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Some laws will have to change if Court rules buggery and gross indecency laws unconstitutional

Some laws will have to change if Court rules buggery and gross indecency laws unconstitutional
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves does not foresee any political consequences, should it be ruled in court that this country’s buggery and gross indecency laws are unconstitutional.

A challenge of these laws, which were filed by Javin Johnson, 22, and Sean MacLeish, 53, in July, were heard in open court for the first time on Wednesday.

And Gonsalves, at a press conference this week, said that if the court accepts the case being presented then the government will have to look at the legal consequences of the matter.

“I don’t see any political hubris in relation to the government, we didn’t pass the law. We didn’t pronounce that it is constitutional, its the court. What I can say is the consequences legally, we’ll then see how we have to address those consequences legally,” he said, referring to a scenario of the court ruling in favour of the challengers.

One such legal consequence may result in a revision of the laws concerning rape.

The prime minister said that currently, the law addressing rape defines the act as the entry of the male member into the female.

“In the current situation, if a man rapes a man, you would charge him with buggery, which carries up to 10 years maximum. Of course, for rape, on the books, it’s life, but unless a lot of violence is accompanied with it, I don’t know anybody who gets life,” Gonsalves said. “But if it is no longer an offence, you will have a gap there, because man having sex with a man, without the consent of that man, would not be rape unless you now make it rape by a legal provision.”

The two gay men who have filed the legal challenge are being represented by Jomo Thomas. And the men, who reside overseas, assert that their dignity and autonomy are stripped by the buggery and gross indecency laws.

Similar claims in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago in 2018 and 2019, respectively, have been successful.

And the prime minister used these instances to support his belief there would be no political ramifications, should the challenge be successful in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with me in politics. The point is this; the court will make a decision, one way or another…” he said. “In Belize, it hasn’t had any political ramifications, in Trinidad, I don’t think it has had any political ramifications for either of the parties and I’m sure that in each political party in Trinidad and Belize, they have people who have different perspectives.”

Gonsalves said that he will, just like everyone else, await the judgment of the court on the matter.

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