Trinidad and Tobago is among the 74 countries around the world that has discriminatory laws against same-sex consensual adults. Jason Jones, who has been an activist in both Trinidad and Tobago and the U.K. for 28 years, filed a claim against the state on February 23 contesting Sections 13 and 16 of the country’s Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) that criminalizes sodomy between consensual adults and serious indecency, which is defined as a sexual act outside of intercourse involving genitals.
These clauses in the SOA were originally created while Trinidad and Tobago was a British colony. Directly following independence, a saving clause was written in the law to preserve any pre-colonial law, making it difficult for private citizens to challenge these colonial laws in court. Any law predating independence can only be changed by the Parliament. However, Jones and his legal team said they have discovered a loophole to challenge these laws.
Since he has filed his case, Jones has been harassed online by people threatening to hurt and kill him. However, he says many people in his support circles are not taking his threats seriously.
“People have threatened to throw petrol on me and set me on fire,” Jones told the Washington Blade in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. “They are writing ‘boom bye bye battyboy’ on my Facebook page. How can I ignore that? Some of these threats are real. I haven’t been able to sleep properly. Every strange call, odd sound or anything remotely off has me frightened.”
He said that numerous times people, particularly young boys, have accosted him in the street, calling him derogatory homophobic slangs like “bullerman” and “batty boy.”
“I walk down Fredrick Street and a group of school children are shouting ‘bullerman’ at me,” Jones told the Blade. “I don’t know if they recognize me because of the lawsuit or the way I dress, but I am not going to change my life because other people are now uncomfortable.”
Since the death threats, Jones has moved out of the home he was staying at to protect his roommate, and has hired personal body guards to protect him around the clock. He said he found his hotel room ransacked when he returned after speaking with the Blade.
Along with the legal proceedings, Jones is conducting community-based advocacy programs around the country to educate and build LGBT support systems in Trinidad and Tobago. He intends to take his activism to other Caribbean islands — particularly those that have little LGBT activism.
Jones said he is not making any claim against the state. It is not a civil matter, but a constitutional matter to change the laws, and as such is not seeking to gain money from the state.
Jones is funding this legal venture on his own with his lawyers working pro bono.
“I will not earn a penny off of the state of the Trinidad and Tobago taxpayer,” he said. “People think that I am claiming money but I am not, and neither is my legal team.”
His aim is to receive equality under Trinidad and Tobago’s laws for all citizens. This includes marriage equality and protection under the country’s Equal Opportunity Act, which explicitly excludes sexual orientation.
“I want us to have everything that heterosexuals have the rights to,” Jones told the Blade. “I am trying to fight for it all. It’s 2017, it’s about time we are treated properly.”