Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 11th 2015 Contents A44
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt January 11, 2015
On 14th October, 2014 the UNAIDS released information into the public
domain whereby it purported to cite certain statistics as allegedly gleaned
from a survey of the attitudes of persons in Trinidad and Tobago towards,
inter alia, gays, discrimination based on one's sexual orientation, and sex
The UNAIDS media release claims, inter alia, that 78% of those polled dis-
agree with discrimination against gays in Trinidad and Tobago.
On the basis of this announcement, certain parties have sought to override
the 2010 promise of the now Honourable Prime Minister to the faith based
community for a national referendum on such an issue; the undertaking
given to the faith based community by the former Minister of Gender, Youth
and Child Development to communicate to Cabinet our reasoned objections
to attempts to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the
Draft Gender Policy; and the conclusions of the Constitution Reform
Commission that such an issue did not have a consensus and could not be
considered for inclusion in any draft legislation to amend the Republican
Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
The voices in support of the UNAIDS survey have gone to the extent to call
on the Honourable Prime Minister and legislators to amend the Equal
Opportunity Act by a simple majority so that people can receive protection
from being discriminated against because of their sexuality.
Prior to issuing our response to the UNAIDS media release we waited
patiently for the release of pertinent details of the said survey such as but not
limited to its methodology, survey questions, disaggregated data on the basis
of which the "results" are based.
We also waited for a public correction to be made by UNAIDS which, in
using the name and an audio file of the voice of Mrs. Merle Ali of the Faith
Based Network, may have misrepresented her support of the veracity of the
UNAIDS survey and the resulting call for legislative changes.
It was our hope that a dissemination of the aforementioned details by
UNAIDS would have been made on 1 December to commemorate World
Aids Day or, by the latest, on 10 December 2014 to observe Human Rights
None of these key circumstances materialised during the months of October,
November or by mid-December, 2014. For reasons not divulged on the
UNAIDS Caribbean website, details of the October 2013 survey remain hid-
den from the public and the instrument and methodology are not open to
public scrutiny and constructive criticism.
In view of the foregoing, we are unable to agree with the purported outcome
of the UNIADS survey.
However, we are extremely concerned that in recent years, the calls from
local and global organisations to decriminalise sodomy in Trinidad and
Tobago have been made on grounds that are emotive and not factual.
Over the years, detractors of the position of the faith based community on
these issues have engaged in misinformation to deceive the public into
believing that our arguments are based on moral and spiritual grounds only.
We have been criticised for not showing love to persons whose views differ
from our own, etc.
In response to the latter fallacious claim, leaders of the faith based commu-
nity in Trinidad and Tobago signed a Declaration in December 2014 where-
by we undertook, inter alia, to continue to sensitively reach out to persons
infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in our faith groups and communities
to extend compassionate help and the love of God to them in an empathic
However, our compassion does not mean we condone homosexual behav-
iour or that we will fail to speak out against it.
In response to the former fallacious claim, in truth and in fact, while we hold
fast to our morality and spiritual beliefs (and vigorously defend our constitu-
tional rights to such) our concerns for the change of legislation to decrimi-
nalise sodomy and related issues are based on valid medical science, pub-
lic health, economics and other holistic grounds.
In the absence of the availability to the public of the background data on the
UNAIDS survey for Trinidad and Tobago and, indeed, of the actual survey
instrument, we are doubtful that the persons polled would have been pro-
vided with the medical science, public health, economics and other facts
which support retaining our existing laws.
A few of those facts are cited below:-
1. The statistics show that in France where anti-sodomy laws have been
dismantled for over a century, the highest prevalence of HIV is still in the
group of men who have sex with men (Lancet Infectious Diseases,
Oct 2010: 682-7).
2. However, in countries where the anti-sodomy law is retained, the
prevalence of HIV is decreasing. For example, HIV prevalence has
decreased in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica by 33%, Namibia by
68%, Botswana by 71%, Malawi by 73%, and in Ethiopia by 90%.
(UNAIDS World Aids Day 2012 Report)
Why are the statistics so alarming? It is a scientific fact the rectum was not
designed for sexual intercourse. Many bacteria are found in the rectum and
the thin vascular lining easily facilitates the passage of bacteria and viruses
into the blood stream.
Further, we wish to refute the suggestion that a UNAIDS survey of 1,176 par-
ticipants is the equivalent of a referendum of the 1.3 million people of
Trinidad and Tobago or of the hundreds of thousands of our nation's regis-
tered voters. (There is no evidence that those polled in the UNAIDS survey
are all registered voters of this country.)
Any attempt to circumvent the processes specified by the Honourable Prime
Minister and the Constitution Reform Commission to resolve this highly con-
tentious matter must be vigorously opposed.
Moreover, we consider it a disingenuous "conclusion" that a more tolerant
attitude or disagreement with violence against persons based on their sexu-
al orientation (violence against anyone except in limited circumstances of self
defence, etc is already illegal) by persons polled in the UNAIDS survey is the
equivalent of a mandate to dismantle a law which prohibits unhealthy sexu-
al practice (sodomy/anal intercourse).
Nor does it justify including sexual orientation in the definition of "status" for
protection under the Equal Opportunity Act, 2000.
Our discussions with the former Minister of Gender, Youth and Child
Development already outlined our concerns that, globally, there is no single
agreed definition of "sexual orientation" and that some 22 "orientations"
have been identified over the years, some of which could pose a danger of
physical and sexual harm and suffering to vulnerable members of society if
legalised and empowered by the protections sought.
Indeed, precedents exist from North America and Europe to show that such
amendments to include "sexual orientation" as a protected class in anti-dis-
crimination legislation have been used by persons who identify as non-het-
erosexual (a minority of the respective national populations) to trample upon
the rights of the majority. This has occurred against foster parents, business
owners and religious leaders whose faith beliefs are opposed to the practice
of homosexuality or same sex marriage.
To solicit support from the public through a "poll" in order to call for the
amendment of the Sexual Offences Act, Equal Opportunity Act or similar leg-
islation without providing the public with the medical, public health, eco-
nomic, social and other facts on the issue and possible repercussions is a
practice which we condemn in the strongest possible way.
In closing, we call upon the Honourable Prime Minister, her Cabinet and all
legislators to reject the call from UNAIDS and those who seek to use the pur-
ported survey results as a basis to demand the legislative changes sought.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO COUNCIL OF EVANGELICAL CHURCHES' RESPONSE TO
UNAIDS SURVEY OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS GAYS IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
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