Trinidadian activist wins challenge to anti-gay laws

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Apr 19, 2018
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Jason Jones said he had faced “almost daily homophobic bullying and threats of violence”

Andrea De Silva/Reuters

A UK-based Trinidadian activist has won a landmark human rights challenge to laws that make same-sex relations a criminal offence in Trinidad and Tobago.

A team of English lawyers advised Jason Jones in the challenge. Sitting in Trinidad & Tobago’s High Court last week, Mr Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that two sections of the country’s Sexual Offences Act were “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and are of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults”.

Lawyers at the City of London office of the US law firm Paul Hastings acted for Jones on a pro bono basis. Richard Drabble, QC, of Landmark Chambers in London, was also on the legal team.

On Tuesday Theresa May urged Commonwealth leaders to scrap homophobic laws in the 36 countries in the organisation where they still exist.

After the comments at the heads of government meeting in London, a leading human rights barrister called on the prime minister to press the Foreign Office to appoint a “special envoy” to deal with the issue.

“Boris Johnson’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office could make real inroads into this issue and help end the misery of millions,” Jonathan Cooper, a senior-junior barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, told The Brief.  

“The FCO must make ending LGBT persecution across the globe a stated priority,” he said, adding that doing so would “require resources and clearly stated objectives”.

Jones welcomed the court ruling. “I grew up in Port of Spain and faced almost daily homophobic bullying and threats of violence because I am gay,” he said. 

“My family made me homeless and I have been lucky enough to be able to rebuild my life in the United Kingdom. I have the opportunity now to help my fellow LGBT Trinbagonian citizens find an equal place in Trinidad & Tobago.”

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