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IACHR welcomes court ruling on buggery law in T&T

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Tuesday welcomed the decision of the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago to declare unconstitutional the criminalisation of consensual sexual relations between same sex adults.

“With this historic decision, Trinidad and Tobago becomes the third country in the English-speaking Caribbean, together with Bahamas and Belize, to repeal laws that criminalise consensual sex between adults of the same sex that originated in regional's colonial past,” the IACHR said in a statement.

The Trinidad and Tobago government has already indicated that it would be appealing the High Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to impede on the rights of homosexual men and anal sex, a challenge that was brought against the state in 2017 by gay rights activist Jason Jones.

High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled that the law goes against the basic rights of any citizen to enjoy the freedom of privacy and family life.

He said it was unfortunate when society, in any way, values a person or gives a person their identity based on their race, colour, gender, age or sexual orientation.

“That is not their identity. That is not their soul. That is not the sum total of their value to society or their value to themselves,” said Justice Rampersad.

Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons of the IACHR, Flavia Piovesan, described the ruling as a “milestone in the recognition of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Trinidad and Tobago” adding “we hope to see more countries in the Caribbean Anglophone region following their example.

“The criminalisation of persons simply because they are not heterosexual, is incompatible with the Inter-American standards, so this ruling is an essential step to ensure respect for human rights for all people in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Moreover, the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relations between same sex adults sends the message that human rights are for all, and it strengthens the idea that those who defy socially and traditional accepted notions of sex, sexuality and gender must be protected” the Rapporteur added.

Moreover, the Inter-American Commission highlights the significance of this judicial decision and the importance of maintaining the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relations between same sex adults in order to maintain a democratic and inclusive society based in equality.

The Commission highlights the inconsistency of laws that criminalise consensual sex between same-sex people with the international human rights law principles of equality and non-discrimination, and notes that this type of legislation contributes to an environment that condones discrimination, stigmatisation, and violence against LGBT people.

The IACHR said that it understands that the existence of 'buggery' laws is used as a mechanism for social control and domination that enables states to legitimise and contribute to the stigma of LGBT people as “immoral” individuals. Moreover, such laws have been used to justify the arbitrary arrests, detention and even torture of LGBT people.

“The IACHR calls all the countries in the region that still criminalise the consensual sexual relations between same-sex adults to review and eliminate existing regulations, and if it is not possible, to nullify the legal provisions that constitute discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or corporal diversity, as well as to identify gaps that hinder effectiveness of the rights of LGBTI people to equality and non-discrimination.

“The IACHR also recognises the pivotal role historically fulfilled by civil society in the work of protection and promotion of LGBTI rights and human rights in general, and also in inspiring the evolution of legislation and policies in the Americas.

“In this regard, the Commission reminds the State that it has an obligation to prevent any attempt on the life and physical integrity of human rights defenders, and to guarantee in all circumstances that they can carry out their legitimate work without fear of reprisals and free of any restrictions. States have the duty to guarantee the safety of groups of defenders at particular risk and to adopt specific measures of protection tailored to their needs.”

The IACHR is a principal, autonomous body of the Organisation of American States (OAS), and derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.

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