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Jamaican activist welcomes court ruling

Published: 
Monday, April 16, 2018
In this undated photo human rights lawyer Maurice Tomlinson demonstrates in Kingston.

Jamaican national and activist of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT), Maurice Tomlinson was one of the main protagonists behind T&T’s challenge of the buggery law.

Tomlinson, is, however, thanking Trinidad-born gay rights activist Jason Jones who emerged victorious in step one of him suing the State over buggery laws.

“Thankfully, Jason was not deterred by those naysayers and persisted,” Tomlinson told Guardian Media in a telephone interview.

In Jones’ lawsuit, he challenged Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises buggery and serious indecency even between consenting adults.

On Thursday, the local LGBTQI community celebrated a major legal victory in its crusade for equal rights after High Court judge Devindra Rampersad declared this country’s the two sections of sexual offence legislation unconstitutional. However, it is expected to be quite some time before the controversial legislation is removed as law.

While Rampersad ruled that section 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises sexual activity between consenting homosexual males, are illegal and breaches their constitutional rights, he did not automatically strike down the sections due to the ripple effect it would have on valid sexual crimes.

Instead, Rampersad accepted submissions from lawyers for Office of the Attorney General and Jones, who asked for time to make suggestions on how the law could be modified in order give effect to his ruling, while still allowing non-consensual anal intercourse to be prosecuted.

Tomlinson said Rampersad’s decision “signals a sustainable and viable approach to get rid of these embarrassing statutes from the Caribbean.”

“We are the only region in the western hemisphere that still criminalises private consenting adult same-sex intimacy. So, while the rest of the hemisphere has galloped ahead to recognise many of the human rights of LGBT people, including legal partnerships, as stated in a recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision, we in the region have literally not left the starting gates,” he said.

In many respects, Tomlinson said the repealing of the archaic laws is only one step on a long journey to ensuring that LGBT people across the region enjoy the same rights as all other citizens.

“The region will be stronger for it, despite what the fear-mongers will claim,” he said.

Tomlinson’s case challenging the Jamaican anti-sodomy law awaits a further court date. He is hoping that it will “help to unify well-thinking persons across the island to come together as Trinidadians from all walks of life did to embrace everyone finding an ‘equal place.’”

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In 2014, Tomlinson was granted special leave via a reserved judgment at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) headquarters in Port-of-Spain. Tomlinson went up against the State of Belize and T&T over its discriminatory immigration laws. Tomlinson filed an application seeking special leave to commence proceedings in the Court under Article 222 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Court held that Tomlinson had satisfied the test for special leave as (1) he is a Jamaican national, (2) the right to free movement benefits him directly, (3) the State of Jamaica refused or declined to bring the application on his behalf, (4) there is an arguable case made out that he has been prejudiced in the enjoyment of his Community rights by the existence of the legislation and (5) it is in the interest of justice that leave be granted.

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