The High Court of Trinidad & Tobago has thrown out the country's buggery laws, which punished same-sex relations with up to 25 years in prison. The statute was rarely enforced, but had a chilling effect on the country’s LGBT population.
In February 2017, LGBT activist Jason Jones filed suit to have both Section 13 and Section 16 of the penal code nullified, claiming they violate his rights to privacy and freedom of expression. “I am doing this for the betterment of our nation, and for our future generations,” Jones said at the time.
According to CAISO, an LGBT rights group in Trinidad, Justice Devindra Rampersad found buggery and serious indecency laws unconstitutional and not reasonably justified as applied to adult consensual acts. Section 4 of the penal code, which covers sexual assault, will remain. Revisions to the code will be finalized in July.
Anti-LGBT groups ramped up their efforts in advance of Rampersad’s ruling, with demonstrations outside parliament and the courthouse. “Same sex marriage is a cancer,” said a spokesperson for the group T&T Cause. “We must keep the buggery laws, if it is removed it is a slippery slope to same-sex marriage.”
Members argued that if Jones won his case, it would put the rights of gay people ahead of the rights of heterosexuals—who, they maintain, “are superior.”
“We are saying having rights and being right are two different things. You must respect the rights of others,” said Bishop Victor Gill, calling homosexuality “unnatural and illegal.”
"We are saying to [the government] do not remove the buggery laws because once they are removed, it is the seamless introduction for the LGBT agenda into the legal and social fabric in our society,” Gill wrote on Facebook.
But social justice advocate Brendon J. O'Brien told Global Voices that "changing this law isn't even about faith, or what particular people believe. It's about maintaining the freedom, safety and dignity for every single Trinidadian."
Prime Minister Keith Rowley told parliament last year that all Trinidadians deserve to live free of violence and harassment, “regardless of whom they sleep with.” He'd been reticent, though, to support a repeal of the buggery laws through the legislature.
Experts believe the ruling will almost assuredly be appealed. And, regardless, anti-LGBT sentiment will not disappear overnight in Trinidad & Tobago, where many hate crimes go unreported. In addition, Under Section 8 of the Immigration Act, homosexuals who are not citizens are technically not allowed to enter the country. It’s not generally enforced, but an attempt was made to bar Elton John from entering the country in 2007.