Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 6th 2013 Contents A32
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, May 6, 2013
One of the key tasks of anthropolo-
gy is to make visible how power
mechanisms like state practices, such
as legislation and language, fix and
construct what populations come to
see and understand as "natural."
This sense of naturalness is often
tied to a nation s history and culture.
And a state often uses criminal law to
police and punish deviations from the
dominant ideas of morality and reli-
gion that exist in any society.
In the case of sexuality, criminal law
in T&T has been and is currently
deployed to determine what is "nor-
mal" sexual behaviour---heterosexuali-
ty---and what is "deviant" sexual
behaviour---homosexuality, or more
correctly same-sex desire.
Far more punitively than the cultural
codes of morality and religion, the law
labels, sterotypes and polices particular
sexual identities as unnatural.
This construction of our social reali-
ty by the State makes invisible certain
facts about the history of sex and sex-
For example, sexuality studies has
shown the actual categories of "het-
erosexuality" and "homosexuality" do
not exist in nature or in ancient
sources, and were invented by western
society in the mid-19th century.
The scientific reality is that all con-
senting human beings desire and can
engage in a wide variety of sexual
Put most bluntly, we are all bodies
with physical functions and desires.
It is culture and the law, among
other things, that police our under-
standings of which of these functions
and desires are somehow more "natur-
al" and acceptable than others.
In a 1994 article called Not Just
(Any) Body Can Be A Citizen, Jacqui
Alexander pointed out that T&T and
some other nation states use the law
to make sexual inscriptions on all our
A national through birth, she was
not an equal citizen because, since she
identified as a lesbian, the justice sys-
tem labelled her a criminal, an outlaw
in her own country.
Such outlawing is achieved in many
ways, the most blatant is through leg-
islative gestures such as criminalising
forms of non-procreative sex.
In this way, the State can police
people s intimate behaviours and crim-
inalise consensual acts between adults
This raises the question: should the
State even be allowed into the bed-
rooms of consenting adults?
Section 13 of the Sexual Offences
Act, written in 1986 and amended in
1994 and 2000, is an obvious example
of this state over-reach.
It outlaws, criminalises and makes
punishable by imprisonment of 25
years, private sexual acts between con-
senting male adults. It also criminalis-
es anal sex between consenting male
and female adults.
Another more subtle law is Article 8
(18/1) of the Immigration Act, which
states "homosexual" men and women
are not allowed to enter the country,
as if they aren t equally men and
Successive governments have also
reinforced these laws by passing strong
verbal criticisms of any organisation or
person who supports the repeal of
laws criminalising consensual gay rela-
For example, in 2000 the then
Attorney General suggested that the
existence of such a law was not a
human rights issue.
Simply put, criminalisation is a
technique of power owned by the
In T&T and elsewhere, it is used to
imagine a nation and reconstruct a
self, so that citizens are specifically
heterosexual, or at least view hetero-
sexuality as "natural."
Another justice system technique
connected to sexuality and used by the
State is discriminatory policing,
involving the selective enforcement of
certain laws to target members of the
Connected to this discrimination is
the way police officers routinely fail to
take seriously, to make reports on and
to investigate crimes reported by the
LGBT community, including allegations
of homophobic attacks.
Another discriminatory practice is
the exemption clauses of legislation
like the one contained in the 1999
Equal Opportunities Bill. Designed to
legally enforce the right to non-dis-
crimination, the bill contains a clause
designed to exclude non-heterosexual
individuals from its protections.
For example, according to the act,
kissing or holding hands in public
between members of the same sex can
be deemed offensive behaviour toward
other groups and people in society.
We don t individually criminalise
sexuality; the State does. And the
State is always a collection of actors
with particular historical interests.
We think we make up our own
minds about who is allowed equal citi-
zenship in society but law and morali-
ty discipline us too, meaning that the
State naturalises inequality between
citizens, ensuring some humans have
more rights and respect than others.
Dr Dylan Kerrigan is an anthropolo-
gist at UWI, St Augustine
B C A
A A A
Dr Dylan Kerrigan
Invasion of Invaders Bay
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Indian High Commissioner
insulted at Piarco
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Change the rules
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