Advocacy group details abusive treatment of LGBTQ community in eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent

Gay sex is punishable by up to 10 years in prison in St. Vincent

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch released an in-depth report Thursday that details the abuse and discrimination the LGBTQ community says it faces in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where gay sex is still criminalized.

From homelessness to ongoing physical and verbal abuse, the gay community in the small nation of some 100,000 people says it is under constant threat.

"Every LGBT person interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they wished to leave the country immediately or had envisioned their future abroad," the report stated.

In St. Vincent, anal sex is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while "gross indecency" with another person of the same sex is punishable by up to five years, according to colonial-era laws that are common in the socially conservative Caribbean region.


While rarely invoked, the rights group and a local activist said the laws help legitimize hostility and abuse against gay people.

"These laws still have an impact," said Jeshua Bardoo, an international human rights lawyer from St. Vincent. "People feel emboldened to discriminate or be violent."

In July 2019, two gay men from St. Vincent who are living abroad filed a case to challenge local laws criminalizing gay sex that activists say should be struck down. The hearings just ended, and a local judge is expected to issue a ruling in upcoming months, said Cristian González Cabrera, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

González said he wrote the report on St. Vincent and the Grenadines given the high levels of abuse and discrimination against LGBTQ people there.

"The challenges are significant," he said. "The (LGTBQ) community in the country is very, very marginalized and vulnerable."

advocacy group details abusive treatment of lgbtq community in eastern caribbean island of st vincent

An aerial view of the nation of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean Sea is shown above. A new report detailed the abusive treatment of the LGBTQ community in St. Vincent. (Marica van der Meer/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 20 members of the island’s LGBTQ community who shared their stories but were not identified to protect them, noting that local police are often openly discriminatory toward gay people who seek help.


A 58-year-old bisexual man recalled how someone hit him in the head with a bottle in an attack that cracked his skull and put him in a coma. The attack "caused permanent damage to his speech, vision, motor functions, memory and balance," according to the report.

Those interviewed also reported bullying at school, prompting several of them to drop out after receiving no support from teachers or administration officials. One gay man recalled how his classmates beat him and broke his arm.

Several reported that their families are homophobic and physically and verbally abused them, causing them to become homeless and prompting some to consider suicide.

Many also struggle to find jobs amid a high unemployment rate and said they face discrimination, including a 19-year-old gay man who said he has resorted to begging: "Sometimes I am so hungry. …. It is hard for me as a gay in this country."

Six English-speaking nations in the Caribbean still criminalize gay sex, including Dominica, Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada and St. Lucia. Four others have repealed such laws; Trinidad and Tobago did so in 2018, followed by Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis last year.

"St. Vincent and the Grenadines should really take note of what’s happening in the region and not be the last country to decriminalize," González said.

A message left with the office of St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was not returned.

Gonsalves previously noted there’s been a history of discrimination against gay people. In 2018, he condemned attacks on two men who apparently were dressed as women.

"Just let them be," he was quoted as saying by local media at the time. "Why are you beating them? You have no right to do it. That kind of irrational homophobia is entirely unacceptable."

González with Human Rights Watch noted that in 2019, the government held a workshop for public employees on the importance of respecting gay rights, a rare move for a conservative Caribbean nation. That same year, a group of churches held an anti-LGBTQ demonstration in the island’s capital of Kingstown.

Despite the hostility and ongoing attacks, Bardoo, the attorney who founded an organization called Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc., held a pride event last month in public – a first for the island of St. Vincent.

"I think it’s important to build more visibility. People need to see real Vincentians who are queer or who support these issues," he said, adding that locals often think it’s foreign governments imposing an agenda.

Bardoo said he had been physically and verbally abused and would like to see what he called "draconian laws" erased from the books.

"You wouldn’t feel like an evil person in your own country," he said. "It’s time for change."

via FoxNews July 20th 2023