Barbados's top court strikes down laws criminalizing gay sex

Dec 13 (Reuters) - Barbados's High Court has ruled the criminalization of gay sex is unconstitutional, making the country the third in the Caribbean to overthrow such laws this year.

The decision follows similar 2022 rulings in Antigua and Saint Kitts and Nevis and was announced by Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall on Tuesday.

It was welcomed by activists and nonprofit organizations who have campaigned against laws banning gay and lesbian sex. The maximum sentence, rarely imposed, has been life imprisonment.

In a statement, Marshall said Justice Michelle Weekes had issued the ruling on Monday, concluding that Sections 9 and 12 of the Sexual Offences act were unconstitutional.

"In short, (the ruling means) we can no longer prosecute persons under these two sections," he said, adding that charges for offences relating to consensual gay sex could not now be maintained.

Written reasons for the decision in the case, which was brought by rights advocates, were not expected for a few weeks, Marshall said.

"This is a huge win for the community and for Barbados. This has been years of work and that work still continues," Rene Holder-McLean Ramirez, who helped bring forward the claim, said in a statement.

Activists say only six countries in the Americas now have similarly restrictive laws, including Guyana, Dominica, and Jamaica.

"We are very pleased with the result of this case, which is a result of years of advocacy efforts by the community organizations as well as the litigants," added Michael Rapley, a member of the NGO Equals.

"This is a step in the right direction for the protection of LGBTQ+ people in Barbados as we continue to ensure stigma-free access to services and positive inclusion in society."

Reporting by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Sarah Morland and Bradley Perrett

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