights Watch, both the governments of Saint Lucia and and Saint Kitts and Nevis stubbornly declined to do so.

Gay men in Saint Lucia live in fear

Cosmos Richardson, Saint Lucia’s representative to the UN, claimed the nation “remained devoted to upholding its international commitments for the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people.”

His confidence isn’t shared by Toby, a 38-year-old gay man in Saint Lucia, who told Human Rights Watch that family ostracism drove him to five suicide attempts and to leave home.

He recalled how in 2016, he and his partner were attacked as they were entering their home one afternoon. “[I knew] it was motivated by us being gay because the term ‘buller’ was used,” he said.

“As we were entering the house, a car pulled out, two persons jumped out… a gun was raised and they tried to pull the trigger, but the trigger did not work. I told my boyfriend to run. They stabbed me, several times, the deepest one was below the navel. My boyfriend was also attacked with stones.”

Richard, a 20-year-old gay man working in a civil society organisation in Saint Lucia, also said that he received online death threats because of his sexual orientation.

He spoke of a terrifying attack by a group of men who followed him as he walked alone, shouting homophobic slurs and threatening to beat him up. On another occasion, he was walking with his sister when someone yelled, “Oh he’s gay, let’s burst his head, stab him, and kill him!”

“Until consensual same-sex conduct is decriminalised, LGBT+ people in Saint Lucia like Richard will continue to suffer under the stigma of the law,” Human Rights Watch said.

“Despite Saint Lucia’s comment that it will ‘promote culture of non-violence and non-discrimination against all citizens, inclusive of the LGBTQI community’, the government’s responses to recommendations on criminalisation made during this cycle raise serious concerns about its commitment to human rights and protecting and supporting its LGBT residents.”

As well as recommending the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the UN report also urged Saint Lucia and Saint Kitts and Nevis to adopt comprehensive laws that prohibit discrimination on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation, such as in housing, education, or health care.