Historic Ruling for Same-Sex Couples in Trinidad
By Azaria Cheddie On 21.03.2019
In Claim No. CV2017-00720 between Jason Jones and the Attorney General, the court was asked to determine whether the State has the constitutional authority to criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults; sexual relations between persons of the same sex constituting a criminal offence by virtue of sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act Chapter 11:28 (“the Act”).
The claimant petitioned the court to strike down sections 13 and 16 of the Act and, by so doing, decriminalize consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex.
The landmark ruling was delivered on 12th April, 2018 by the Honourable Justice Devindra Rampersad:
The court declares that sections 13 and 16 of the Act are unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and are of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalize any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults.
Referring to the legal developments in the area throughout history, Justice Rampersad mentioned that in 1967, the land which gave Trinidad and Tobago the forerunner of the impugned sections 13 and 16 decriminalized homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in England and Wales by The Sexual Offences Act 1967. That Act has since been further amended to decrease the age of consent.
The Honourable Judge went on to say:
At this point, the court feels compelled to state in conclusion that it is unfortunate when society in any way values a person or gives a person their identity based on their race, colour, gender, age or sexual orientation. The experiences of apartheid South Africa and the USA during and after slavery, even into the mid and late 20th century, have shown the depths that human dignity has been plunged as a result of presupposed and predetermined prejudices based on factors that do not accept or recognize humanity. Racial segregation, apartheid, the Holocaust – these are all painful memories of this type of prejudice. To now deny a perceived minority their right to humanity and human dignity would be to continue this type of thinking, this type of perceived superiority based on the genuinely held beliefs of some.
The position with respect to other democratic societies is that laws that criminalize consensual sexual intimacy between adults of the same sex have been struck-down or declared unlawful by courts around the world, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia and declared in contravention of international treaty law.
Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court is the second court in the Caribbean to rule these laws as being unconstitutional, following a similar ruling in Belize in Orozco v Attorney General of Belize Claim No. 688 of 2010.
While this is a resounding win for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in the country, the fight for full equality in Trinidad and Tobago is far from over. Many former British colonies in the Caribbean still retain colonial-era laws banning same-sex relations. It is still hoped that the ruling will lend support to other human rights activists in the Caribbean to turn to the courts and seek to overturn their own countries’ criminal provisions banning consensual same-sex acts.
This post does not constitute or provide legal advice neither does it establish an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.