In whats being hailed as a major victory for the LGBTI community in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Nation’s High Court has ruled that any criminalisation of consensual adult same-sex sexual activity is unconstitutional.
Judge Devindra Rampersad who made the groundbreaking ruling said that “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 High Courts ruling which is in response to a lawsuit filed by LGBTI advocate Jason Jones in March 2017, challenges the two-island Caribbean nations ban on homosexuality, known as the “buggery laws.”
Ruling against the law, Judge Rampersad added, “this is not a case about religious and moral beliefs but is one about the inalienable rights of a citizen under the Republican Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago; any citizen, all citizens.”
“This is a case about the dignity of the person and not about the will of the majority or any religious debate.”
According to local media, as a result of the court’s ruling members of the rainbow community broke out in celebration outside the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain after the court’s decision.
Despite the ruling, the law will remain in place, for now, however, the judge has called for submissions on whether the unconstitutional provisions should be struck from the nation’s laws in their entirety.
Currently, under the nation’s penal code, the maximum punishment for “buggery” is 25 years in prison, although this has rarely been enforced in recent years.
The anti-gay laws were first introduced in Trinidad and Tobago during colonial times, but they were reworked by parliament in 1986 and the penalties made harsher in 2000, the government has since announced plans to appeal the High Courts decision.