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Crafting human rights in a constitution: Gay rights in the Cayman Islands and the limits to global norm diffusion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers the introduction of a bill of rights to a territory’s constitution as an example for the transnational transfer of norms. Using the case of the Cayman Islands Constitution promulgated in 2009 this analysis looks specifically at the creation of its bill of rights in light of local debate following the legalisation of homosexuality forced by the United Kingdom in 2000. The unique constitutional structure framing the political relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories is outlined as explanation for the nature of the Cayman constitution, as well as the historical trajectory leading to it. This trajectory informs the context for the local debate over homosexuality and substantial local resistance to the transfer of an emerging European norm recognising same-sex marriage to a Caribbean island firm in its Christian heritage. This case interrogates the transference and reproduction of ‘global human rights norms’ in the construction of constitutions in postcolonial societies anticipated by proponents of ‘norm diffusion’ and highlights the contested acceptance offered exogenous norms by the postcolonial society.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-372
JournalGlobal Constitutionalism
Issue number3
Early online date17 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

    Research areas

  • human rights norms, gay rights, Cayman Islands, Order in Council

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