The Right to Intimacy

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A Caribbean court ruled this week that Antigua and Barbuda’s anti-sodomy law is unconstitutional, the latest verdict to challenge the legislation that used to be common in former British colonies, the Associated Press reported.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court said in its ruling that “the selection of an intimate partner is a private and a personal choice.” It added that the country’s 1995 Sexual Offenses Act “offends the right to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex.”

The historic ruling comes after a gay man and a local women’s rights group challenged the constitutionality of the law: Despite being rarely enforced, the law punishes two consenting adults found guilty of having anal sex with 15 years in prison. If found guilty of serious indecency, they would face five years in prison.

The man, who worked for the country’s Ministry of Health, said that he had been persecuted and assaulted, adding that some of his patients have refused treatment because of his sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, the local anti-rape group said that fear of breaches of confidentiality has deterred LGBTQ+ people from obtaining AIDS testing or treatment and that health care personnel display open hostility toward them.

Regional human rights advocates welcomed the verdict but warned that same-sex consensual intimacy is still criminalized in seven Caribbean countries.

Currently, courts in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago have found such laws unconstitutional, while other cases in the region are pending.

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