It doesn’t take long to discern the public attitudes of the twin island-nations of Antigua and Barbuda toward homosexuality. They don’t like it and they show it in their laws.
Antigua and Barbuda
Same-sex sexual acts are illegal and carry a penalty of 5 years imprisonment. Anal sex carries a penalty of 15 years. Although persecution of gay people is expressly forbidden by the Constitution there are still reports of discrimination and homophobic violence.
A recent opinion article in the local news paper, Caribarena Antigua, tried to carry a balanced perspective about gay citizens. “…to set the pace that us, the smaller, less influential Gay Antiguans and Barbudans can follow in making this country a place where we can all live together in peace and harmony, without fear of prejudice or even death… everyone is different and we should not try to change an individual to suit ourselves.”
The resulting tempest in a teacup storm of comments and letters numbered over three hundred, so riled up or down were some citizens about this issue. Most of the opposition was Bible-based and highly righteous in defending Christian morals and ‘God’s law’. For many of the heterosexual commentators there was a high level of ignorance and disbelief that such an oddity as same-sex attraction could occur in a world that their God had created.
However, vehement as these faulty and clumsy comments were against LGBT people, the outward public demeanor toward gays is more live-and-let live. Tourism is the principal source of Antigua and Barbuda’s income. It unlikely any gay or lesbian couple would be turned away from a guest house or refused service at a restaurant.
But for a native gay or lesbian couple their lives would be shrouded in hiding from neighbors and family. Public tolerance of strangers is one thing, family dishonor is quite another,
A U.S. government report claimed that native homophobia inhibits the cooperation of HIV-positive persons to seek treatment. there were no public reports of violence or discrimination directed toward persons with HIV/AIDS, but most discrimination is hard to see or prove.
The Ministry of Health claims it makes an effort to register human rights complaints of discrimination against HIV/AIDS people. The Ministry of Labor says it encourages employers to be respectful to employees with HIV/AIDS.
in an unfortunate recent development Antigua & Barbuda refused to sign a UN agreement, which 85 other states signed, committing them to ending violence, criminal sanctions and human rights violations associated with sexual orientation or gender identity.
The former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Sir Clare Roberts (photo right) said he was disappointed, “noting that increasingly the human rights record of countries are being put on the front burner and are guiding bilateral relations.” He thinks the Antigua & Barbuda public is growing more “intolerant of the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals but dismissed as melodramatic suggestions that they are unsafe here.”
Sir Clare further added the answer is “education, education, education, in whatever form, because the intolerance is growing. You just have to listen to the talk-shows. People have to be educated as to human rights and the rights of others.”
Further pressure to reform the law came from a US representative at the UN, Charles Blaha, who stated, “we urge Antigua & Barbuda to decriminalize homosexual conduct by reforming the penal code so that for the purposes of prosecution, gross indecency would not apply to private acts between consenting adults.”
So the struggle against religion-based bigotry and secular ignorance goes on as seen in this opinion comment from an anti-gay reader: “The moral law of God is deeply rooted in our hearts, and so we will not condone such acts that are contrary to the law of God, whose standards we ought to emulate, and not those of men.”
The willful refusal to learn and grow is one of the worst shadow efforts of the mind. It retards social and civil development of a country; it narrows choice and possibility; it enslaves the mind to a narrow realm of unexamined thinking and holds to backward progress of human rights.
Also see these reports about Antigua and Barbuda:
Anyone interested in the condition and circumstance of LGBT people in the Caribbean should read the report issued by the International Lesbian and Gay Association in 2011. (http://transitionsunshine.info/2011/05/homophobia-in-the-caribbean-varies-widely/)
It is a complete report that lists the gay-friendly as well as homophobic states in the Caribbean. In the following nine countries homosexuality is criminalized:
Antigua and Barbuda, (photo right)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Saint Kitts and Nevis,
Trinidad and Tobago.
Fortunately in the Caribbean there are more countries in which same-sex activity is legal. These are:
Bahamas (although with high homophobia),
British Virgin Islands ( Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada, + others), since 2000
Cayman Islands, since 2000
Cuba, since 1979
Montserrat, since 2000
Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao (off the Venezuelan coast)
Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius (southeast of the Virgin Islands)
French West Indies (Guadeloupe, since 1791, St Barths, Martinique, since 1791, St Martin)
Haiti, since 1986
Turks and Caicos Islands, since 2000
US Virgins Islands (St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, Water Island), since 1984
Also, see this LGBT report on eleven Caribbean destinations that includes some gay owned and gay-friendly venues: