LGBT rights in Barbados

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PenaltyLife imprisonment
Gender identity-
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Barbados do not enjoy the same rights as non-LGBT people. Homosexual acts are illegal (regardless of whether they were consensual and done in private) in Barbados, with a life sentence; however, the law is rarely enforced. The law is currently in effect, but under review.[1][2] In June 2016, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said that gays should be "left alone" and protected in the eyes of the law.[3]

In August 2016, the Belize Supreme Court struck down Belize's sodomy ban as unconstitutional. Because Belize and Barbados (and all member states of CARICOM) share an identical jurisprudence, Barbados' sodomy ban is also unconstitutional. However, unlike Belize, Barbados' Constitution contains a "savings clause", which protects laws inherited by the former British Empire from constitutional review, even if these laws run counter to fundamental human and constitutional rights.

Because of Barbados' small population, many LGBT Barbadians choose to remain in the closet in fear that coming out would expose them to the entire country.[4]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Barbadian singer Rihanna, famous on the island, has often expressed support for LGBT rights.[5]

Same-sex and different-sex anal and oral sex (buggery or sodomy) are criminalised in Barbados. Chapter 154, Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act criminalises buggery, regardless of whether the act was done in private and consensual. Punishment is life imprisonment. The law is rarely enforced, however.[6]

In 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report entitled: "I Have to Leave to be me: Discriminatory Laws Against LGBT People in the Eastern Caribbean". The organisation called on Barbados to repeal Section 9 and urged the Government to create a safe environment for all Barbadians.[7] A government minister subsequently warned that external forces were trying to impose same-sex marriage on the country. HRW called the minister's response a "cheap political trick", as their report does not mention same-sex marriage at all, and instead focuses on the discrimination and harassment LGBT people face in Barbados.[8]

In August 2016 and April 2018, the Belize Supreme Court and the Trinidad and Tobago High Court, respectively, ruled that laws criminalising homosexuality are unconstitutional. These rulings have been welcomed by Barbadian LGBT activists, who hope to have their own laws repealed too. However, Barbados' Constitution contains a "savings clause", which protects laws inherited by the former British Empire from constitutional review, even if these laws run counter to fundamental human and constitutional rights, thus making any legal challenge to the buggery law difficult.[9] As such, Barbadian LGBT activists have filed suit in international courts instead. In June 2018, with the help of Canadian human rights groups, they filed a case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights challenging Chapter 154, Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act.[10]

The Anglican Bishop of Barbados, as well as the Catholic Church, have come out in opposition to the buggery law, stating that, while they morally oppose homosexuality, governments must respect the rights of all persons, including LGBT people.[5] On the other hand, some fundamentalist, extremist and religious fanatic groups have attacked LGBT activists and LGBT people more broadly. These include the New Testament Church, which has made factually incorrect and unscientific comments regarding sexual orientation, claiming that heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are chosen, and has argued that discrimination against LGBT people should be encouraged, while at the same time victim playing.[11]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

There is no recognition of same-sex unions in Barbados. In June 2016, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said the Barbados Government will not change the law to allow for same-sex marriages.[12]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Same-sex couples are unable to legally adopt in Barbados.

While not explicitly prohibited or regulated by law, the Barbados Fertility Centre offers IVF and artificial insemination treatments to lesbian couples. Surrogacy is illegal in Barbados.[13]

LGBT rights movement in Barbados[edit]

In 2013, Donnya Piggott and Ro-Ann Mohammed founded the association Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination as an organization to create an education mechanism and open public dialogue in a supportive manner for the LGBT community of Barbados.[14]

Barbados held its first small pride in November 2017.[4] In July 2018, despite fear from backlash, around 120 people marched in the first gay pride parade in Rihanna Drive, in the capital Bridgetown.[15][16]

Social conditions[edit]

Legislation of Barbados among the Lesser Antilles (Penalty: Up to life imprisonment)
  Same-sex marriage performed
  Same-sex marriage recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unrecognized or unknown
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but no longer enforced
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal

Blue crowns: Kingdom of the Netherlands

Homosexual refugee claims[edit]

In 2011, the Government of Barbados said it was investigating claims that some gay Barbadians were seeking refugee status in Canada. In 2016, a Guyanese newspaper reported that over 300 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Barbados were seeking asylum in Canada, England and the United States because they fear persecution at home.[17] The Bajan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maxine McClean, stated a concern of the Government at these applications attempting to secure refugee status in Canada since two of the nine applications to the Canadian Government had already been denied and questions have been raised as to whether it is an attempt at abusing the refugee system to Canada.[18]

The Bajan organisation United Gays and Lesbians Against AIDS, Barbados (UGLAAB) stated it was also looking to conduct its own investigation on the same allegations.

The resident U.S. Ambassador later commented to the local press that some of the other nations in region were among the highest number of such refugee applications to the United States, but he went on to say that the U.S. Embassy to Bridgetown had not yet reported any specific problems within Barbados to the U.S. State Department. The ambassador highlighted that sodomy laws were a part of statute law for Barbados and that the Barbadian Government should perhaps consider formally retiring those laws to maintain Barbados' good image internationally.[19]

International relations[edit]

In 2011, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom stated during a Commonwealth of Nations Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia that his Government would find it difficult to provide aid for countries which still had laws banning sodomy on their statute books. Thereafter, the Attorney General for Barbados stated publicly that Barbados would not be dictated to by the United Kingdom.[20] Following the statement, several members of Barbados' openly gay community stated that Barbados should begin to offer packaged tourism deals for gay tourists.[21] However, an informal comment line by the Barbados Nation newspaper found that plan to be disliked by some.[22]

Following the UK's comment, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established a unit to tackle gay rights. It noted the problems some of the laws in the region presented and stated that it would "promote the harmonious development of all its work areas based on the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights and the need to protect the rights of all individuals and groups historically subjected to discrimination."[23]

Public opinion[edit]

Recent polls conducted by Caribbean Development Research Services Inc. (CADRES) have found Barbadians to be more tolerant than previous years.[24] In a 2016 poll conducted by the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), 67% of Barbadians described themselves as tolerant of the LGBT community.[25] Another 82% also opposed discrimination against the LGBT community.

In recent years, due in part to the rapid legalisation of same-sex marriage in many countries including the United States, many American evangelical ministers have come to Barbados. Human rights activists have accused them of spreading and preaching violence and hatred. Owing to these evangelical ministers, homophobic rhetoric in Barbados has become more widespread. For example, a university lecturer called homosexuality "illogical", numerous doctors erroneously claimed that AIDS cannot be spread through heterosexual sex and many religious leaders correlated homosexuality to paedophilia.[4]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Xtra – The news is queer". Xtra. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  2. ^ Staff (April 2010). "Travel & living abroad (Barbados) - Local laws and customs". Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK). Retrieved 7 April 2010. Barbados, in common with much of the English speaking Caribbean, has a very conservative attitude to homosexuality and homophobic views are unfortunately common. Contrary to popular belief, homosexuality itself is not illegal although sodomy remains a criminal offence. However, the penalties set out in the 1992 Sexual Offences Act concerning sexual relations between members of the same sex are rarely enforced when this takes place in private. There is no overtly public gay scene in Barbados and no gay and lesbian publications. However, many gay Bajans couples are known and live together without problems by maintaining a low profile.
  3. ^ "Barbados official says gays should be 'left alone' despite sodomy law". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c This is why we needed the first ever Barbados Pride
  5. ^ a b "She's Famous, From Barbados, and an LGBT Ally". 23 March 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  7. ^ "#BTEditorial - The implications of Trinidad's landmark gay rights ruling for Barbados - Barbados Today". 13 April 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Cheap Political Trick in Barbados". 28 March 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Our win too! - Barbados Today". 12 April 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  10. ^ LGBT activists file challenge of Barbados’ anti-gay laws
  11. ^ No same-sex!
  12. ^ "Gay blow: AG rules out same-sex marriages". Barbados Today. 7 June 2016.
  13. ^ "SINGLE AND SAME SEX COUPLES FERTILITY OPTIONS". Barbados Fertility Centre. 17 November 2017.
  14. ^ Dottin, Bea (24 June 2013). "BGLAD: Don't hate". St. Michael, Barbados: Nation News. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Gays leaving Barbados for Canada".
  18. ^ Jordan, Ricky (20 February 2011). "Gay scam?". Nation Newspaper. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  19. ^ Best, Tony (26 February 2011). "Gay backlash worry". Nation Newspaper. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  20. ^ author, Nation News. "Not by UK". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  21. ^ author, Nation News. "Dear: Cash in gay tourism". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  22. ^ author, Nation News. "TALK BACK: Readers see no reason to focus on gay tourism". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  23. ^ "IACHR Creates Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  24. ^ Staff writer (11 December 2010). "Homosexuality debate rages in Barbados". Nation Newspaper. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  25. ^ "Barbados MP: Accept the existence of gay relationships". 3 February 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2018.

Further reading[edit]