A gay man in Dominica plans to challenge his country’s sodomy law.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a Toronto-based advocacy group, on Monday announced the man will file the lawsuit in Dominica’s High Court of Justice in the coming weeks. A press release says the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program is among the other organizations that are supporting the plaintiff who has asked to remain anonymous.
Dominica is a former British colony that is located between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Lesser Antilles.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network notes the gay man plans to challenge two provisions of Dominica’s Sexual Offenses Act that criminalizes anal sex and “gross indecency” with up to 10 years and 12 years in prison respectively.
“The claimant at the center of this case is a gay man who could face more than a decade in prison for private sexual intercourse with consenting adult same-sex partners,” reads the group’s press release. “Already, he has experienced homophobic hostility, discrimination, harassment and physical and sexual assaults fueled by these hateful laws.”
The press release specifically notes police “refused to investigate” an attack against the gay man that took place in his home and “allowed his attacker to remain free.”
Goal is ‘to end the criminalization of consensual sexual activity’
Dominica is among the Caribbean countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
The Trinidad and Tobago High Court in 2018 found the country’s sodomy law unconstitutional. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has backed lawsuits against similar statutes in Jamaica and Barbados.
Darryl Philip, founder of Minority Rights Dominica, an LGBTI advocacy group in Dominica, in the press release said the experiences of the gay man who plans to challenge the island’s sodomy law “are sadly not unique and are instead a daily reality of many LGBT people in Dominica and elsewhere in the Caribbean.”
“Because the law criminalizes all LGBT people, it sends a powerful message that other people — whether law enforcement or regular citizens on the street — are entitled to discriminate and commit human rights abuses against LGBT individuals,” added Philip.
Maurice Tomlinson, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, added the law also has an adverse impact on efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Dominica.
“Dominica is in the midst of an ongoing HIV crisis,” said Tomlinson in the press release. “A man seeking HIV testing or visiting the doctor for a check-up who indicates he is sexually active with a male partner is actually confessing to a crime. This reality poses significant barriers to effective HIV and AIDS health programs.”
“Changing these laws is both a human rights and public health imperative,” added Tomlinson.
The planned lawsuit was announced in New York during the 2019 WorldPride Human Rights Conference, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
“The ultimate goal of these legal challenges is to end the criminalization of consensual sexual activity between people above the age of consent, in particular among same-sex partners,” reads the press release. “The courts can make binding decisions obliging the state to end any breach of the Constitution, including by changing its laws.”