Gay activist files lawsuit challenging Sexual Offences Act in T&T

Friday, February 24, 2017

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — A Trinidad-born gay rights activist has filed a lawsuit challenging Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises buggery and serious indecency even between consenting adults in Trinidad and Tobago.
In his lawsuit filed in the High Court on Thursday, Jason Jones claims that the “very existence of these sections continuously and directly affects the claimant’s private life by forcing him to either respect the law and refrain from engaging – even in private with consenting male partners – in prohibited sexual acts to which he is disposed by reason of his homosexual orientation, or to commit the prohibited acts and thereby become liable to criminal prosecution”.
The United Kingdom-based Jones is also claiming that the legislation contravenes his constitutional rights to privacy and freedom of thought and expression in addition to being in direct contradiction to this country’s international human rights obligation.
He is also contending that the legislation opens him up to public prejudice and ridicule as it labels him and other homosexuals as criminals.
“He is accordingly the subject of extensive societal prejudice, persecution, marginalisation, a lifelong entrenched stigma that he is an ‘unapprehended’ criminal by virtue of being homosexual and he experiences the lifelong fear of being punished for expressing his sexuality through consensual conduct with another adult,” the lawsuit notes.
Jones is seeking to side step the “saving clause” feature of the Constitution which precludes a court from striking down and reviewing legislation which were in existence when the Constitution was drafted and that have been marginally changed since.
The lawsuit claims that the legislation amended in 1986 and 2000 repealed and replaced pre-Independence sexual offences legislation, covered by the savings clause, and thus is open to review. A date for the hearing of the constitutional motion lawsuit is yet to be set.
Jones told reporters that he took the decision to file the lawsuit due to his personal experience as a homosexual in Trinidad and Tobago including him being disowned by his family forcing him to migrate to the United Kingdom.
“I don’t wish to shove a gay agenda down you (the public) throat or attack your morals, religion or spirituality, I am doing this for the betterment of our nation, and for our feature generations,” Jones said.
Jones said in Trinidad and Tobago, members of the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) community face high levels of discrimination and for this to change, the law must be changed.
He added that the laws were originally British colonial laws, but Britain had removed the laws and is this year celebrating 50 years since de-criminalising homosexuality.

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