Paula-Mae Weekes

President Paula-Mae Weekes

BEFORE making public utterances on the High Court’s recent ruling on this country’s buggery laws, inform yourself fully since uninformed statements may cause damage to the national psyche, incite victimisation, bigotry and violence, says President Paula-Mae Weekes.

The President said since the ruling of Justice Devindra Rampersad last week, she had been following on both traditional and social media “the escalating tensions surrounding Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act.”

“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,” she said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The President said she felt it was necessary to take the opportunity to remind commentators of the request she made in her inauguration address that those with a platform from which to disseminate their views, or those of others, report responsibly and comment civilly on the facts.

In the statement, the President outlined what was stated in the two contested sections, before moving on to explain what exactly was deemed as being illegal.

“In layman’s terms, it is against the law under Section 13 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, example, oral sex between consenting adult males as well as between consenting adult females.

“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,” explained the President.

She quoted from a statement made by the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago in which it was stated that the matter is to be appealed and that 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,” the Law Association had stated.

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