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Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

We regret that the government of Saint Lucia has, once again, refused to accept the recommendations to decriminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults. Articles 132 and 133 of the criminal code punish so-called “gross indecency” and “buggery” with up to 10 years imprisonment. They violate international human rights law and have a detrimental impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Human rights law establishes that matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, including consensual sexual relations, are protected under the rubric of the right to be protected against arbitrary and unlawful interference with, or attacks on, one’s private and family life and one’s reputation or dignity.

While the “buggery” and “gross indecency” laws in Saint Lucia are seldom enforced against consenting persons, they have a pernicious impact. They reinforce societal prejudices, effectively giving social and legal sanction for stigma, discrimination, and violence against LGBT people.

Human Rights Watch has conducted in-country research that evidences the harms that arise from Saint Lucia’s archaic laws punishing LGBT people. For example, Richard, a 20-year-old gay man working in a civil society organization in Saint Lucia, told Human Rights Watch that he received online death threats because of his sexual orientation. He also said that when he was walking alone in 2015, a hostile group of men followed him, shouting homophobic slurs at him and threatening to beat him up.  On another occasion, he was walking with his sister when someone yelled, “Oh he’s gay, let’s burst his head, stab him, and kill him!” A government that criminalizes people like Richard contributes to this kind of harassment and fails to provide adequate protection.

Until consensual same-sex conduct is decriminalized, LGBT people in Saint Lucia like Richard will continue to suffer under the stigma of the law. Despite Saint Lucia’s comment that it will “promote culture of non-violence and non-discrimination against all citizens, inclusive of the LGBTQI community,” the government’s responses to recommendations on criminalization made during this cycle raise serious concerns about its commitment to human rights and protecting and supporting its LGBT residents.

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