UK Ends Territories Sodomy Laws
December 22, 2000
Britains Caribbean island territories refused to repeal their harsh sodomy laws
to comply with international treaties, so Her Majesty has done it for (and in spite of)
As promised, Britain has acted to decriminalize private homosexual acts between
consenting adults in its Overseas Territories, moving in where indigenous politicians
feared to tread. Junior Foreign Office minister Baroness Patricia Scotland wrote this week
in response to an inquiry from a peer that, "An Order in Council to do so [repeal the
sodomy laws] was made by Her Majesty at the Privy Council meeting on the 13 December 2000
and will come into force on 1 January 2001." Scotland had said in response to a
mid-November inquiry by a Member of Parliament that there would be an Order in Council
before Christmas. At issue are laws in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman
Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, all in the Caribbean; the other
eight Overseas Territories either do not have sodomy laws or are uninhabited.
The islands have resisted Britains concerted attempts at persuasion and
bargaining on the point for about two years, with politicians insisting it would be
political suicide even to propose repeal -- at times even threatening to seek independence
rather than comply. More recently territorial leaders seem to have accepted the
inevitability of repeal, which Britain needed to meet its own international treaty
obligations including the European Convention on Human Rights and the International
Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
The Cayman Islands, which in January 1998 famously denied docking privileges to a gay
cruise, in April 1999 became the first of the territories to issue an official statement
to Britain that they would not legalize homosexuality, "based on firmly held
Some former British territories in the Caribbean have taken up the debate. Most
recently, Dominicas Prime Minister Pierre Charles said in a radio interview December
12 that, "The government has no interest in that [sodomy repeal], and I want to
assure Dominicans that this is not the way the government will be going."
Dominicas acting Attorney General Bernard Wiltshire had previously told a newspaper
that the nations sodomy law, with its penalty of up to ten years in prison,
"discriminates and is unfair."