Trinidad and Tobago to appeal High Court ruling that makes consensual sex between people in same-sex unions legal

Trinidad and Tobago to appeal High Court ruling that makes consensual sex between people in same-sex unions legal
Privy Council
Privy Council

(CARIBBEAN NEWS SERVICE) — Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi Thursday said that the state intends filing an appeal against a High Court judge ruling that consensual sex between people in same-sex unions should not be criminalised as the court partly struck down the sodomy laws in Trinidad and Tobago.

Al-Rawi said that the case is a matter of importance that must be settled before the London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest and final court.

“Our attorneys have already indicated to the court that the Attorney General Office will be appealing the judgement simply because it is a matter of importance that must be settled by the highest Court of Appeal.

In our jurisdiction, the Privy Council is the highest Court of Appeal and the Privy Council is best suited to settle this matter. That is essential so because this particular pronouncement is in relation to one law only. There are in fact approximately 26 other laws which traverse the same issue,” Al-Rawi said on a radio programme here.

In April, Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that sections 13 and 16 of the act, which criminalised sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, was unconstitutional and on Thursday gave his final ruling in the landmark case of Jason Jones versus the Attorney General.

The judge also refused to grant a stay of execution of the declarations he granted so that the State can appeal his decision, which it still intends to do.

The court had been asked by Jones, an openly gay man, to determine whether the State had the constitutional authority to criminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations.

In his ruling, Justice Rampersad said the court was of the respectful view that the most “non-intrusive manner” in which to resolve the issue of criminalising consensual same-sex relations, would be to modify the sections.

Although the legislation was not struck out completely, the amendment ensures that consenting male adults of the same sex will not be liable to criminal charges if engaging in sexual intercourse.

The court ordered that the words ‘without consent’ be inserted into Section 13 (2) of the Act to state:

“In this section “buggery” means sexual intercourse without consent per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person.”

Section 16, deletes the words “a male person and a female person” and is replaced by “persons” and will now be read as: “(1) A person who commits an act of serious indecency on or towards another is liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years.

However Subsection (1) does not apply to an act of serious indecency committed in private between

(a) a husband and his wife; (b) “persons” each of whom is sixteen years of age or more, both of whom consent to the commission of the act; or (c) persons to whom section 20(1) and (2) and (3) of the Children Act apply.

An act of “serious indecency” is an act, other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.

Al-Rawi said it was important that the issue be settled because so that the laws may be amended if necessary “across the board.

“It is in those circumstances, there’s clarity from judicial pronouncement that we obtain the Privy Council ultimate view and decision upon the matter so that the law can be settled …”


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