IBAHRI calls on Commonwealth countries to follow Trinidad and Tobago’s decriminalisation of homosexuality

Thursday 19 April 2018

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) welcomes the ruling by Trinidad and Tobago High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad that the nation’s law banning same-sex relationships is unconstitutional. With heads of state gathering in London this month for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and due to discuss LGBT+ issues for the first time, the IBAHRI calls on all Commonwealth states to work together to repeal colonial-era laws that ban same-sex relationships in 37 out of 53 Commonwealth countries.

IBAHRI Director, Dr Phillip Tahmindjis AM, stated: ‘The IBAHRI congratulates Trinidad and Tobago on its landmark decision to decriminalise homosexuality, and calls on the remaining 37 Commonwealth countries to follow suit. In particular, the CHOGM presents a prime opportunity for diplomacy that should encourage other nations to emulate Trinidad and Tobago’s ruling and adopt a policy that opposes discrimination, violence and other breaches of human rights directed to people on the grounds of their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. The IBAHRI urges all Commonwealth countries to take this opportunity and turn the tide against the long-standing and regressive discrimination against LGBT+ persons.’

On 12 April 2018, Justice Rampersad delivered a judgment on the case of LBGT+ rights activist Jason Jones, in Jason Jones vs the State, ruling sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act as ‘unconstitutional… to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults’. Section 13 criminalised anal sex between two men or a man and a woman, and carried a 25-year sentence on conviction. Section 16 criminalised acts of ‘serious indecency’, defined as 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’, and bore a five-year sentence on conviction.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell, commented: ‘The IBAHRI is committed to the repeal of criminal laws imposing penalties against people in respect of consensual, adult and private sexual conduct. In the IBAHRI Council Resolution on sexual orientation and human rightsit is recognised that discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity is contrary to fundamental principles of human rights recognised by international law and international instruments, including the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. However, discriminatory actions towards people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity prevail, infringing the right to freedom of expression. The cost to society is high, hindering progress towards a more fair and just society. Interestingly, the title of the 2018 CHOGM is “Towards a Common Future”.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. The 2018 CHOGM, ‘Towards a Common Future’,takes place from 16–20 April in London, England.
  2. The International Bar Association(IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme(ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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