CariFLAGS (Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities), the LGBTI regional network is celebrating with its member organizations and regional partners, the Trinidad and Tobago High Court decision in Jason Jones vs Attorney General delivered last Thursday, April 12.
CariFLAGS says it joins voices with T&T groups in calling on the country’s political and religious leaders, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, to speak out to prevent violence and discrimination in the wake of the ruling.
It notes that its T&T partners have documented an uptick in threats, family violence and housing discrimination experienced by young people whose images were broadcast around the world by media as they stood up for justice outside the parliament and court in the week before the judgment.
“Our neighbours’ call for all to “Share The Nation” is a powerful Caribbean rallying cry that leaders across the region ought to champion,” said CariFLAGS Regional Programme Manager, Dane Lewis.
Justice Devindra Rampersad’s ruling declared that T&T’s two sodomy laws, “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 criminalize any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults.”
The laws had criminalized “buggery” (all anal intercourse, with a man or a woman, without regard to consent or privacy, with a penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment); as well as any genital gratification or arousal between two men or between two women.
“The ruling addresses not just the longstanding criminalisation of buggery, but has also invalidated the insidious expansion in Caribbean countries to sex between women that started 30 years ago,” said Tracy Robinson, Co-coordinator of the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP).
“The case comes over 25 years after feminist scholar and activist Jacqui Alexander drew attention to Trinidad and Tobago becoming the first Caribbean country to criminalise consensual sex between women as ‘serious indecency’ in section 16 of the Sexual Offences Act,” Robinson added.
Robinson said the decision is ground-breaking in honouring the fundamental principle that a generous interpretation must be given to the rights in the Constitution.
CariFLAGS is also congratulating the twin-island republic’s Equal Opportunity Commission, which became part of the case and has issued calls for Parliament to allow T&T’s Equal Opportunity Act to protect Trinidadians and Tobagonians from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“It is delightful to see state institutions outside of the Government championing justice, something Offices of the Ombudsman across the Caribbean ought to do more,” Lewis added.
The T&T ruling follows a 2016 ruling in Belize in the Orozco case which invalidated the application of Section 53 of the Criminal Code to consensual conduct.
In June 2018, another constitutional case will be argued in Port of Spain, when the Caribbean Court of Justice hears an appeal in McEwan, on the constitutionality of Guyana’s Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02, one of the country’s colonial offences that criminalizes cross-dressing and has been used in recent years to penalize transgender persons with fines or jail time.