LGBT rights in Dominica

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LocationDominica.png
StatusIllegal
Penalty10 years' imprisonment for buggery between men, 4 years' imprisonment for attempted buggery between men, 5 years' imprisonment for gross indecency. Convictions for buggery or attempted buggery can be accompanied by compulsory admission to a psychiatric hospital. (Not enforced, repeal pending)
Gender identityNo
MilitaryNo
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions
AdoptionNo

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Dominica face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Sodomy, also known as "buggery", is illegal for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Dominica provides no recognition to same-sex unions, whether in the form of marriage or civil unions, and no law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Recognition of same-sex unions in the Lesser Antilles
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but penalties not enforced
  Island subject to IACHR ruling, penalty not enforced

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Dominica. Anal intercourse and oral sex between persons of the opposite sex are also illegal.[1]

Between 1995 and 2000, 35 people were arrested by local authorities and charged with buggery. The courts sentenced all the offenders to fines and prison sentences up to ten years. Some were sent to local psychiatric hospitals for "treatment". In 2001, 15 women were arrested and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The charge brought against them was gross indecency. Ten men were also sentenced to five years' imprisonment for "engaging in gross indecency with people of the same sex."[2]

The Sexual Offenses Act 1998 has two sections dealing with same-sex sexual activity.

Section 14. (1) Any person who commits an act of gross indecency with another person is guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to imprisonment for five years.

* * * *

(4) In this section, "gross indecency" is an act other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural) by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.[3]

Section 16. (1) A person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to imprisonment for -

(a) twenty-five years, if committed by an adult on a minor;

(b) ten years, if committed by an adult on another adult;

(c) five years, if committed by a minor;

and if the Court thinks it fit, the Court may order that the convicted person be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

(2) Any person who attempts to commit the offence of buggery, or is guilty of an assault with intent to commit the same, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for four years, and, if the Court thinks it fit, the Court may order that the convicted person be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

(3) In this section, "buggery" means sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person....[3]

Decriminalisation efforts[edit]

In 2013, Catholic Bishop Gabriel Malzaire called for the repeal of the law, saying, "I wish to make it clear that the Catholic Church in Dominica adheres to the call of the Holy See in its statement to the 63rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Declaration of Human Rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, "to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as to urge all States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them. …" The Catholic Church maintains that free sexual acts between adult persons must not be treated as crimes to be punished by civil authorities."[4]

In 2014, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said that "Dominica does not enforce its law against homosexual activity, at least in private homes, and has no plans to do so."[5]

In June 2019, a gay man in Dominica who wishes to remain anonymous announced plans to challenge the country's buggery law, with the help of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a Toronto-based advocacy group, the University of Toronto's International Human Rights Program, Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom), an LGBT advocacy group, and Lawyers Without Borders.[6] The gay man has faced homophobic hostility, discrimination, harassment, threats, and physical and sexual assaults fueled by this law. In one instance, he was viciously attacked in his own home, yet police refused to investigate and allowed his attacker to remain free because of his sexuality, arguing that under Dominican law gay people are considered criminals. The man officially filed the lawsuit with Dominica's High Court of Justice in July 2019, challenging two provisions of the Sexual Offenses Act that criminalises anal sex and "gross indecency" with up to 10 years and 12 years in prison, respectively.[7][8][9]

Official support of LGBT rights[edit]

In 2011, the Dominican delegation to the United Nations signed onto the "Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity". It is the only UN member state in the Lesser Antilles to have done so.[10][11][12]

Social conditions[edit]

Opposition to gay tourists[edit]

Bill Daniel, president of the Evangelical Association speaking on behalf of the group, made the following statement in 2009: "We want the government to ensure that gay tourists do not come to the island and conduct themselves in any immoral way."[13] The association protested against allowing gay cruises to visit the island and promoting Dominica as a "gay tourist destination".

Anti-LGBT violence[edit]

There have been suspected hate crimes against individuals believed to be homosexuals in Dominica. Persons in a dispute may use derogatory words like "buggerman" or "battyman" to refer to "effeminate" men.[14]

In 2010, a Portsmouth man, Clement James, was stabbed to death after being accused of "watching" his male assailant in a public place. The accused, Davis St Jean, allegedly had a habit of singing and preaching aloud in the street about killing gay people. Before stabbing Clement, he reportedly said "all battie boi must dead".[14]

LGBT culture[edit]

A 2011 academic submission to the United Nations stated that LGBT groups in Dominica are forced to operate underground because of fear that their members will be victimised. Members who are openly gay complain of acts of vandalism committed against their property. Reports made to the police are not taken seriously and the victims are sometimes ridiculed.[15]

LGBT associations[edit]

Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom) is an LGBT advocacy group in Dominica, working to advance LGBT rights in the country. Its founder is Darryl Philip.[6]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: 10 years prison sentence or incarceration in a psychiatric institution; not enforced, repeal pending)
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
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ State Sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws criminalising same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults, The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, edited by Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, May 2012, p. 58 Archived 17 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Roberts, Scott (10 July 2014). "Dominica Prime Minister: 'We will never accept same-sex marriage'". PinkNews. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Sexual Offenses Act 1998, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Dominica" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Catholic bishop in Dominica: End anti-homosexuality laws". Erasing 76 Crimes. 24 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Dominica leader: No enforcement of anti-gay law". Erasing 76 Crimes. 14 July 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Gay man plans to challenge Dominica sodomy law". Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights. 24 June 2019. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  7. ^ "Challenge to Dominica's buggery laws filed in Dominica High Court". Dominica News Online. 20 July 2019.
  8. ^ Tomlinson, Maurice (19 July 2019). "Gay man challenges Dominica's anti-LGBT laws". Erasing 76 Crimes.
  9. ^ Lopez, Oscar (19 July 2019). "Laws banning gay sex under challenge in tiny Caribbean nation". Reuters.
  10. ^ "Over 80 Nations Support Statement at Human Rights Council on LGBT Rights". U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Geneva. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Joint Statement on the Rights of LGBT Persons at the Human Rights Council". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation & gender identity" (PDF).
  13. ^ Carter, Ellsworth, ‘Gay Cruises Draw Protest in the Caribbean’, The Associated Press (10 November 2008), Accessed 18 June 2011.
  14. ^ a b ""A SHADOW REPORT ON THE VIOLATION OF ICCPR OBLIGATIONS RELATING TO LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER PERSONS IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA", Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in July 2011, p. 10" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2014.
  15. ^ ""A SHADOW REPORT ON THE VIOLATION OF ICCPR OBLIGATIONS RELATING TO LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER PERSONS IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA", Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in July 2011, p. 13" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2014.