Homosexuality confirmed to be legal in Trinidad and Tobago

Activist Jason Jones (centre) Pic: Facebook

The High Court in Trinidad and Tobago has confirmed that consensual sex acts between adults of the same sex are now legal, but the government plans to appeal.

The decision followed an initial April ruling by Judge Devindra Rampersad who found that “sections 13 and 16 of the [Sexual Offences Act] are unconstitutional” and “of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults.”

His ruling was at the time put on hold pending further submissions. On Thursday, Justice Rampersad confirmed his decision by amending the laws so that they are no longer discriminatory, to the joy of the local LGBTQ community.

The case followed a lawsuit filed by LGBTQ advocate Jason Jones in March 2017, challenging the two-island Caribbean country’s ban on homosexuality, known as the “buggery laws”. Under these laws, those found guilty of consensual sex with someone of the same sex could be imprisoned for up to 25 years.

Justice Rampersad on Thursday ordered that the offence of buggery (Sect. 13) now include the words “without consent” so that it is defined as “sexual intercourse without consent per anum, by a male person with a male person, or by a male person with a female person.”

The offence of serious indecency (Sect. 16) now no longer applies to persons over the age of 16, regardless of their sex, as long as both “consent to the commission of the act.”

The government was ordered to pay Jones’ court costs. It has appealed the decision and asked for a “stay” of judgment for 45 days, pending the appeal, but the judge denied the request. The ruling could theoretically be reversed if an appeal finds in favour of the government.

Jones said he will continue to fight the case all the way to the end. “Thanks for all the wonderful messages and kind regards for my victory yesterday,” he posted on Facebook on Friday. “Now I move onto the Appeal which can take a further 5 years of my life.” He asked supporters to contribute towards the ongoing legal battle through a crowdfunding campaign.

The anti-gay laws were first introduced in Trinidad and Tobago during colonial times, but they were reworked by parliament in 1986 and the penalties made harsher in 2000.

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