Wed | Jul 18, 2018

T&T buggery ruling is victory for human rights

Published:Monday | April 16, 2018 | 12:14 AM

The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) has welcomed last week's ruling in the Trinidad and Tobago High Court which stated that the criminalisation of buggery is unconstitutional.

"It has always been the considered view of CVC that any such arrangement in law infringes on the basic principles of human rights and justice. The ruling signifies an increasing recognition by our courts in the Caribbean of the need to safeguard human dignity and the rights of everyone," said the CVC in a press release.

Jason Jones, a gay-rights activist who filed the constitutional motion, has joined Caleb Orozco of Belize in successfully challenging anti-sodomy laws in the Caribbean. Belize's ruling was handed down in August 2016. The CVC contended that it is not pushing for new laws or standards, but for Caribbean nations to adhere to their own Constitutions.

The group represents a range of advocates and service providers for migrant populations, sex workers, and men who have sex with men, among others. CVC added, "While public opinion has largely favoured criminalisation of buggery, surveys have shown that most people who support decriminalisation think it performs a public good. Many were open to changing their viewpoint when it was shown that criminalisation does more harm and contributed to the spread of HIV."

While the Government of the twin-island republic gets ready to appeal the ruling, a challenge mounted by Maurice Tomlinson in late 2015 in Jamaica has only had a preliminary hearing. The objectives were to determine if parties have sufficient interest and the effects of prejudice to Tomlinson. Arlene Harrison Henry, public defender, was blocked from entering the case as an interested party.

Judge Kissock Lang ruled that, "The public defender, by this application, is seeking to voluntarily insert herself directly into the centre of a nationally divisive issue, which for the Office of the Public Defender, is potentially toxic." She is appealing the decision.