Antigua Observer – The international community is again calling on the government to decriminalise sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
On this occasion, the call was made during the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country’s human rights record, at which approximately 44 nations’ representatives gave commendations and recommendations.
The representative from the Netherlands said, “We recommend Antigua & Barbuda repeal articles of the Sexual Offences Act which criminalises sexual relation between individuals of the same sex.”
Nicaragua advised that the government, “eliminate those provisions which criminalise relations between consenting adults.”
Argentina’s representative said the country should, “take additional necessary measures to guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights for vulnerable groups such as the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender) community.”
Similar views were echoed by Germany, France, Australia and many other countries.
In response, the nation’s representative, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Senator Maureen Payne-Hyman, who presented the nation’s report on its efforts to address human rights issues, sought to assure the body that the LGBT community in Antigua was not persecuted under the law.
“It is crime, but no one is ever prosecuted under those provisions… Those are laws we inherited and they’re still there.”
She also contended that the public needed to be sensitized before new legislation is adopted.
“Personal prejudices are something we have to change over time. We have to sensitise people. Even if you legislate against that, you’re still going to have issues.
“You cannot force that down the psyche of the people in Antigua & Barbuda. It’s an issue that I know the international community take every seriously,” Payne-Hyman said.
The UPR is conducted on the human right records of all UN member states. The latest review was Antigua & Barbuda’s second. The first was conducted in 2011.