By Ianthe Metzger
In a landmark judgement today, the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago ruled that outdated sections of the country’s penal code that criminalized consensual adult same-sex activity are unconstitutional.
In his ruling, Judge Devindra Rampersad stated: “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.” The final judgement will be handed down in July.
In March 2017, LGBTQ advocate Jason Jones filed suit against the government of Trinidad and Tobago to nullify Section 13 and Section 16 of the penal code, claiming that they were unconstitutional and a violation of his right to privacy and freedom of expression. The case garnered international attention, and provoked protests by local anti-equality activists, and support from LGBTQ advocates and allies. Earlier this week, pro-equality Trinidadians, including many prominent local actors and comedians, held a demonstration outside Parliament calling for equality, love and acceptance in advance of the ruling.
While advocates celebrate today’s victory, the fight for full equality in Trinidad and Tobago is far from over and continues to moves forward. Organizations including the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) continue to focus on issues ranging from income inequality, economic sustainability, crime and violence, to strengthened governance, inter-island transportation, and the national values of tolerance and diversity. Their efforts also include adding protections for LGBTQ people to the country’s Equal Opportunity Act. There are still no protections for LGBTQ Trinidadians in housing, employment and public accommodations.
On the landmark case CAISO Director Colin Robinson told Newsday earlier this week, “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.”
Published on Human Rights Campaign on April 12, 2018.