Interview with Jason Jones, the Activist Challenging Trinidad and Tobago’s Anti-Gay Law

Jason Jones, a Trinidad and Tobago born human rights activist is challenging the country’s anti-sodomy law. Last Thursday, 23 February 2016, Jones filed a petition to the court challenging Sections 13 and 16 of the country’s Sexual Offenses Act, which outlaws “buggery,” and penalizes those accused to twenty five years to life imprisonment. This law is a remnant of the country’s British colonial rule and applies even if the sexual act is between two consenting adults.

While anti-sodomy and other anti-gay laws are rarely used to charge individuals in Trinidad, the presence of these laws increase stigma, discrimination, and marginalization of the country’s LGBTIQ community.

Since broadcasting his intent to file the lawsuit, Jones has received increased threats on his life. He is currently staying in a safe house and has hired a security team to keep him safe.

OutRight’s Caribbean Advisor, Kenita Placide, spoke to Jason Jones in Trinidad and Tobago to get more information about the case. Watch the full video interview available below.

Kenita: What made you bring this challenge now in 2017

Jason: After going full time into human rights, I thought that alongside the advocacy that we do around visibility - the legal situation had to be addressed. Most of the homophobic religious organizations and other organizations - even the man on the street - If they believe that it is illegal [to be gay], they feel that they are entitled to discriminate against us. They think the law protects them. The death threats and other negative messages that I have been receiving on social media proves that fact. People are showing their faces and names on Facebook and making their death threats, and they feel entitled, that is because of this law. This law entitles them to discriminate. So, for me, changing the law is where everything has to begin. The community the response has been incredibly powerful and positive. I've had hundreds and hundreds of messages from LGBTIQ people in Trinidad and Tobago, and people who are from Trinidad and Tobago who live overseas, who have been excited and incentivised by this lawsuit.

Kenita: What has been the conservative backlash or response in the country to your case?

Jason: We have this false belief that Trinidad and Tobago was the most gay friendly island in the Caribbean and the response form this challenge, the death threats etc, has proven that this is not so. I have heard reports that very high up Catholics have held meetings talking about me, and they are foaming at the mouth. I have had reports that Muslim groups who are talking about the challenge. These people are being motivated in their hate and we now need to come together and start fighting this head on.

Kenita: What do you wish to accomplish with this challenge, apart from a legislative reform?

Jason: I want this challenge to start motivating people out of their apathy and to get active. When you look at the Stonewall riots in 1968 in New York City, it was again a response to direct attacks. People are going to get hurt, but that is what motivates people to do something. So anybody who says that I am stirring up trouble and things are going to get hard, yes they are. They are going to get hard. they are hard enough right now already for me because I am hiding out. But we needed to have something happen, that is why it had to happen now.

Kenita: What has been the international response to your case?

Jason: Right now the international response to this challenge has been very poor. I am a dual citizen, I am half Trinidadian and half English, I carry both passports. So far the British government hasn’t done much for me, and these laws were their laws originally. I really hope that international community will start to get active. Of course there is the question of sovereignty of nations, but we are talking about human rights and with human rights there is no barrier, there is no wall, there is no passport to human rights. And that is what all, particularity global north countries, need to recognize. They need to make public statements about what is happening to me, and I am not hearing them. I’m calling on the international community, particularly the United Nations, to start making some statements.

Video of the interview that took place in Trinidad and Tobago: