Friday, April 13, 2018

Homophobia loses in Trinidad

The High Court of Trinidad and Tobago has struck down the country's colonial sodomy law:

A judge in Trinidad and Tobago has declared the nation’s laws banning sodomy and consensual homosexual acts are unconstitutional, a ruling that could potentially lead to the complete decriminalization of homosexuality.

Judge Devindra Rampersand of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago ruled on Thursday that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act are unconstitutional as applied to acts between consenting adults.

The court will meet again in July to determine whether the sections of the law should be struck down in their entirety or just in part.

LGBTQ activist Jason Jones challenged the colonial-era sodomy law in February 2017 by suing the nation’s attorney general, claiming that the prohibitions on “buggery” and “acts of serious indecency” between two men violate his — and, by extension, other LGBTQ people’s — right to privacy and freedom of expression.

Ironicly, it was the T&T legislature's own homophobia which allowed this. They had successively rewritten the law to increase the penalty to 25 years imprisonment - an act which removed the law from the protection of a "savings clause" preventing judicial review of colonial laws, and placing it squarely under the jurisdiction of the courts.

There's still a long way to go. Trinidad and Tobago is still a homophobic society which permits discrimination and employment and has a legal ban on homosexuals entering the country. But hopefully this ruling is the first step towards making it a better place.