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Antigua and Barbuda finally overturn anti-LGBTQI+ laws

July 15, 2022
4 min read
Antigua and Barbuda finally overturn anti-LGBTQI+ laws
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One corner of the Caribbean is getting with the times: Earlier this week, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda overturned many anti-LGBTQI+ laws in its Sexual Offences Act.

The law decreeing that intercourse must be between "a male person and a female person" was replaced with the word "persons" after the country’s High Court ruled much of the legislation was unconstitutional. "The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court found that 'the selection of an intimate partner is a private and a personal choice'," said the AP.

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Lawmakers held that the criminalization of consensual sexual acts between same-sex, adult partners breached libertarian rights, freedom of expression, legal protection and privacy and protection from discrimination based on sex.

Campaigners hope this will begin an awakening within the nation and beyond.

“The High Court’s landmark ruling is a beacon for LGBT people in Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean nations, whose rights and freedoms have been stymied by these punitive laws,” said Cristian González Cabrera, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ffryes Beach in Antigua. (Photo by Ian Rogers Photography/Getty Images)

“Laws criminalizing same-sex conduct, which are still in force in eight other Caribbean nations, reinforce and tacitly permit discrimination, violence and prejudice against LGBT people,” he added.

It may be surprising to some, but a number of favorite destinations among U.S. travelers don’t share the same values as many progressive European nations in regards to rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender visitors.

Related: Top 10 LGBTQ-friendly destinations for 2022

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There are numerous amazing destinations where you can openly celebrate Pride. However, in several locations, including many hotspots in the Caribbean, LGBTQ+ visitors must exercise caution.

These archaic laws are rarely enforced in the West Indies. In fact, there are many openly LGBTQI+ people living in places such as Barbados. It's always wise to adhere to guidelines from the U.S. Department of State wherever possible, though.

The U.S. Department of State's (DOS) LGBTQI+ travel information section provides guidance on planning travel and offers information about local laws or customs.

For instance, DOS guidelines for Barbados state: "Same-sex sexual relations, even when consensual, are criminalized in Barbados. Although this law is rarely enforced, potential penalties include life imprisonment."

Rainbow lifeguard hut on beach
(Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer for Virgin Atlantic, welcomed the decision by lawmakers to overturn outdated laws in Antigua and Barbuda.

Related: 7 documents LGBTQI+ families should always carry when traveling

“At Virgin Atlantic we believe everyone should be able to be themselves no matter who they are or who they love and we welcome this historic decision to repeal the harmful laws against same-sex intimacy,” Jarvinen said.

“We look forward to welcoming more LGBT+ travelers onboard, flying them to explore the beautiful beaches and experience the culture of Antigua," he added. "We now urge other Caribbean islands to follow in their footsteps, making themselves inclusive and welcoming to all.”

According to Virgin Atlantic, discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community costs up to $4.1 billion a year in 12 English-speaking Caribbean countries. That’s as much as 5.7% of annual GDP.

Earlier this year, travel writer Asher Ferguson published the LGBTQI+ Travel Safety Index, a list of 203 best and worst countries for LGBTQI+ travelers. Antigua and Barbuda finished 158th on the list, scoring an F, the worst possible result.

Canada took the top spot on the list, while Sweden and The Netherlands snagged second and third place, respectively. The U.K. nestled in at sixth and the U.S. came in at No. 24.

For travel resources, Pride information and additional articles, visit our LGBTQ+ Travel page.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.