#PrideMatters The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Trinidad & Tobago

9 July 2018

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On 12th April 2018 Trinidad and Tobago decriminalised homosexuality which was a very proud moment for me.

Although I was born in the UK, my family are from Trinidad and Tobago, a beautiful twin island in the Caribbean. Homosexuality has always been illegal there, with the punishment of imprisonment up to a maximum penalty of 25 years. On 21st February 2017, Jason Jones, a Trinidad-born LGBTQ activist, who I have had the pleasure of meeting, filed a case before the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago seeking to legalise homosexuality. His argument was that section 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act which criminalises homosexuality was unconstitutional because it violates the right to privacy, liberty and freedom of expression.

Prior to this, there were no laws protecting LGBTQ people, resulting in people not being truly free and being in constant fear about their views and orientation.

Not everyone in the country was in favour of the removal of laws banning homosexuality and prior to the judgment being handed down, conservative religious groups urged the High Court to keep the law intact. Despite this, in the ruling, Judge Devindra Rampersad concluded that sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act was unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and of no effect. A final judgement on how to deal with sections 13 and 16 is scheduled for July.

More than 70 nations around the world, including many in the Caribbean, currently criminalise homosexuality. Although it has been a long time coming, I am proud that my country has taken their first step to support the LGBTQ community and I am looking forward to how we will progress further in the future. As noted by the Human Rights Campaign, Trinidad and Tobago still does not offer LGBTQ individuals protections in housing or employment but I am hopeful that this ruling will spark a change resulting in greater equality.

This blog was written by Jenelle Shand. Jenelle is in Kingsley Napley’s Human Resources team and is a member of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion group and LGBTQ & Allies network.

Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and to raise awareness about the issues facing LGBTQ people in our communities. You can view our other blogs here.

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