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UNAIDS welcomes court’s ruling to protect rights of LGBTQ people in Dominica

In a decision by Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence on a claim brought by a gay man, the Court found that: “criminalizing sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex as effected by sections 14 and 16 of SOA is an unjustifiable restriction on the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression in a free and democratic society”.

Photo by Brielle French from Unsplash.com

UNAIDS welcomes the decision of the High Court of Dominica to protect the rights of LGBTQ people in Dominica.

The Court ruled that sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA), which had criminalised consensual same sex activity between adults, are unconstitutional under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica. The Court ruled that the former provisions violated the right to liberty which is guaranteed by section 1(a) of the Constitution, freedom of expression which is guaranteed by sections 1 (b) and section 10 (1) and protection of personal privacy which guaranteed by section 1 (c). 

Equally powerfully, the court accepted that the right to protection of privacy of the home encompasses: “private and family life and the personal sphere which includes one’s sexual identity and orientation as well as intimate activity with a partner of a person’s choice. Therefore Sections 14 and 16 of the SOA contravene the Constitution in so far as they intrude on the private home life of an individual by proscribing the choice of consenting adults as to whom to engage in intimate sexual activity with,  and are therefore, void.”

Dominica is the sixth country in the Caribbean in which community action has resulted in the removal of the criminalization of same-sex relations. As well as advancing human rights for everyone including LGBTQ people, this legal progress is also expected to advance public health for everyone. The series of rulings made across the Caribbean are seen to be “helping the region to speed up its progress towards zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination for affected people.”

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said: “Today another Caribbean Court has struck down the harmful old colonial punitive law which had criminalized LGBTQ people. Dominica’s ruling is a win for public health as well as for human rights. Protecting the human rights of all people is essential to protect the health of all people. Courts, as the guardians of written Constitutions which enshrine fundamental rights, are vital pathways for the realization of everyone’s rights.”

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