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One judge's decision could legalize gay sex in eight Caribbean countries

It could be legalized in some of the countries by the end of the year

One judge's decision could legalize gay sex in eight Caribbean countries
Pride-goers enjoying the beach at Montego Bay Pride in Jamaica. | Photo: Maurice Tomlinson

One court hearing in Trinidad and Tobago could be the first step towards legalizing gay sex in eight countries.

Currently, in Trinidad & Tobago, you can be jailed for life just for having consensual gay sex. But Jason Jones’s landmark legal challenge with the High Court in the country on January 30 will challenge this law.

Jones tells Gay Star News the case calls for ‘the discriminatory “buggery” laws from British colonial past, to be struck down from the constitution.’

It’s currently one of only four such cases worldwide.

The case is challenging Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act. They mean that ‘buggery’, anal sex between any genders, can be punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Specifically, the penalty for homosexual activity is five years but can be as much as 10 for subsequent convictions. Currently, both male and female homosexuality is illegal.

And Jones says his case has implications beyond Trinidad and Tobago too:

‘It will have a legal precedent that could have legal standing in seven other English speaking nations in the Caribbean.’

This means Jones’s case could begin the fight to liberate LGBTI people in Grenada, Saint Kitts, Barbados, Antigua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and even Jamaica.

These seven countries do share a final court with Trinidad & Tobago – but as they all have different constitutions and statutes, a long fight remains ahead.

Gay sex could be legal by the end of the year

Jones explains that the hearing on January 30 will only last one day long.

At the end of the day, the judge will go away and decide whether to rule in his favor – that the ‘buggery’ laws are unconstitutional.

The activist expects the decision to come back in a ‘matter of weeks.’

But, even when it does – it still has to be ratified by the Trinidad and Tobago parliament. The Attorney General also has a six month period to appeal the decision of the judge.

After, it can then be tabled by the government. And even they could still reject the change in the law.

The rhetoric local politicians are using to arguing to keep the law is that if the sections in the Sexual Offenses Act Jones wants removing, are struck down – it will leave the country without laws about anal rape.

However, Jones says it is very unlikely they would ignore the judges ruling because:

‘If that happened, there would be a huge constitutional problem because two arms of government would be at loggerheads.’

This means if the judge rules in Jones’s favor it is unlikely the government will go against the ruling. So on the earliest timeline, gay sex could be legal by the end of the year.

‘I fear for my safety in Trinidad and Tobago’

Jones was disowned by his family after he came out as gay and was forced to migrate to the UK. So returning is no easy decision. Following a recent murder of a trans woman in the country Jones told GSN:

‘As much as talking about the risks and difficulties in a country where we are criminalized is important – the more we do the more the reality of this murder leaves me feeling so scared.’

Even as he receives death threats ahead of his trip, he goes knowing the message he sends to the global LGBTI community. It’s one he wrote about in GSN last year where he delivered this call to action:

‘I am calling on the global LGBTI community to come together as one voice now and stand with this fight. No one should be left behind! When we do, we leave the door open for hate to thrive!’

And it’s a call people are already responding to. On the day of his trial, a new charity single is being released to celebrate his fight so far.

Written and performed by Sarah Elisabeth Hansson, Only God is about homophobia and racism.

‘When I first heard about Jason – I thought what he was doing was something that Trinidad needed,’ Hannson tells GSN. ‘I felt like I wanted to help him, and the only way I could think of was through music.

‘Trinidad and Tobago is a small country, but if more people like Jason stand up and speak out against discrimination, I think that people will become more open and we will see positive changes.’

And now Jones needs your help to end the hateful laws in his home country. He is currently crowdfunding to cover the costs of the travel and legal fees.

Read more on Gay Star News:

Trinidad trans woman shot and dumped in rubbish in murder spree

This is why we needed the first ever Barbados Pride


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