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  • The nation awaits the verdict to repeal the Buggery Law (Jones vs The State) on April 12, 2018.

    The nation awaits the verdict to repeal the Buggery Law (Jones vs The State) on April 12, 2018. | Photo: Gay Pride Trinidad & Tobago/ Facebook

Published 10 April 2018
Opinion

In February 2017, a gay man, Jason Jones, filed a landmark lawsuit against the government to overturn the Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act, according to which anyone "who commits buggery is guilty of an offense."  

Over 150 persons from Trinidad and Tobago's LGBT community under the banner, "Equality, Diversity, and Love" led a peaceful protest in front of the country's Parliament in Port of Spain Tuesday ahead of a landmark judgment on the country's Sexual Offences Act

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On Thursday, Devindra Rampersad, a high court judge, is expected to deliver his verdict in a landmark case where Jason Jones, a gay man, sued the state to eliminate a law which criminalizes consensual same-sex relations between adults.

In the past few weeks, several local religious groups, both for and against the Caribbean island's sodomy law have held protests in public spaces in a bid to sway the government and the judiciary. 

Trinidad and Tobago’s Attorney-General, Faris al-Rawi, who is perceived as a progressive figure, is overseeing the case from government's side.

"Our society has changed significantly in its view on tolerating homosexuality, and radically so within the last generation,” al-Rawi told the Guardian after Jones lodged his challenge. "In our evolving democracy, we have the opportunity to move our laws along in tandem with society’s consideration of those laws." 

In February 2017, Jones, filed a landmark lawsuit against the government to overturn the Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act, according to which anyone "who commits buggery is guilty of an offense."  

Jones stated Section 13 which criminalizes anal sex, is unconstitutional as it violates his right to privacy, liberty, and freedom of expression. 

Trinidad and Tobago's constitution was written in 1976 after it toppled the British colonial rule and declared itself a Republic. In 1986, the Caribbean island's parliament rewrote the act and doubled the maximum penalty for sodomy between adults to 10 years’ imprisonment. In 2000, the penalty was raised to 25 years

However, Jones who filed a lawsuit found a glitch in the current law, and to challenge the current arbitrary code, ironically had to pick up from the colonial 'saving clauses,' which decreed that British rules could not be changed after independence. 

Per the colonial "savings clause," the amendments made to Trinidad & Tobago's sodomy law nullifies the "savings clause." Savings clauses, a legacy of the British rule feature commonly in the constitutions of former British colonies and were included during independence to help with the transition, provide continuity of the law during the transitionary phase. 

Jones also expressed disappointment over the lack of support from the British government. 

"The British High Commission in Port of Spain has made no statement about my case at all,” he told the Guardian. "The British government has not assisted me in any way. Nor has any British NGO. Britain has left LGBT rights off the agenda at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting this month in London." 

"Total cowardice," Jones said, according to the Guardian. "This was a real chance to push the issue, especially as the vile laws were bequeathed to us by the Brits. Out of 53 member states, 37 criminalize LGBT people using British colonial era laws. There should never be diplomacy when there are human rights at stake."  

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