IACHR welcomes decision declaring criminalization of consensual same-sex relations unconstitutional in Barbados

June 19, 2023

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the ruling in the case of René Holder-McClean-Ramirez et al v. Attorney General of Barbados, which found that sections 9 and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act of Barbados, criminalizing private consensual same-sex relations, are unconstitutional.

In this historic case, decided on December 12, 2022 and published on May 25, 2023, the Supreme Court of Barbados ruled that the offence of "Buggery", under section 9, and the offence of "Serious Indecency", under section 12, both of the Sexual Offences Act, are unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect to the extent that they apply to consensual sexual relations between adults in private. Before this decision, Barbados had, through the "Buggery" provision, the harshest penalty criminalizing private consensual same-sex relations in the Americas and the Caribbean, with persons convicted being liable to a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.

In its 2015 Violence Against LGBTI Persons in the Americas report, the IACHR noted that even though these types of laws have been largely unenforced, they can have pervasive effects in society. The criminalization of consensual same sex relations legitimizes and reinforces prejudices against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons, or those perceived as such, while sending a social message to communities and societies that discrimination and violence is condoned or tolerated.

The IACHR reiterates that the criminalization of consensual relationships of LGBTI adults violates the principle of equality and non-discrimination, as well as the right to privacy and human dignity. The IACHR calls on all the States in the Americas and the Caribbean to repeal laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults or allow for the prosecution of LGBTI persons in any other form. States must also take positive action to create a legal framework to protect LGBTI persons from all forms of violence and discrimination.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 126/23

8:00 AM