ROSEAU, Dominica – A gay man, who has chosen to remain anonymous for his own protection, has filed a landmark claim challenging Dominica’s homophobic laws that criminalize “buggery” and “gross indecency”.
A statement from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, which is providing legal support along with the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Programme and other likeminded groups, said this case “will demonstrate that these horrific and outdated laws violate human rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Dominica.
The official filing was announced by Daryl Phillip, Founder and Head of Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom) and Maurice Tomlinson, Senior Policy Analyst at the HIV Legal Network and a dual citizen of Jamaica and Canada.
“Brutal and often life-threatening experiences are a daily reality for many LGBT people in Dominica, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Because the law criminalizes all LGBT individuals, 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,” said Philip.
“While Britain decriminalised homosexuality in 1967, a majority of Commonwealth countries have not followed suit. LGBT people still face harsh laws in many parts of the world.”
The case builds on the global movement for decriminalising LGBT sex, as seen recently in Botswana and India. It also builds on precedents from sister Caribbean countries Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, and will assist similar cases underway in Barbados and Jamaica, both also supported by the HIV Legal Network.
The HIV Legal Network said the claimant at the centre of the Dominica case has experienced “homophobic hostility, discrimination, harassment, threats, and physical and sexual assaults fuelled by these hateful laws”. It said that in one instance, he was viciously attacked in his own home but police refused to investigate and allowed his attacker to remain free.
“Canada is an important safe haven for LGBT refugees who are forced to flee their country of origin to escape anti-gay laws and the violence that often accompanies them. But we must recognize that some people do not have the opportunity to flee, nor do they wish to leave their home,” said Tomlinson.
“With this case, we hope to provide the LGBT people of Dominica with the important, life-affirming option to stay, if they so choose. We want to bring an end to the hateful laws that plague our countries, one legal challenge at a time.”