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President warns against inciting victimisation, bigotry, violence

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

President Paula-Mae Weekes yesterday said while citizens are entitled to hold their points of view, they must be careful not to “damage the national psyche by inadvertently inciting victimisation, bigotry and violence.”

In a press release from the Office of the President yesterday, Weekes said she has been following, via traditional and social media, the escalating tension surrounding Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act and last Thursday’s ruling of Justice Devindra Rampersad’s in the High Court on those provisions.

“I implore citizens, especially those in a position to influence others, to inform themselves fully on the law and the facts before making public utterances.”

Weekes also reminded commentators of the request she made in her inauguration address that we should disseminate our views responsibly and report on facts. She said Section 13 (1) states that a person who commits the offence of buggery is liable on conviction to imprisonment for 25 years. (2) In this section, “buggery” means sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person.

“In layman’s terms, it is against the law under Section 13 (as set out above) to have anal intercourse whether man with man or man with woman, even where the parties are consenting adults acting in private. It is also unlawful by virtue of Section 16 for there to be the exciting or satisfying of sexual desire by engaging in acts short of sexual intercourse but which involve the use of genital organs eg oral sex between consenting adult males as well as between consenting adult females,” Weekes stated.

“It is these specific prohibitions that engaged the attention of the court. The arguments in the case did not touch and concern non-consensual sexual acts or sexual acts involving adults with children.”

Weekes noted that the Law Association of T&T has stated the decision was appealed and the final verdict on the constitutionality of the law is yet to be determined.

“It is important to appreciate, however, that it is not in dispute that the criminalisation of same-sex, consensual sexual relations infringes important constitutional rights. The legal issues to be determined on appeal are whether a law which admittedly violates constitutional rights is nevertheless saved from being struck down by a constitutional provision which protects old colonial laws, and whether the legislature by a special three-fifths majority can override what they know to be a constitutional violation.”


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