Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Barbados do not enjoy the same rights as non-LGBT people. Homosexual acts are illegal (regardless of whether they were consensual and done in private) in Barbados, with a life sentence; however the law is rarely enforced. The law is currently in effect, but under review.[1][2] In June 2016, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said that gays should be "left alone" and protected in the eyes of the law.[3]

In August 2016, the Belize Supreme Court struck down Belize's sodomy ban as unconstitutional. Because Belize and Barbados (and all member states of CARICOM) share an identical jurisprudence, Barbados' sodomy ban is also unconstitutional and would most certainly be struck down if a lawsuit against it is filed.

In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. The ruling was fully binding on Costa Rica and sets a binding precedent for other Latin American and Caribbean countries including Barbados.[4]

Because of Barbados' small population, many LGBT Barbadians choose to remain in the closet in fear that coming out would expose them to the entire country.[5]


Homosexual refugee claims

In 2011, the Government of Barbados said it was investigating claims that some gay Barbadians were seeking refugee status in Canada. In 2016, a Guyanese newspaper reported that over 300 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Barbados are seeking asylum in Canada, England and the United States because they fear persecution at home.[6] The Bajan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maxine McClean, stated a concern of the Government at these applications attempting to secure refugee status in Canada since two of the nine applications to the Canadian Government had already been denied and questions have been raised as to whether it is an attempt at abusing the refugee system to Canada.[7]

The Bajan organisation United Gays and Lesbians Against AIDS, Barbados (UGLAAB) stated it was also looking to conduct its own investigation on the same allegations.

The resident U.S. Ambassador later commented to the local press that some of the other nations in region were among the highest number of such refugee applications to the United States, but he went on to say that the U.S. Embassy to Bridgetown had not yet reported any specific problems within Barbados to the U.S. State Department. The ambassador highlighted that sodomy laws were a part of statute law for Barbados and that the Barbadian Government should perhaps consider formally retiring those laws to maintain Barbados' good image internationally.[8]

International relations

In 2011, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom stated during a Commonwealth of Nations Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia that his Government would find it difficult to provide aid for countries which still had laws banning sodomy on their statute books. Thereafter, the Attorney General for Barbados stated publicly that Barbados would not be dictated to by the U.K.[9] Following the statement, several members of Barbados' openly gay community stated that Barbados should begin to offer packaged tourism deals for gay tourists.[10] However, an informal comment line by the Barbados Nation newspaper found that plan to be disliked by some.[11]

Following the UK's comment, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established a unit to tackle gay rights. It noted the problems some of the laws in the region presented and stated that it would "promote the harmonious development of all its work areas based on the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights and the need to protect the rights of all individuals and groups historically subjected to discrimination."[12]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

There is no recognition of same-sex unions in Barbados. In June 2016, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said the Barbados Government will not change the law to allow for same-sex marriages.[13]

The legalisation of same-sex marriage is required in Barbados per a 2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling. The Court ruled that the Barbadian Government must legalise same-sex marriage and allow transgender people to change their legal gender without undergoing surgery, as they are human rights. The Court recommended that the Government issues an executive decree legalising same-sex marriage until new legalisation is brought in.[4]

LGBT rights movement in Barbados

In 2013, Donnya Piggott and Ro-Ann Mohammad founded the association Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination as an organization to create an education mechanism and open public dialogue in a supportive manner for the LGBT community of Barbados.[14]

Barbados held its first pride parade in November 2017.[5]

Social conditions

Legislation of Barbados among the Lesser Antilles (Penalty: Up to life imprisonment)
  Same-sex marriage performed
  Same-sex marriage recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unrecognized or unknown
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but no longer enforced
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal

Blue crowns: Kingdom of the Netherlands

Recent polls conducted by Caribbean Development Research Services Inc. (CADRES) have found Barbadians to be more tolerant than previous years.[15] In a 2016 poll conducted by the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), 67% of Barbadians described themselves as tolerant of the LGBT community.[16] Another 82% also opposed discrimination against the LGBT community.

In recent years, due in part to the rapid legalisation of same-sex marriage in many countries including the United States, many American evangelical ministers have come to Barbados. Human rights activists have accused them of spreading and preaching violence and hatred. Owing to these evangelical ministers, homophobic rhetoric in Barbados has become more widespread. For example, a university lecturer called homosexuality "illogical", numerous doctors erroneously claimed that AIDS cannot be spread through heterosexual sex and many religious leaders correlated homosexuality to paedophilia,[5] despite the head of the Catholic Church in Barbados being accused of molesting children that same year.[17]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No (Legalisation required under the ACHR)
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Legalisation required under the ACHR)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No (Legalisation required under the ACHR)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


  1. ^ Capital Xtra - Gay around the world
  2. ^ Staff (April 2010). "Travel & living abroad (Barbados) - Local laws and customs". Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK). Retrieved 7 April 2010. Barbados, in common with much of the English speaking Caribbean, has a very conservative attitude to homosexuality and homophobic views are unfortunately common. Contrary to popular belief, homosexuality itself is not illegal although sodomy remains a criminal offence. However, the penalties set out in the 1992 Sexual Offences Act concerning sexual relations between members of the same sex are rarely enforced when this takes place in private. There is no overtly public gay scene in Barbados and no gay and lesbian publications. However, many gay Bajans couples are known and live together without problems by maintaining a low profile. 
  3. ^ Barbados official says gays should be ‘left alone’ despite sodomy law
  4. ^ a b "Inter-American Court endorses same-sex marriage". Agence France-Presse. Yahoo7. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c This is why we needed the first ever Barbados Pride
  6. ^ "Gays leaving Barbados for Canada". 
  7. ^ Jordan, Ricky (20 February 2011). "Gay scam?". Nation Newspaper. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Best, Tony (26 February 2011). "Gay backlash worry". Nation Newspaper. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  9. ^ Not by UK
  10. ^ Dear: Cash in gay tourism
  11. ^ TALK BACK: Readers see no reason to focus on gay tourism
  12. ^ IACHR Creates Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons
  13. ^ "Gay blow: AG rules out same-sex marriages". Barbados Today. 7 June 2016. 
  14. ^ Dottin, Bea (24 June 2013). "BGLAD: Don't hate". St. Michael, Barbados: Nation News. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  15. ^ Staff writer (11 December 2010). "Homosexuality debate rages in Barbados". Nation Newspaper. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  16. ^ Barbados MP: Accept the existence of gay relationships
  17. ^ Catholic Bishop pleads not guilty to assault

Further reading