Caribbean summer vacay? Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia criminalize gay sex

Sat. July 10, 2021 7:03 PM by Gerald Farinas

man on beach in saint kitts

photo credit // canva

Advocates tell LGBTQ travelers to boycott the island nations

American summer vacations sometimes lead to the Caribbean due to proximity and price. Among the popular destinations are the island nations of Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia. In 2019, Saint Kitts and Nevis had over 1.1 million visitor arrivals. That same year pre-pandemic, Saint Lucia had 424,000 visitor arrivals. Tourism is a dominant industry for both English-speaking countries.

As the U.S. and the world head into reopening tourism, travel to Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia, are increasing in a fast pace. They're telling Americans, and their fellow British Commonwealth citizens, to come.

Both countries are neighbors of, and lay just southeast of, Puerto Rico.

But Human Rights Watch has placed these Carribean havens on notice regarding their continued criminalization of sex between two consenting men, in defiance of United Nations recommendations.

Still on the books in Saint Kitts and Nevis, Articles 56 and 57 of the Offenses Against the Person Act directly target men who have sex with men. Labeling homosexual acts as "buggery" and "abominable crimes," the country punishes people up to "ten years imprisonment and hard labor," according Human Rights Watch.

Similarly on the books in Saint Lucia, Articles 132 and 133 of their criminal code also directly target men who have sex with men. Also calling out "buggery" and "abominable crimes" as punishable by ten years of prison.

Both nations have responded to calls to end the criminalization of homosexuality with declarations that the people of those nations don't want to.

In 2011, the Saint Kitts and Nevis ambassador to the UN, Delano Bart said, "While we are aware of the many arguments advanced by those who would wish to see them repealed, the Government of Saint Kitts and Nevis has no mandate by the people to do so. In fact, there is strong opposition to it being repealed."

In 2008, Saint Lucia cemented its opposition to the idea of LGBTQ rights by joining other UN members in signing a declaration in opposition to civil rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Human Rights Watch says that while Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia, seldom enforce their anti-gay laws "against consenting persons, they have a pernicious impact. They reinforce societal prejudices, effectively giving social and legal sanction for stigma, discrimination, and violence against [LGBTQ] people."

The humanitarian organization continued, "Despite Saint Lucia's comment that it will 'promote culture of non-violence and non-discrimination against all citizens, inclusive of the [LGBTQ] community,' the government's responses to recommendations on criminalization made during this [review] cycle raise serious concerns about its commitment to human rights and protecting and supporting its [LGBTQ] residents."

They said the same of Saint Kitts and Nevis.