Transgender woman Alexa Hoffmann is fighting for an immediate end to harmful ‘buggery’ laws in Barbados.
As it currently stands, Barbadians in violation of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) can receive a penalty of life in prison. This makes it the harshest ‘buggery’ law in the hemisphere.
Hoffmann is one of three activists in Barbados bringing forward a petition to change section 9 and section 12 of the Act. The other two petitioners are choosing to remain anonymous, for fear of retribution. But they identify as a lesbian and gay man respectively.
The ‘buggery’ laws affect anyone who has anal sex. This means it disproportionately affects gay men and trans women.
The penalty is even more severe for people under the age of 16. This is if they’re caught engaging in any ‘use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.’
Hoffmann said in a statement: ‘With these laws, we have been stripped of the freedom to enjoy one of the most important aspects of any romantic relationship — intimacy.
‘Many LGBTQ Barbadians face stigma, discrimination and abuse every day — which are deemed permissible and certainly exacerbated by the existence of these hateful laws. I have seen many of my friends simply pack their bags and leave Barbados, even though our constitution was designed to protect everyone as equals.
‘These laws must be relegated to the dustbins of history,’ she said.
They’re taking the petition to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights. They’re arguing the SOA violates numerous rights guaranteed in the American Convention on Human Rights.
‘These laws violate the human rights of all Barbadians’
Maurice Tomlinson is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. He believes these laws stifle essential sexual health preventative measures.
He said in a statement: ‘At their core, these laws violate the human rights of all Barbadians. But they are overwhelmingly used to discriminate against LGBTQ people.’
He continued: ‘Evidence also shows that these provisions, and the stigma and discrimination to which they contribute, undermine the access of transgender people, gay men and other men who have sex with men to critical HIV services, including for testing, treatment, care and support.
‘This undermines an effective response to HIV.
‘We hope that the IACHR will recommend that the Government of Barbados repeal sections 9 and 12 of the SOA in their entirety, so as to decriminalise private consensual sexual activity between those above the legal age of consent,’ he said.
The team submitted the petition 6 June, but it is not yet known when they will receive a response.
The petition is the first formal move ever made by local citizens to challenge the laws in Barbados since it came into law 150 years. In 1992, the penalty became even stiffer for ‘buggery’ in Barbados.