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Dominica High Court Decriminalizes Consensual Same-Sex Conduct

The Dominica flag flies high in a cloudless blue sky. The flag is a deep green with a red circle in the center. The circle features a purple Sisserou Parrot facing the hoist-side encircled by ten green five-pointed stars. Three stripes (yellow, black, and white) travel up and down the flag and the same three stripes travel left to right on the flag, intersecting behind the red circle in the center of the flag.

On April 22, Dominica’s High Court overturned a ban on consensual same-sex conduct in the Caribbean island nation. The High Court said that parts of the Sexual Offenses Act, influenced by colonial British rule, criminalized same-sex activity and went against the country’s constitution. 

This new ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by a gay Dominican man claiming that the law infringed on his constitutional rights. The anonymous claimant said that the discriminatory legislation caused him “to live in constant fear of criminal sanction for engaging in consensual sexual activity” and had incited “hateful and violent conduct towards him and other LGBTQ+ persons” preventing him “from living and expressing himself freely and in dignity.”

In the ruling, Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence found that the law breached citizens’ constitutional rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and protection of personal privacy as enshrined in the country’s constitution. Cenac-Phulgence voided the sections of the Sexual Offenses Act that forbid “buggery” and “gross indecency.”

The ruling is a significant milestone in Dominica’s journey towards LGBTQ+ equality and inclusivity. For decades, the ban on same-sex relations has perpetuated a culture of fear, forcing queer Dominicans to hide their sexual orientation or flee the country to escape persecution.

At a press conference held hours after the ruling, Daryl Phillip, founder of the charity Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom), said that “this ruling sets Dominica on a promising path towards restoring people’s dignity and safeguarding LGBTQ+ people’s rights to privacy, health, and freedom from torture and ill-treatment, aligning with international human rights obligations.” 

Phillip also clarified that the ruling would not immediately end homophobia, and that full LGBTQ+ liberation would be a much longer process. 

Maria Sjödin, the executive director of human rights NGO Outright International, said, “Decriminalization helps create an environment where LGBTQ+ individuals can live openly without fear of persecution, enabling them to access health care, education, and employment without facing discrimination.” 

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality took to X (formerly Twitter) to declare the ruling a “win for liberty, expression, and privacy.” The organization is currently challenging similar laws in Saint Lucia and Grenada.

With the Dominica High Court decriminalizing same-sex relations, Dominica’s LGBTQ+ community can finally begin the process of living more openly and authentically, breaking the shackles of discrimination and fear. This courageous step towards equality and justice serves as a powerful example for the entire Caribbean region, inspiring a future where all individuals can live with dignity and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

Lawrence Chijioke
Lawrence Chijioke
Lawrence Chijioke is a medical student, visual artist, and writer based in Lagos State, Nigeria. He loves everything about the queer community and is actively involved in fighting homophobia against queer Africans through his art works and write-ups. In his leisure time, he plays the violin and listens to classical music.