SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A Caribbean court ruled Tuesday that a law in Antigua and Barbuda that criminalizes sex between men is unconstitutional.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court found that the selection of an intimate partner is a private and a personal choice.”

The ruling also said the twin-island nation’s 1995 Sexual Offenses Act offends the right to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex.


The ruling comes after a gay man who works at Antiguas Ministry of Health and a local group called Women Against Rape Inc. asked that the law be found unconstitutional.

The rarely used law states in part that two consenting adults found guilty of having anal sex would face 15 years in prison. If found guilty of serious indecency, they would face five years in prison.

The gay man testified that he has been persecuted and assaulted, a common complaint across the largely conservative Caribbean region, where many homosexuals fear for their lives. The man also said that patients have refused treatment from him because of his sexual orientation, according to the ruling.

Meanwhile, the anti-rape group said that concern over breaches of confidentiality has prevented those in the LGBTQ community from seeking AIDS testing or treatment and that they receive hostile treatment by health care providers.

Such laws used to be common in former British colonies across the Caribbean but have been challenged in recent years. Courts in Belize and Trinidad & Tobago have found such laws unconstitutional, while other cases in the region are pending.

In her ruling, High Court Judge Marissa Robertson said that a proper interpretation of the constitutional text is only achieved by giving due recognition to the spirit of the instrument and what the instrument aims to protect. In this regard the aspiration is to be on a continuous path to a better understanding and realization of matters relating to human rights and human dignity.

It wasnt immediately clear if the attorney general for Antigua and Barbuda planned to appeal the decision. Government officials couldnt be immediately reached for comment.