A judge of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago has struck down the Caribbean nation’s antisodomy laws.
Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled today that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act are unconstitutional as applied to consensual acts between adults, reports LGBT rights group OutRight Action International. The ruling stands to decriminalize homosexuality in the country. The court will issue a final judgment in July determining exactly what will happen to these laws.
Sections 13 and 16 prohibit “buggery” and “acts of serious indecency” between two men. The maximum punishment is 25 years in prison, a penalty that was increased from 10 years in 2000, The Guardian reports.
The case was brought by Jason Jones, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who now lives in London and has dual citizenship. His lawsuit against the government of Trinidad and Tobago, filed in March 2017, argues that the sodomy ban “is unconstitutional because it violates his right to privacy, liberty and freedom of expression,” according to The Guardian. The ban dates to when the United Kingdom ruled Trinidad and Tobago, which became independent in 1976.
Jones has received death threats for filing the suit, along with some criticism from LGBT activists in the country, who fear political backlash, the paper reports. They say the ban is rarely enforced and that fighting employment discrimination should take priority. The nation is less repressive than some of its Caribbean neighbors, but there is still discrimination and violence against LGBT people, some of whom have sought asylum in the U.K.
However, repeal of sections 13 and 16 is the right thing to do, said OutRight Action International Caribbean adviser Kenita Placide. “The judge came down on the right side of history in this case by striking down the buggery law and ruling it as unconstitutional,” Placide said in a press release. The activism and advocacy will continue in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caribbean until equality for LGBTIQ people is guaranteed. With positive rulings in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the movement will carry the momentum to other parts of the region.”