ST. VINCENT-Gay men file legal challenges to homosexuality laws

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Two men have filed court proceedings challenging St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ “buggery” and “gross indecency” laws, which criminalise homosexuality.

The men, who are being advised by Queen Counsel Jeremy Johnson and British-based Peter Laverack, argue that the laws strip their dignity and autonomy.

The challenges were filed by local lawyers, Zita Barnwell and Jomo Thomas, listing the two British attorneys as the intended trial advocates.

According to their affidavits, as a result of the legislation, they have been exiled from the Caribbean island due to the severely draconian and damaging effects of these laws.

Javin Johnson, 22, successfully claimed asylum in the United Kingdom in 2017 having established that he could not live as a gay man in St. Vincent, while 53-year-old Sean Macleish, who resides in Chicago, in the United States, has failed in his public advocacy to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves for the removal of the laws so that he may return home with his partner.

These challenges coincide with Prince William and his family holidaying in the country on the exclusive island of Mustique, whose website states “there are no rules on Mustique”.

LGBT visitors, however, could be arrested and jailed or up to 10 years if convicted on charges arising out of the actions.

Prince William stated this month that he would be “absolutely fine” if his own children were gay.

The two claimants are unknown to each other, having separately decided that now is the time for decriminalisation. They say that these laws violate multiple and overlapping rights in the Constitution, which are there to protect all Vincentians, no matter who they are or who they love.

These court challenges come in the wake of Jason Jones’ successful challenge to Trinidad and Tobago’s anti-gay laws, a week after a similar challenge was filed in Dominica, and with other challenges already afoot in Jamaica and Barbados.

Commonwealth Caribbean countries inherited these laws during British colonial rule.

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