Judge Rules This Country’s Anti-Gay Laws Are Unconstitutional
Activists hope the decision will lead to other outdated laws being struck down in the region.
As countries around the world legalize gay marriage, others are still fighting to simply decriminalize homosexuality.
On the small Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, engaging in same-sex activities can carry a prison sentence of up to 25 years — making it one of 70 countries with similar laws on the books — but that may soon change.
On Thursday, a judge ruled that two laws criminalizing homosexuality are unconstitutional, paving the way for them to be taken off the books as early as July, NBC News reports.
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The laws were part of the country’s Sexual Offences Act, which prohibited various forms of consensual same-sex activities, including “buggery,” or anal sex, and “serious indecency,” according to the NBC report.
The decision comes after Trinidadian gay rights activist Jason Jones sued the government of Trinidad for the laws, saying they violated his “constitutional rights to privacy and freedom of thought and expression.”
Gay rights activists on the island celebrated the judge’s decision.
“The judge came down on the right side of history in this case by striking down the buggery law and ruling it as unconstitutional,” Kenita Placide, an activist with the nonprofit OutRight Action International, said in a statement. “The activism and advocacy will continue in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caribbean until equality for LGBTIQ people is guaranteed.”
According to reports, Jones received dozens of online death threats for bringing his case to court, and had to stay at a “safe-house.” Religious groups on the island condemned the court’s decision, saying decriminalizing homosexuality is a “slippery slope to same-sex marriage.”
But activists are hopeful the decision will pave the way for other countries to also eliminate similar laws, many of which date back to the colonial era.
“With positive rulings in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the movement will carry the momentum to other parts of the region,” Placide said.