Challenge to Antigua buggery law comes from unlikely source

Location of Antigua among the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. (Map courtesy of Tuchman Beaches Guide)

A constitutional challenge against Antigua and Barbuda’s law criminalizing buggery has been filed as part of the defense of two men accused of sexually assaulting a woman. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Antigua and Barbuda’s ban on buggery defines the act as “sexual intercourse per anum” either between two men or between a man and a woman, whether consensual or not. It carries a punishment of 15 years in prison if committed by an adult. Minors can be jailed for five years if convicted of buggery.

The two male defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges of buggery and rape.

If the constitutional challenge to the buggery law is successful, it could end one of the harsh sanctions against gay men in the island nation. However, the section criminalizing “serious indecency,” defined as sex acts other than intercourse between people of the same sex, is not within the scope of this challenge, and would likely remain on the books.

Courts in Trinidad and Tobago and in Belize have recently struck down those countries’ buggery laws as unconstitutional. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has also called on Jamaica to repeal its buggery law, although a direct challenge to the law is still pending at the commission.

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), an umbrella group for LGBT rights groups in the Caribbean, announced plans in 2019 to file coordinated court challenges to all of the buggery laws remaining in the region. ECADE could not be reached for this story.

Trans activist Alexa Hoffman filed a complaint against Barbados’ buggery laws at the IACHR in 2018, although a decision has not yet been rendered.

Challenges to buggery laws in Dominica and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were filed in their domestic courts in July 2019 and remain pending.

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Written by Rob Salerno

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