The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago’s top court has thrown out the country’s laws criminalising homosexuality.
In February last year, activist Jason Jones took the country’s government to court to have two sections of the penal code banning gay sex nullified, claiming they violate his rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
On Thursday, the country’s top court ruled that the country’s “buggery” laws, which punished same-sex activity with up to 25 years in prison, were unconstitutional. The law is a leftover from Trinidad and Tobago’s period as a British colony.
In his ruling on Thursday, High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad said, “The court declares that sections 13 and 16 of the [Sexual Offences Act] are unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults.”
Campaigners say the laws are rarely enforced in the country but they had a chilling effect on the country’s LGBTIQ population, who still face homophobic violence and inequality in areas such as housing and employment.
Director of local LGBTIQ group Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), Colin Robinson, told local outlet Newsday ahead of the ruling, “The Bill of Rights says everyone should be protected, that’s what we would like to happen.
“We have dignity and this is our nation, and we are totally willing to share it with other groups, but they have to share it with us, and parliament needs to protect us.”
The court’s final judgement will be handed down in July.
Anti-gay laws in Commonwealth countries have come into renewed focus recently as athletes come together on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games.
Homosexuality remains illegal in 36 of the 53 Commonwealth countries, with those countries continuing to enforce penal codes first introduced under the British Empire but never repealed.
An official concert was held on the beach at Surfers Paradise last Monday that performers said was a powerful show of support for LGBTIQ pride among international guests.
#Trinidad & Tobago's High Court rules in favour of Jason Jones @jonesvtnt
; declaring that the colonial-era sodomy laws are unconstitutional & the state cannot deny equality to gay men. Congrats @trinijayjay & your lawyer @peter_laverack. You have trailblazed for #Caribbean LGBTs pic.twitter.com/xLwsPyvoQl
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) April 12, 2018
Love won! Judge finds buggery and serious indecency unconstitutional as applied to adult consensual acts. Judge finds laws not saved and not reasonably justified. Says Section 4 can prosecute sexual assault. Judgment and what happens to the laws finalised in July.
— CAISO (@CAISOTT) April 12, 2018
Yes!!! LGBT unite!!! Round one of protest for equal rights in Trinidad and Tobago pic.twitter.com/dx98xA1vkb
— April Adams (@angeladams26) April 10, 2018
(Top photo via Twitter)