LGBT rights in the British Virgin Islands

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LGBT rights in the British Virgin Islands
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status Legal since 2001
Military service United Kingdom responsible for defense
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections
Family rights
Recognition of

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the British Virgin Islands face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the British Virgin Islands since 2001.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Before 2001, anal sex and oral sex for both heterosexuals and male homosexuals were criminal offences, referred to as "buggery" under the British Virgin Islands Criminal Code. Lesbian activity has never been illegal.

Sexual acts between two consenting adults in private were expressly decriminalized by an Order in Council in the British Virgin Islands (and other British Overseas Territories) by the British Government pursuant to Sections 3(1) and 3(7) of the Caribbean Territories (Criminal Law) Order, 2000.[1] According to section 4 of the order, the law has retrospective effect. There are two exceptions to the law: group sex and sex in public remain criminal offences and may also lead to charges under gross indecency and other minor sexual offence laws.[2]

As a British Overseas Territory, the British Virgin Islands Government is required to comply with their obligations under international human rights instruments. Specifically, this includes an adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights, which highlight a responsibility to ensure non-discrimination and equality.[3] The European Convention on Human Rights has been recognised by the courts as having legal effect in the jurisdiction.[4]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Same-sex marriage is not legal under British Virgin Islands law. The British Virgin Islands is an extremely religious society,[5] and no discussion relating to legalisation has yet occurred in the House of Assembly.

In 2015, Premier Orlando Smith, whilst affirming his personal opposition to same-sex marriage, indicated that he is open to public consultation on the issue.[6] However, the Marriage (Amendment) Act 2017 made no provision for same-sex marriages, and politicians speaking in the House of Assembly took time to comment on the absence of such provisions and express hostility to same-sex marriage and LGBT people more broadly.[7]

Church leaders have indicated hostility towards the possibility of legalisation,[8] and political leaders have taken an unsympathetic approach in public.[9] Her Majesty's Government has confirmed that it will not impose recognition of same-sex marriages in the British Virgin Islands by way of an Order in Council.[10]

Same-sex marriage is legal in the neighbouring United States Virgin Islands, however.

Discrimination protections[edit]

The 2007 Constitution prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation:[11]

Whereas every person in the Virgin Islands is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual;
Whereas those fundamental rights and freedoms are enjoyed without distinction of any kind, such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, association with a national minority, property, family relations, economic status, disability, age, birth, sexual orientation, marital or other status, subject only to prescribed limitations;
"Discriminatory" means affording different treatment to different persons on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, association with a national minority, property, family relations, economic status, disability, age, birth, sexual orientation, marital or other status

Living conditions[edit]

The British Virgin Islands is a conservative and religious society. Open displays of affection between same-sex partners may offend, and LGBT people generally keep their sexual orientation a secret and stay in the closet.[12] There are reports of same-sex couples and LGBT people being harassed and even physically attacked.[13] Some of these violent attacks have been justified by locals as simply "following the Bible".

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2001)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2001)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2007)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2007)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2007)
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 allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2000, responsibility of the United Kingdom)
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned for heterosexual couples as well)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Britain Scraps Homosexuality Laws". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Local News – British Virgin Islands". Island Sun. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Country Profile: British Virgin Islands (British Overseas Territory)". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Wang Zhongyong v Union Zone Management (unreported) (BVIHC (Com) 0126/2011
  5. ^ The Constitution of the Virgin Islands defines the territory as one which "believes in God" (article 2(1)). See also: Christianity by country.
  6. ^ "BVI public to decide on gay marriage if necessary". BVI News. 16 July 2015. 
  7. ^ "We don't support gay marriage here, visitors told". BVI News. 8 December 2017. 
  8. ^ "Church Leaders Hopeful BVI Will Stand Ground Against Same Sex Marriages". BVI Platinum news. 2012-05-12. 
  9. ^ "None Of Us Will Probably Vote For Same Sex Marriage - Health Minister". BVI Platinum News. 2013-02-19. 
  10. ^ "UK Will Not Force BVI To Accept Same Sex Marriage - Governor". Platinum News. 20 January 2014. 
  11. ^ The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, articles 9 and 26.
  12. ^ Gay Life in British Virgin Islands
  13. ^ ‘Openly gay couple’ allege being treated ‘like garbage’ by UK expat in VI