The region which legislates who you can love


By Gemma Handy (BBC)

“It’s mainly snide remarks due to toxic masculinity,” Aziza Lake says. But homophobia in Antigua and Barbuda sometimes manifests itself in sporadic brutality too, she continues.

In her rainbow-coloured shirt and hat, seated outside a popular café in the capital, St John’s, she might consider herself lucky compared to her openly gay counterparts in neighbouring Caribbean nations.

LGBT people in the Eastern Caribbean described being stabbed, beaten, choked and pelted with bottles and bricks in a 2018 Human Rights Watch report.

Now the region which Time magazine dubbed in 2006 as “the most homophobic place on Earth” is the scene of a major battle to overturn British colonial-era laws that ban same-sex intimacy.

  • Gay rights 50 years on: 10 ways in which the UK has changed

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) is in the throes of legal challenges in five countries that still outlaw “buggery” and “indecency”, effectively criminalising gay people.

Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, and St Kitts and Nevis all have versions of statutes that prohibit same-sex acts between consenting adults.

In Barbados, loving the wrong person could see you thrown behind bars for life, at least technically.

Fight on their hands

Like in most Caribbean countries, the “buggery law” is rarely enforced. But keeping it on the statute books marginalises LGBT people and sanctions violence and discrimination against them, campaigners argue.

They know they will have a fight on their hands to change this. In a region where the Christian Church is a cornerstone of social life, the campaign has put pro-LGBT activists at loggerheads with religious leaders and their followers.

Supporters of LGBT rights and equality conclude three weeks of solidarity-building events with a festive parade during the first annual Pride Arts Festival on July 28 in Port of Spain, TrinidadSupporters of LGBT rights in the Caribbean face an uphill struggle


“We are a Christian society as a result of our colonial history so, for a lot of people, homophobia is all they know. It’s ingrained in society,” Ms Lake explains.

Presentational grey line

Homophobic laws:

Penalties for gay sex may not be enforced but they remain on the statute books in much of the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.

  • Antigua and Barbuda: Same-sex sexual activity is illegal and can incur a 15-year prison sentence.
  • Barbados: Same-sex sexual activity is illegal. Penalty can be life imprisonment.
  • Grenada: Same-sex sexual activity between men is cited as an “unnatural crime” and punishable with a 10-year prison sentence. Legal between females.
  • St Kitts and Nevis: Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal and punishable with a 10-year prison sentence, with or without hard labour. Legal between females.
  • St Lucia: Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal and punishable with a 10-year prison sentence and/or a fine. Legal between females.
Presentational grey line

“I don’t think any parliament is going to change these laws on their own; they’ll wait until they’re made to. But they should have the courage to tell the Church they can have their beliefs but they have no right to impose them on an entire section of the community. Governments are for everyone.”

Ms Lake had been a long-time LGBT rights activist before being appointed as a senator in 2017, a move that “made a lot of regional headlines”, she remarks wryly.

Retaining homophobic laws has a devastating effect on young gay people’s self-esteem, she continues.

“Many prefer to stay in the closet. My work as a parliamentarian includes being a voice for them, letting them know there’s someone who disagrees with the way things are and is willing to represent them.”

She adds: “At the basis of it all is adults who want to be treated equally, free from judgement and persecution.”

Challenging prejudice

Alexa Hoffman agrees. Transgender people like herself often bear the brunt of overt prejudice.

Alexa Hoffman poses for a photoTrans women like Alexa Hoffman often bear the brunt of homophobic prejudice in the Caribbean


In her native Barbados, many are afraid to take on the island’s homophobic law “for fear of becoming persona non grata”.

“The religious pundits say the law is in the interests of children and protecting the morals of the country. Anyone who tries to tackle it sets themselves up for their ire,” she tells the BBC.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says stigma deters victims of homophobic attacks from seeking help from the police. Indeed, one Antiguan trans woman suffered a vicious beating by officers while in police custody in 2015, resulting in the loss of sight in one eye.

An HRW spokeswoman said the organisation fully backed ECADE’s legal mission. “It’s time for Eastern Caribbean countries to acknowledge the full humanity of their LGBT citizens and let go of these discriminatory laws,” she added.

Antigua’s Attorney-General Steadroy Benjamin says that while he will “entertain discussions”, the issue is “not a matter of priority”.

In 2018, Guyana hosted its first Gay Pride paradeLGBT activists want to change the laws across the Caribbean


Bishop Charlesworth Browne has been outspoken against any proposed changes to sodomy legislation in Antigua for decades.

“It’s not the law being challenged but the word of God,” he says. “Homosexuals are welcome in Church and to come to Jesus, but they will suffer the consequences for their actions.”

Optimistic of success

ECADE’s Kenita Placide says the group is prepared to take its fight all the way to the countries’ highest courts.

“We’re very hopeful changes will be made in 2020 as our courts have become more aware of the institution of human rights and what that means where laws are still discriminatory.

“We also need to look at hate speech legislation and how religious rhetoric is inciting hatred,” she adds.

St Lucia-based lawyer Veronica Cenac says ECADE’s drive follows four years of preparation, including establishing plans to protect litigants in the five nations.

Lawyer Veronica Cenac
Lawyer Veronica Cenac is hopeful of success in striking down Eastern Caribbean laws banning same-sex intimacy

“People have been tortured and even killed due to their sexual orientation in St Lucia, so local security training was vital,” she explains.

Ms Cenac says she is optimistic of success in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Recent years have seen victories elsewhere in the region, including Trinidad and Belize.

All of the five countries being challenged constitutionally to enshrine freedom of expression, equality under the law or an enforceable right to privacy, she explains.

“Most importantly, this action sends a signal to everyone that LGBT people are not unapprehended criminals subject to abuse and violence with impunity,” Ms Cenac adds.

“They are someone’s child, brother or sister, mother or father, and they’re entitled to the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”

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  1. If a woman likes another woman, I would think she likes what looks good in a dress. If a woman likes a woman who is dressed like a man, it suggests that she likes men. I am confused.

  2. Are you confused about who you like or are you confused because you are small minded and hateful. Just asking🤔.

    • Dear Marge, somehow you have judged without seeking to understand. Humans are humans’ worst enemies. Have a good 2020.

  3. Read this article: Of Dis and Dat: The Anti-Man Wedding by Selvyn A Walter, published in Antigua Observer Newspaper, October 7, 2010.
    Have a happy, healthy, safe, thoughtful, kind, tolerant and prosperous NEW DECADE!!!!!

  4. No such thing as “TRANS WOMAN”
    You are either MALE or FEMALE from birth. There must be something fabulous about females, because even hard toarn man are dying to inherit a God-given vagina.

    • Sounds so uneducated. Women put here want to inherit the same ‘god-given’ penis. Therefore, I guess there is something ‘fabulous’ about males too. Sounds so ignorant and hateful. You and outdated Bible.

      • Nope. Anything but outdated. It gives a perfect description of society today. Seems you are the one who is outdated. Scientist will tell you that there is no “gay gene” as the lgbtqxyz mafia would have you to believe. So nope no one is “born gay” or “born racist” – it is a choice that freewill human beings make. Choose to kill, lie, steal, gossip, check the obeah man, believe in horoscopes etc

        Check the background of most in the gay lifestyle and more often than not, there was some molestation or rejection.

        I could never agree with the lgbt being bullied, discriminated against or even killed because of their lifestyle. That is wrong! In the same vein, it is wrong to attempt to “normalize” a lifestyle that is neither natural or normal. What is even worse is that the lgbt will bully those who oppose their lifestyle. In larger countries, you risk losing your livelihood for not supporting the pride parade or offering a differing opinion.

        • Oh won’t anyone think of the poor oppressed straights!😱
          Give me a break. Any “bullying” straight people get from LGBT people is either deserved or such a minuscule problem that it just makes people like you look ignorant.


    Not sure that the ‘…Creator of Heaven, Earth and Humans,’ intends the ‘…male organ’ to enter any other body orifices, but to be ‘…penetrable through the identified female reproductive organ.’

    Then there are those who desire to ‘…Knock Shallow Plate,’ whatever that means.

    Now, as far is known ‘…Toxic’ has a meaning that is neither associated with Masculinity, nor Homosexuality.’

    However, to all intents and purposes, when coined with ‘…Masculinity,’ the dictionary speaks to;

    ‘…Men with feelings’ that they can perpetrate or inflict violence on particular people with ‘…sexual preferences that speak to abnormality and immorality.’

    These have provoked serious outrage where some people believe that it is a ‘…fundamental human right’ to engage in relationships or to enjoy sexual pleasures with men as opposed to women or with women as opposed to men.’

    Looking at it from a moral perspective, these appear not to be in harmony with ‘…society’s mores, customs and practices.’

    Now, from this news story, there might be ‘…Sexual or personal Conflicts’ with a ‘…Government law-making Senator who clearly feels that even in a parliamentary democracy, ‘…her Government shall not legislate who one loves,’ but shall legislate to ‘…repeal laws that criminalizes the abominable crime of Buggery.’

    Reasonable inferences might be drawn that the Senator concerned, appeared ‘…not to fit the vision or policy or supports the legislative agenda of her administration.’

    It might take ‘…two to tango,’ but only on the dance floor.

    Not sure, if the same can be said of the Senate.

    Advisedly, it might be easier to ‘…fight the administration from the outside in, than fighting from the inside out.’

    Lest it breathes ‘…administrative contempt,’ or fuels the inescapable wrath of the Gaston Browne administration to descend upon ‘…iniquitous transgressors’ (coined by me), it might be prudent for ‘…advocators or abominators’ to quit.

  6. keep your sexual perversions to yourselves in your closets, away from our children and the society just as we will protect it from rapist and pediphilia and predators.If you are so keen to keep that lifestyle then migrate to wonderland,spme where in canada and USA not everyone respect the cultureless lifestyle of the west and their standards.we have the right to defend our culture, our children, spirituality and belief system. Sexual pervesions in any form are evil and only attract death , love brings life.

  7. Genocide on the Natural HUE-man Being by any means necessary, as they adopt to, preach, promote this fuckery!

  8. “And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

  9. Very good post Mr. Pompey! Two shallow plates knocking together indeed. Also very sound words of wisdom for the Lady Senator Lake. I recall clearly the PM saying that someone recommended her. He further stated that he unequivocally informed her that she is expected to support the government’s stance and NOT her own (especially when it comes to the abnormal homosexual agenda). At this point, she needs to decide what is more important to her: being a legislator or an advocate for abnormal sexual preferences. I highly doubt that she will be able to plan and execute a coup d’etat to overthrow the government and team up with Sir Trevor Thomas to form a military goverment and appoint all lgbt people to positions of power. Sooner or later, she will have to make a clear decision.

    Senator Lake was once bestfriends with Dick, but she now prefers Jane. Perhaps Dick broke her heart? Confusingly, she now appears to want to be like Dick when it comes to Jane.

    I suspect that her protruding 36Fs and monthly period remind her of her truth.

    P.S. is the author of the article the same one from ZDK? If so, she better not try to bring that near Sean Bird studio.

  10. Members of the LGBTQI community wanting to be treated with respect doesn’t mean they are forcing their ideologies on anyone. I support their efforts for equality. They are no less human than any of us.

    • They are no less human and should be treated with respect. They should NOT however try to FORCE ACCEPTANCE of that which is an ABOMINATION TO THE Most High Creator God.

  11. I truly believe that the anti Christ will be gay and will try to force homosexuality on our straight pple who will die because they choose not to dable in this fetish crap. This is all I see and hear about these days every movie, commercial or reality show etc has to have some gay shit these days. Why is this even news?

  12. Why are these people trying to force their will on other’s? Go live your lives in private,do what you choose to,no one cares,but please do not try to tell everyone that laws should be changed to suit big CHPUTS.

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