A case challenging the country’s law which criminalizes buggery and other sexual activity between consenting partners, including and in particular, partners of the same sex, has been filed in the High Court of Justice in Dominica.
The gay man who brought the action is claiming that the law violates “numerous rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Dominica.”
Senior Policy Analyst and Legal Advisor in the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Maurice Tomlinson made the announcement during a news conference in Roseau on Friday, July 19, 2019.
The case was filed on the same day.
The claimant, whose name and identity were not disclosed, is being represented by Attorney Cara Shillingford and supported financially by groups and advocates both in Dominica and elsewhere, including Minority Rights Dominica, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program and Lawyers Without Borders.
Founder and coordinator of Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom), Daryl Phillip said this is an important day for the group.
“To us this is an important day. The case that we have been working on for the last 4 and a half to 5 years is being launched; it is being registered in the courts of Dominica,” he said.
He said the challenge targets section 14 and section 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act of Dominica.
“These are the ones that deal with buggery and gross indecency,” Phillip said.
Section 14 is a sweeping law criminalizing gross indecency which is defined as any act (other than penile-vaginal sex) by anyone “involving the use of the genital organs, breast or anus for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.” The maximum penalty is 12 years in prison (if the act is committed with a person aged 16 or older), while section 16 of the Act criminalizes buggery, which the Act defines as anal sex between two men or between a man and a woman. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment plus the possibility of forced psychiatric confinement.
According to Phillip, after years of consultation with various professionals around the world including the United Nations (UN) and the legal authorities within the Caribbean, “ We think we have a case to bring forward and we are bringing the case forward to the courts of Dominica because we think that affects everyone, even those who feel that they are not a part of the system but somewhere along the line your family, your friends, your brothers, your sisters, your acquaintances will be affected by that law and you will feel that you have not done right by them. So, we are trying to do right to have a more equal society.”
Meantime, the Dominican who brought the case forward, said through a statement, that he fears for himself and for others who are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community in Dominica.
He explained that throughout his life in Dominica, he has endured discrimination, threats, harassment and violence because of his sexual orientation.
“The perpetrators of such acts find a sense of comfort and safety in the laws that criminalize buggery and gross indecency,” the claimant said in the statement. “These laws mean that we live with the threat of criminal sanction for engaging in consensual sexual activity, but their effects extend far beyond this direct path.”
He continued, “These laws are not only discriminatory themselves, but they incite and encourage hateful and violent conduct towards LGBT individuals. The laws also condone police discrimination and inaction against such acts of harassment and violence.”
The gay man states that he is also challenging section 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, “because these laws not only directly violate various constitutional rights but also incite many other violations I and other LGBT Dominicans experience.”
He believes that the Act must be changed to ensure that all Dominicans feel welcome and comfortable in their own country and argues that the repeal of sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act “is a necessary step to ensuring the human rights of Dominica’s LGBT community, ostensibly guaranteed under our Constitution, are protected.”
He said he hopes to see a future where younger generations are free to be who they are without worrying when they will be harassed next.
“I want to live in a Dominica where I and other members of the LGBT community feel protected and secure, free to live our lives without discrimination, harassment, threat and violence,” the claimant said in his statement.