Judge Devindra Rampersad of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago has ruled that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act are unconstitutional as applied to adult consensual acts, a motion that stands to decriminalize homosexuality in the country. A final judgement and exactly what happens to these laws will be made in July.
A lawsuit to challenge the colonial-era sodomy laws was filed in February 2017 by Jason Jones against the attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago. Jones, an activist in both his native country of Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom, claimed that these two sections violate his right to privacy and freedom of expression.
Jason Jones shared on Twitter
VICTORY! Thank you so much for everyone’s messages of support! WE DID IT! We found an EQUAL PLACE!!!! 🇹🇹🏳️🌈❤🌈💗💕
— Jason Jones (@trinijayjay) April 12, 2018
Kenita Placide, Caribbean Advisor, OutRight Action International, commented on the ruling,
“The judge came down on the right side of history in this case by striking down the buggery law and ruling it as unconstitutional. The activism and advocacy will continue in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caribbean until equality for LGBTIQ people is guaranteed. With positive rulings in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the movement will carry the momentum to other parts of the region.”
Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act prohibit “buggery” and “acts of serious indecency” between two men, with punishments of up to 25 years in prison if found guilty. The sodomy laws are part of a tradition of homophobia in the country, with laws such as section 8 of the Immigration Act prohibiting homosexuals who are not citizens from entering the country still in place.
Opposition from conservative religious groups was strong, particularly T&T Cause, which made claims that the repeal of these sections would result in “homosexual rights trumping heterosexual rights.”
The repeal, however, is now an example for the rest of Caribbean and a hope that they will soon follow in Trinidad and Tobago’s footsteps.