Post submitted by Ianthe Metzger, Former Press Secretary, State & Local
This week, Judge Devindra Rampersad of the Trinidad and Tobago High Court officially decriminalized consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex, in a ruling that modified outdated and discriminatory sections of the Sexual Offenses Act.
The ruling comes following a historic decision on April 12, where Judge Rampersad initially ruled that the application of Sections 13 and 16 of the Act criminalizing consensual adult same-sex activity was unconstitutional. Rampersad stated that, “This court must and will uphold the Constitution to recognize the dignity of even one citizen whose rights and freedoms have been invalidly taken away.” In April, Judge Rampersad did not immediately strike down the laws, but invited further commentary on the issue.
The government has indicated that it will appeal the ruling, and the case is now expected to head to the Court of Appeal. Should the government lose, the case could make its way to the Privy Council in London, which is the final court of appeals for Trinidad and Tobago and several other Commonwealth countries.
In February 2017, LGBTQ advocate Jason Jones filed suit against the government of Trinidad and Tobago to nullify the discriminatory sections 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 an outcry of support from LGBTQ advocates and allies around the world.
While advocates celebrate this milestone, the fight for full equality in Trinidad and Tobago is far from over and public opinion is rapidly changing. This year, Trinidad celebrated its first-ever LGBTQ Pride festival, attracting hundreds of advocates and supporters. Organizations including the CAISO Sex and Gender Justice, 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 non-discrimination 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.
Same-sex relationships are still criminalized in 70 countries. Click here to learn more.
For more information about HRC’s work around the world, check out hrc.org/global.