A gay man is challenging Trinidad and Tobago’s sodomy laws, which criminalize consensual same-sex relations between adults with up to 25 years in prison.
Jason Jones filed a lawsuit last week seeking to overturn Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act, which state that any person “who commits buggery is guilty of an offense.”
The law is rarely enforced, but he maintains it still has a detrimental effect on the country’s LGBT population.
“[Mr. Jones] is accordingly the subject of extensive societal prejudice, persecution, marginalization, a lifelong entrenched stigma that he is an ‘unapprehended’ criminal by virtue of being homosexual,” said his attorney.
“He experiences the lifelong fear of being punished for expressing his sexuality through consensual conduct with another adult.”
But Jones says he’s not just doing it for himself. “I am doing this for the betterment of our nation, and for our future generations.”
It’s difficult to know just how widespread discrimination against LGBT people is in Trinidad and Tobago, where many hate crimes go unreported. “Violence is real in Trinidad and Tobago,” Colin Robinson, Executive Director of CAISO, told Guardian Trinidad. “Some people decide that if they don’t like what you look like, or how you walking down the road, or who they think you sleeping with, they could beat you.”
Kevin Darlington, a transgender man, told the outlet he was stabbed several times outside a bar in Port-Au-Spain, Trinidad’s capital city.
In addition, Under Section 8 of the Immigration Act, homosexuals who are not citizens are technically not allowed to enter Trinidad and Tobago. It’s not generally enforced, but an attempt was made to bar Elton John from entering the country in 2007.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley told the country’s parliament last year that all citizens deserve to live lives free of violence and harassment, “regardless of whom they sleep with.” He’s been reticent, though, to support a repeal of the sodomy ban.
Jones faces an uphill battle, but he says the fight to be treated equally is long overdue. “It is a human rights issue. It is about my right to live my life as I choose. Somebody has to do it. So I am doing it.”