LGBT rights in Trinidad and Tobago

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LGBT rights in Trinidad and Tobago
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
25 years (Buggery),
5 years (other sexual acts)
Gender identity/expression -
Military service No
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Trinidad and Tobago may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago.


Prohibition of same-sex relations[edit]

Trinidadian criminal code prohibits sex between two people of the same sex, as is the case in much of the English-speaking Caribbean.

Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1986 (Strengthened in 2000)[1] criminalises "buggery". This section states:

(1) A person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment—
(a) if committed by an adult on a minor, for life;
(b) if committed by an adult on another adult, for eighty-five years;
(c) if committed by a minor, for five 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.

Section 16 relates to "serious indecency":

(1) A person who commits an act of serious indecency on or towards another is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment—
(a) if committed on or towards a minor under sixteen years of age for ten years for a first offence and to imprisonment for fifteen years for a subsequent offence;
(b) if committed on or towards a person sixteen years of age or more for five years.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an act of serious indecency committed in private between—
(a) a husband and his wife; or
(b) a male person and a female person each of whom is sixteen years of age or more, both of whom consent to the commission of the act.
(3) An act of "serious indecency" is an act, other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.


The government has not specifically targeted homosexuals under the "buggery" or "serious indecency" laws; however, in limited historical cases, individuals have been charged and convicted of these offences when coupled with other serious crimes. Currently, the law is not known to be enforced [2][3][4]

Law against LGBT entry to Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

Under Section 8 of the Immigration Act,[5] homosexual men and women who are not citizens are not allowed to enter Trinidad and Tobago. However, this law is not known to have been enforced.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), entry into Trinidad and Tobago of the persons described in this subsection, other than citizens and, subject to section 7(2), residents, is prohibited, namely-
* * * *
(e) ... homosexuals or persons living on the earnings of ... homosexuals, or persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes....

A challenge by Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson was filed in 2013 to the immigration ban in both Trinidad and Tobago and Belize. Tomlinson asked Jamaica, his home country to insist that the travel bans of these countries be removed based on CARICOM provisions for free movement of citizens of member countries. Jamaica refused, and Tomlinson petitioned the Caribbean Court of Justice asking leave to file the case with them directly.[6] In May, 2014, Tomlinson was granted leave to challenge the immigration laws of both countries.[7] In October, 2014, CARICOM joined the case as an interested party supporting Tomlinson's arguments.[8] On 18 March 2015, the challenge was heard[9] with allegations that the immigration bans abridge the rights of free movement for Caribbean citizens contained in the Treaty of Chaguaramas.[10] On 10 June 2016, the CCJ ruled that neither Trinidad and Tobago nor Belize had violated Tomlinson's freedom of movement, dismissing his case. As clarification, the judgment noted that neither state can ban homosexuals from CARICOM countries from entering their countries due to their treaty obligations, "notwithstanding their laws that ban the entry of gays".[11]


The law forbidding immigration is not known to have been enforced.

In 2007 a highly vocal campaign opposed Elton John's entry into the country. This was led by the local Anglican Church, in particular Archdeacon Philip Isaac.[12] The Tobago House of Assembly rejected the call to bar Elton John from entry, and the concert went ahead as planned in May 2007.[13]

Public political statements on LGBT rights[edit]

In December 2012, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar responded to a letter protesting the country's anti-gay laws by stating,

With respect to the concerns raised in your letter regarding aspects of T&T's Sexual Offences Act and the Immigration Act which may target persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), I wish to assure you that due consideration is being given to these issues by my Government. I do not support discrimination in any form against any individual, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. I share your view that the stigmatisation of homosexuality in T&T is a matter which must be addressed on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every individual is entitled under international law. As such I am pleased to inform you that I have mandated my Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Senator the Honourable Marlene Coudray to prepare and present a national gender policy to Cabinet over the coming months. It is expected that once adopted, this policy will forge the way forward for T&T as my Government seeks to put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.[14]

In June 2016, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley responded on the question of protection for LGBT citizens:

I want to make it abundantly clear that every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of who he or she may be, will have the protection of the written Constitution….All State agencies have a duty to protect every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago regardless of whom they sleep with.[15]

LGBT rights movement in Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

Local LGBT activism bodies[edit]

Trinidad & Tobago's Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation | Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Advocacy Coalition. [16]

Trinidad & Tobago's FreePride Foundation Project | LGBTQ News, Resources, Sexology Education and Safe Sexual Health Sustainability. [17]

Social conditions[edit]

Trinidad and Tobago is considered a "relatively safe" destination for gay travellers.[18]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: Up to 25 years imprisonment; not enforced)
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sexual Offences Act, 2000
  2. ^ The State v. Steve Williams
  3. ^ The State v. Patrick Wellington & Kelvin Persad
  4. ^ The State v. Jacob Ramjattan
  5. ^ Immigration Act
  6. ^ Mills, Suzanne (August 11, 2013). "Visibility is liberty". Trinidad & Tobago: Newsday. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Jones, Patrick E. (May 8, 2014). "CCJ grants leave to challenge Belize's Immigration Act". Belize: Breaking Belize News. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Cayetano, Isani (October 29, 2014). "CARICOM Joins Gay Activist Maurice Tomlinson In Suit Against Belize & Trinidad". Belize City, Belize: News 5. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Wee, Darren (19 March 2015). "Landmark case challenges anti-gay laws in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago". London, England: Gay Star News. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  10. ^ Humes, Aaron (March 18, 2015). "CCJ hearings end in the case of Maurice Tomlinson". Belize: Breaking Belize News. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "Gay rights activist loses case against Belize at the CCJ". Belize City, Belize: El Guardian. 16 June 2016. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  12. ^ Elton John concert will corrupt Trinidad and Tobago
  13. ^ Elton John free to menace Tobago
  14. ^ "Trinidad and Tobago PM says she will end gay hate", Gay Star News, reported by Matthew Jenkin, 18 December 2012
  15. ^ Stewart, Colin (2016-06-23). "Despite his claims, Trinidad leader clings to anti-LGBT laws". 76 CRIMES. Retrieved 2016-07-17. 
  16. ^ Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO)[1]
  17. ^ FreePride Foundation Project[2]
  18. ^ GayTimes

External links[edit]