GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday April 16, 2018 – The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) – the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic – has welcomed a Trinidad and Tobago judge’s ruling that the country’s buggery laws are unconstitutional.
It says the ruling acknowledges that every individual regardless of their race, colour, gender, age or sexual orientation has the right to human dignity, and is aligned with the partnership’s Justice for All Programme which calls for the establishment of procedures to accelerate the process for the repeal of laws decriminalizing sexual acts in private between consenting adults and replace with or retain the provision criminalizing sexual acts between any person in public, with the use of force, and acts of indecency committed against any person of less than 16 years of age.
Last Thursday, in ruling in a case brought by UK-based Trinidadian Jason Jones who challenged part of the Sexual Offences Act, Justice Devindra Rampersad declared that sections 13 and 16 of the Act are “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalize any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults.”
PANCAP noted that one of the recommendations of the Regional Consultation of Faith Leaders 2017 in Port-of-Spain, in February, acknowledged areas of litigation that may challenge religious values and the responses required to harmonize principles and practices around human rights, human sexuality and human dignity.
In handing down his decision, Justice Rampersad said that the ruling is “not an assessment or denial of the religious beliefs of anyone…However, this conclusion is a recognition that the beliefs of some, is not the belief of all”.
PANCAP has therefore encouraged continued dialogue between the Faith Community and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community on areas of agreement and commonality.
Despite his ruling on the constitutionality of parts of the Sexual Offences Act, Justice Rampersad stopped short of throwing out the legislation, and instead indicated that he wanted to hear from the parties on whether the “offending sections should be struck down in their entirety”.
They have been given until June 4 to present their views and the judge said he would deliver his judgment the following month.