Trinidad and Tobago judge rules homophobic laws unconstitutional

Members of the LGBT community demonstrate outside the hall of justice in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 12 April.

The ruling, which declared sections of the Sexual Offences Act unconstitutional, may soon lead to decriminalizing gay sex.

Gay sex between consenting men in Trinidad and Tobago could soon be decriminalized following a court judgment that campaigners said might spark similar decisions elsewhere in the Caribbean.

In a ruling on Thursday, judge Devindra Rampersad said sections of the Sexual Offences Act, which prohibited “buggery” and “serious indecency” between two men, criminalized consensual same-sex activity between adults, and were unconstitutional.

“The judge came down on the right side of history in this case by striking down the buggery law and ruling it as unconstitutional,” said Kenita Placide, Caribbean adviser for rights group OutRight Action International, in a statement.

The decision followed a similar ruling in Belize in 2016.

“With positive rulings in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the movement will carry the momentum to other parts of the region,” she said.

A final judgment on how to deal with the sections of the act is expected in July, rights groups and local media said.

The case was brought in 2017 by Jason Jones, an LGBT activist who lives in Britain but was born in Trinidad and Tobago.

LGBT activist Jason Jones, who brought on the case in 2017 to remove sections of the Sexual Offences Act.
 LGBT activist Jason Jones, who brought on the case in 2017 to remove sections of the Sexual Offences Act. Photograph: Sean Drakes/LatinContent/Getty Images


In an online campaign, he said he wanted to challenge laws inherited while the country was under British rule.

Trinidad and Tobago became a republic in 1976. Last year, it was one of five countries which amended its laws to ban child marriage.

But it has no laws protecting LGBT people, and rights groups say many LGBT people fear to be open about their views or orientation. Being convicted of buggery carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, according to the law.

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