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Thursday 13 December 2018
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Police must protect us

File photo: Gay rights activist Jason Jones celebrates at Woodford Square, Port of Spain with Kelvin Darlington (Saucy Pow), left, and another member of the LBGTQI community after the high court’s ruling decriminalising gay sex.  PHOTO BY AZLAN MOHAMMED
File photo: Gay rights activist Jason Jones celebrates at Woodford Square, Port of Spain with Kelvin Darlington (Saucy Pow), left, and another member of the LBGTQI community after the high court’s ruling decriminalising gay sex. PHOTO BY AZLAN MOHAMMED

Activist Jason Jones is painfully aware that Thursday’s ground-breaking Supreme Court ruling which overturned this country’s sodomy law would engender backlash for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.

For him, it was a foregone conclusion.

“I have already had reports of somebody’s car being vandalised,” he said in an interview on Friday at the Drink and Wine Bar, Woodbrook.

“I think we have to emphasise security for our community because we are a minority community and very vulnerable.”

Jones called on acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and, indeed, the TT Police Service, to “catch up with this (backlash) as it’s ongoing.

“So, I do implore the acting commissioner of police to instruct his officers to be aware of the issue and the fact that LGBT people are at a higher risk of violence. I think we all have to be on guard for any unfortunate incidents that may occur. It’s sad but transformation does not happen without this. With growth comes this.”

Jones, who prefers to be called a human rights defender, also envisages a role for faith-based leaders, non-governmental organisations and other civic bodies in promoting calm.

“I call on the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church (Jason Gordon) and the leaders of other faith-based organisations to ask their members to please treat us with respect and kindness. That has to be done. It has to come from them.”

He added: “This is an historic moment for human rights. It is the last civil rights issue for this country. We can now truly say that we are a callaloo country, a rainbow country and here every creed and race has finally found an equal place. It’s their voices. I cannot call for calm. I am the focus of the hate.”

So concerned was Jones about the vandalism, he declined to reveal to Sunday Newsday the venue of a celebration which members of the community were hosting on Friday night.

He would only say that a number of artistes were expected to perform.

“We don’t want a Pulse night club event happening there,” Jones said, alluding to the murders of 49 party-goers at the gay Florida club in June 2016.

“With emotions running so high, we have to be cognisant of the security for all of us.”

Jones knows only too well the venomous, violent attacks to which members of the LGBTQI are subjected. He has lived it.

“Growing up in TT, I suffered tremendous homophobic abuse,” he said. “Even when I walked down the steps of the High Court, people were shouting offensive terms at me.”

Nevertheless, Jones still hoped the country would come to terms with the judgement and be accepting of the country’s gay folk.

“I think we, as a nation, have to grow up and I think this judgement has shown that we have to grow up and that judgement has taken us to a much better place.” He is unfazed by the Government’s stated intention to appeal the judgement.

“When you attack the Constitution, it must go to the final court of appeal.”

He felt, though, the sum he incurred to get to this point was well worth it.

“I walked out of court having spent five million TT dollars and to continue unto Privy Council may probably be half of that again.

“This costs. I have the best lawyers in the world but the best lawyers in the world are not cheap. My work is not cheap. So, I did not want this to be done cheaply.”

Asked how he was able to fund the legal battle over the past two years, Jones told Sunday Newsday: “I am very lucky that the lawyers have all given their services at this point. I have a crowd funder to raise funds to help me and I think now that people see what I have achieved.”

Jones urged international agencies to also embrace the cause before it moves to the Privy Council.

Next week, Jones plans to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the United Kingdom, where he is hoping to meet Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Ahead of the trip, though, Jones said he may even write the Prime Minister a letter “just in the sense that he applauds my work and he applauds the judge for his deliverance of justice.”

He added: “What we saw happening in the court was our democracy at work and that is the key thing, Trinidad and Tobago right now is on the international stage as being a modern, progressive, democratic nation and that’s huge.”

Based on the judgement, Jones said, Rowley can walk into CHOGM with his head held high “because he is now ranked the same as the prime minister of England, Australia where there is equality.”

“So that puts him into a much higher bracket of leader. I think it is important for him to share in my pride and I hope most of the citizenry will share in that pride as well.”

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