Sunday 18 August, 2019

Dr Raj writes Customs: No legal basis for adult toy ban

Sexual health expert Dr Giriraj Ramanan is asking the Customs and Excise Division to explain an alleged ban on the importation of adult toys saying based on the existing legislation, there is 'no legal basis' for the ban.

According to a letter dated August 20, submitted by attorneys Kiel Taklalsingh, Dinesh Rambally and Jagdeo Singh and instructed by Stefan Ramkissoon, Dr Raj is described as an ‘indigenous pioneer on the matters of sexual health, wellbeing and enjoyment”.

As you may be aware, sex and sexuality have been recognised as critical components of the human condition and contribute significantly to the enjoyment of a person’s life experience”.

Taklalsingh also referred to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which emphasised the importance of sexual health and the need for all to experience “pleasurable and safe sexual experiences free from coercion, discrimination and violence”.

WHO also stated that the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

Taklalsingh said that Dr Raj imports items used to treat sexual ailments, provide therapy and other sexual health purposes, and is concerned that the Customs Department and/or Customs Officers may attempt to prohibit the consignment of goods.

“Having reviewed the Customs Act and in particular section 45 thereof…we are of the respectful view that there is no legal basis for the prohibition of Adult Toys, therapeutic sex items or other articles of that genre.”

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He is, therefore, asking that the Customs explain and clarify any ban on importation with regard to any item classified as an ‘adult toy’ and state on what provision of law does such a ban exist, if so.

He asked what policy is in place to guide customs officers as to what items are considered obscene and to disclose such, and asked whether there is a Customs policy to prohibit such items on the grounds of deeming adult toys to be obscene.

Earlier this week, e-courier Web Source warned customers regarding several items which were prohibited from importation by the Customs and Excise Division, one of which was adult toys.

Web Source adult toys

Other items which are banned include seeds (without the relevant permits/certificates), dirt, plants, camouflage items, toy guns, cigarettes and honey. 

A representative from the Customs and Excise Division said to LoopTT that the prohibition stems from old legislation regarding the use or sale of pornographic items which has never been changed.

Section 45(l) of the Customs Act prevents the importation of "indecent or obscene prints, paintings, photographs, books, cards, lithographic or other engravings, gramophone records, or any other indecent or obscene articles or matter".

Under Section 46 (g) of the Criminal Offences Act, any “person who offers for sale or distribution, or who exhibits to public view any profane, indecent, or obscene, paper, print, drawing, painting, or representation” may be ‘deemed a rogue and vagabond’ and found liable to imprisonment for two months.

Likewise, under Section 7 of the Summary Offences Act, “any person who is convicted on indictment of…any public and indecent exposure of the person; any public selling or exposing for public sale or to public view of any obscene book, print, picture or other indecent exhibition” can be found upon conviction liable to ‘any term warranted by law’.

Some stores listed on Facebook and listed as based in Trinidad have advertised adult toys for sale. 

Finance Minister Colm Imbert, under whose purview the Customs and Excise Division falls, said during a media briefing on Tuesday that the phrase 'adult toys' does not exist within the Customs Act, however he did not acknowledge whether adult toys fall could be interpreted as obscene or indecent representations.


"There’s been no clamp down by customs, no circular or memoranda issued by customs, no unusual enforcement activity by customs," Imbert told Newsday, calling the information shared by the e-courier 'fake news'.


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