Nearshore Americas

Caribbean Risks Social and Economic Impacts Due to Anti-Gay Laws

Homosexuality has yet to be decriminalized in five Caribbean countries, bringing risks of social and economic impacts into the region.

Same-sex relations remain outlawed in the countries of Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, all of them former British colonies. Punishments range from five to ten years in prison.

Experts on ecnonomic development and foreign investment have for years warned against the negative consequences of anti-gay laws.

The Open for Business (OFB) coalition, which includes corporations as big as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Deloitte, recently made a call against the passing of an anti-LGBTQ laws in Uganda, arguing that it would impact the economy of the country.

A report published by the same organization states that that English-speaking Caribbean countries are losing US$4.2 billion annually because of laws discriminating against the LGBTQ community. The tourism industry alone is losing between US$435 million and $689 million each year. According to economist Lee Badget, anti-LGBTQ legislation has the potential to cost as much as 1% of GDP in developing economies,

While these anti-LGBTQ laws are a legacy of the English Common Law, they no longer reflect the values of many Caribbean people. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to decriminalize homosexuality and promote LGBTQ rights in the region.

One of the most notable cases is that of St. Kitts & Nevis, where the courts intervened to declare anti-LGBTQ laws unconstitutional. In Barbados, a court recently struck down legal provisions criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct.

Anti-LGBTQ laws have a devastating impact on the lives of LGBTQ community, making them vulnerable to discrimination, violence and social isolation.  Jamaica, one of the most prominent destinations for investment in the region, is considered to be amongst the most hostile nations in the Caribbean towards homosexuals. There have been several reports of members of the LGBTQ community in Jamaica being pushed into homelessness and unemployment.

Religion and culture play a role in shaping attitudes towards homosexuality in the region. Many Caribbean people are deeply religious, with some forming part Christian denominations which condemn homosexuality.

Despite the challenges, LGBTQ activists and organizations are working tirelessly to promote equality and acceptance in the Caribbean. They are lobbying governments to change the laws, educating the public about LGBTQ rights and building community support for LGBTQ people.

Challenges Remain

In spite of the progress achieved by the LGBTQ community in the region, several Caribbean countries have yet to make changes to their legal frameworks in order to make the community feel safe and welcomed in their societies.

In 2022, Antigua & Barbuda lifted its ban on same-sex intercourse. However, there is no consensus on same-sex marriage. Some religious groups and politicians oppose same-sex marriage, while others support it. The government has not taken any steps to legalize same-sex marriage.

Homosexuality has been legal in Aruba since 1869. In 2022, a domestic court declared same-sex marriage valid. However, transgender people have no rights or protection in Aruba. The government has yet to address this issue.

The Supreme Court of Belize decriminalized consensual same-sex intercourse in 2016. A local group of the Roman Catholic Church appealed the verdict, but the court dismissed it, reiterating that an outright ban is unconstitutional.

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The Bahamas legalized sexual relations between gays and lesbians in 1991. However, same-sex marriage is not legal. The government has not yet taken any steps to legalize same-sex marriage.

Anti-gay laws, while not enforced, are still officialy encoded Jamaica’s legal framework. Activists have argued that the permanence of these laws sends the message that LGBTQ people are not welcome or accepted in Jamaican society. The LGBTQ community is demanding the removal of the Anti-Sodomy Act of 1864, which they say makes homosexuals afraid. However, the Jamaican government has not responded to these demands.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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