The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis (St. Kitts and Nevis) Monday struck down the country’s anti-sodomy law, thus protecting the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ citizens.
Sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, Cap. 4.21 deal with sodomy and indecent assault against males respectively. These provisions punished adults of the same gender for having consensual sexual intercourse in private. The court determined that the concerned law contravenes the constitutional rights enshrined in sections 3, 7, 12 and 15 of the Constitution of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis and Section 15 of the constitution specifically prohibits discrimination, inter alia, on the grounds of sex. The court also discussed that the state has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which prohibit the same.
The court concluded that the laws criminalizing sodomy and indecent assault do not discriminate between males and females or even between homosexual males and heterosexual males and was interpreted to be gender and sexual orientation neutral. However, the court accepted that the above laws contravene the right to personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression. The law is not reasonably justifiable to proscribe sexual acts between consenting adults in private, which involve no element of public conduct or harm to, or sexual acts with, minors.
Therefore, the court determined the law to be excessive and arbitrary. The court did not strike the law in totality, but it did strike the sections which are inconsistent with the constitution. The court determined that Section 56 of the Act contravenes Sections 3 and 12 of the Constitution and declared it null and void. Section 56 is not applicable to the extent that it criminalises any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults. The court also modified parts of sections 56 and 57 of the Act to make them consistent with the ambit of the Constitution.