Activist is upbeat even as Trinidad rejects same-sex protections

LGBTQI+ activist Jason Jones isn’t upset by the Trinidad Senate’s refusal to amend its Domestic Violence Bill to cover same-sex couples. The time isn’t right for that move — yet, Jones says.

Jason Jones (Photo courtesy of Daily Express)

The Daily Express of Trinidad & Tobago reported yesterday:

Activist: No defeat for same-sex couples

The refusal of the Senate on Monday to support the inclusion of same-sex couples in the Domestic Violence Bill, as it relates to access to pro­tection and justice, should not be viewed as a defeat, LGBTQI+ activist Jason Jones has said.

Jones said yesterday the issue remains within a bigger picture as he noted the groundwork is yet to be laid for the recognition of same-sex unions.

Speaking to the Express from the United Kingdom, Jones said he commends the efforts of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi towards the establishment of LGBTQI+ rights locally, and was further heartened at the AG’s remarks in the Senate that he expects Jones to get a victory at the Privy Council over his historic battle against Trinidad and Tobago’s buggery law.

On April 12, 2018, Jones won a landmark legal challenge in the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago when Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act are “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”.

The ruling was appealed by the Office of the Attorney General and is now at the Privy Council.

Al-Rawi said on Monday that the ruling of the Privy Council was necessary in gui­ding the law going forward as the Senate debated amendments to the bill, including an expansion of the definition of member of a household that would have included same-sex relationships.

Hazel Thompson-Ahye (Photo courtesy of Trinidad & Tobago Guardian)

The amendment, proposed by Independent Sena­tor Hazel Thompson-Ahye, gained positive votes from four Independent senators, but was rejected by Government senators while Opposition senators abstained.

Many citizens yesterday took to social media to pour scorn on those who rejected the amendment for being “cowardly”, with some people expressing the belief that the change was rejected for fear of upsetting potential votes in the 2020 general election la­ter this year.

However, Jones said he viewed the proceedings as “an enormous step forward for human rights in Trinidad & Tobago” as he noted the AG’s assumption that Jones would see victory at the Privy Council.

The AG said the matter was pursued to the Privy Council so the law could be settled “once and for all”, and the Jones effect would cascade over 23 other laws that discriminate against the LGBTQI+ community.

“I watched the proceedings in our Senate (Monday) with great interest and pride,” Jones told the Express. “I applaud the honourable Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye and all of the Independent senators who supported the inclusion of same-sex relationships in the domestic violence legis­lation.”

Addressing the disappointment some may have felt over the Senate’s rejection, Jones also said: “The T&T LGBTQ+ citizen is still protected under law from harm in any circumstance, and we all must be mindful of that regardless of our loving relationships not being honoured.” …

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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