On 12 April 2018, the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago ruled that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act criminalising consensual same-sex activity between adults are unconstitutional and consequently “null” and “void”. Section 13 criminalises “buggery”, liable to imprisonment of up to 25 years. Section 16 criminalises serious indecency and stipulates a person is liable to five years imprisonment if convicted.
The case was brought by Jason Jones, an openly gay citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. Jones was forced to leave Trinidad and Tobago because of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Jones argued that the criminalising sections of the Sexual Offences Act violated his fundamental rights under the Constitution, particularly the rights to private and family life (Article 4(c)), liberty and security (Article 4(a)), equality before the law (Article 4(b)) and freedom of expression (Article 4(i)).
The High Court agreed with the claimant noting that “the values that represent society have dramatically changed as democratic societies have now moved to accept that laws such as these are no longer necessary.” Notably the Court held that whilst the judgment was not an assessment or denial of religious beliefs, it was a recognition that, “the beliefs of some, by definition, is not the beliefs of all and, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, all are protected, and are entitled to be protected, under the Constitution” and that the Constitution must uphold the “dignity” of citizens whose rights have been violated.