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En la imagen, dos chicos sostienen una bandera lgbtq, en diseño, sobre la imagen, un mapa de los países del caribe.


Caribbean Pride: Our Right to Resist

The story of the Caribbean is one as rooted in resistance as it is joy: Pride is no exception

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By Jo Johnson, Community Engagement and Partnerships Lead

The story of the Caribbean is one as rooted in resistance as it is joy. Across language barriers and colonial histories, Caribbean people have faced countless atrocities and still stand resilient, optimistic, and joyful. From confronting the lingering legacies of slavery to tackling harmful masculinities and climate change, resistance defines us. 

The region’s amalgamation of cultures, ethnicities, languages, and religions was not a natural, peaceful occurrence. It came after many years of fighting archaic and dehumanising legislation. When we look at the repealing of the 1917 Shouters Prohibition Ordinance in Trinidad and Tobago, which finally gave members of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faith the right to practice their religion, or the enfranchisement of women’s right to vote in Cuba in 1934, after seven years of demanding more; we see that resistance is not new to us.  

In this way, we respect, empathise, and laud these groups for not accepting the status quo and pushing past colonial moralities for their right to life, liberty, and equality. Through the declaration of national holidays, inclusion in school curricula, and adjusted political strategies; these groups are affirmed for their resistance. Yet as we stand proud in the knowledge that though imperfect, we persevere; there remains one group whose fight has just begun.  

The struggles of the region’s LGBTQI+ community have deep roots. In recent years, significant legal victories have highlighted this ongoing resistance. For example, in 2018, Trinidad and Tobago witnessed a groundbreaking achievement in the fight against homophobia in 2018, when Jason Jones contested the legality of the Sexual Offences Act of Trinidad and Tobago, 2012. Jones’ argument was simple, Sections 13 and 16 of the Act violated his human rights as a gay man. The High Court eventually ruled these sections unconstitutional, highlighting the conflict between colonial-era laws and contemporary human rights. The judgment, emphasizing personal dignity over societal or religious views, was appealed for clarity on the savings law clause and its implications for LGBTQI+ rights. 

In Belize, the 2019 Court of Appeal upheld the 2016 Supreme Court ruling in Caleb Orozco v The Attorney General of Belize, declaring Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code unconstitutional. This section, which came with a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, was found to violate one’s right to dignity, privacy, equality, non-discrimination, and freedom of expression. The court further affirmed that "sex" includes sexual orientation and stated that consensual adult sexual activities should be protected. 

Fast forward to 2022, a year brimming with hope for LGBTQI+ futures, saw René Holder-McClean-Ramirez, a gay man, along with a transgender woman, and an LGBTQI+ organisation challenged the High Court of Barbados on the constitutionality of Sections 9 and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act. In this instance, not only did the court reject the savings law clause but it also expanded its definition of 'sex' to include sexual orientation, thus affirming privacy, dignity, and personal liberty as protected rights, and declared the sections null and void.

Toward the east, St. Kitts and Nevis contended with Jamal Jeffers et al v The Attorney General of St. Christopher and Nevis, when the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court assessed Sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Persons Act, which had a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment. The court found these sections unjustifiable in a democratic society, violating sections 3 and 12 of the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis and consequently declared consensual sexual acts between adults in private as an implied exception. 

Over in Antigua and Barbuda, in Claimants v The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruled Sections 12 and 15 of the country’s Sexual Offences Act unlawful. These sections criminalized same-sex activity, including penalties up to 15 years. The court found these laws violated Sections 3, 12, and 14 of the Constitution, infringing on rights to liberty, privacy, and protection from discrimination. It affirmed that sexual orientation is integral to self-expression and should be protected by the Constitution. 

Though not the historical milestones hoped for, there is much to be proud of. Each moment of resistance pushes the region a little closer to truly embodying the essence of diversity and inclusion. From Nassau to Paramaribo, members of the LGBTQI+ community are still resisting; still fighting for their right to life, liberty and equality. So as the world celebrates Pride this June, we honour all the hard-fought battles won by the Caribbean LGBTQI+ community and their right to resist.  

For the countries not yet listed here and those fighting daily battles against hate, exclusion, and violence, we see you, we thank you, and we stand with you. 

Happy Pride! 


*Savings clause:  A savings clause is a provision in a constitution which protects any law that was validly in force before the country’s adoption of the constitution. It protects laws that might otherwise be struck down as unconstitutional on human rights grounds. “Savings clauses” feature in the constitutions of all Commonwealth Caribbean countries. 



Americas & the Caribbean