Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 12th 2014 Contents A12
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, February 12, 2014
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The standout issue at the first
public meeting of the Constitu-
tional Reform Commission s
new round of consultations was
the failure to address rights and
legal protection for the LGBT
(lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgen-
It was an issue raised by several
stakeholders from diverse back-
grounds, including those within
the LGBT community and out-
side, social activists, churchgoers
and ordinary members of the
public on Monday night at the
University of the West Indies'
Sports and Physical Education
Centre, St Augustine.
The meeting, hosted by radio
talk show host Errol Fabien, and
chaired by Prakash Ramadhar,
Minister of Legal Affairs, was not
a Q&A session but rather a forum
to hear the views of citizens.
The floor was opened up to the
public who were each allowed
five minutes on the microphone
in their first chance to tell the
commission what they thought
of the draft report published on
In an impassioned address,
Colin Robinson, executive director
of CAISO (Coalition Advocating
for Inclusion of Sexual Orienta-
tion), said he felt pride that the
draft document had addressed
the issue of sexual orientation,
but shame that "such an august
body that understood so clearly
these issues would then recognise
that simply because some people
do not understand the issues, cit-
izens like me should continue to
be denied the protection afforded
to those people."
Page 12 of the draft report
addresses LGBT rights, noting
there is "a high level of violence
and abuse" directed against gay
people and that "proposals were
made that persons should not be
fired from their jobs or excluded
from employment on the basis
of their sexual orientation."
The report, however, stops well
short of enshrining full consti-
tutional protection to the gay
community, despite demonstrat-
ing awareness of the seriousness
of the discrimination.
It states: "The commission
recognised how divisive these
issues were in competing schools
of thought," and that as a result
"sexual orientation and same-sex
unions ought to be made the sub-
ject of further national discussion
in the context of public policy."
Robinson described his "heart-
break" that the commission
understood the issues so clearly
and yet was unwilling to do any-
thing about it.
He said young LGBT people in
T&T, as well as those who lacked
the support of family and friends,
would feel an even profounder
sense of shame and disappoint-
ment when reading the report.
Another speaker, referring to a
national poll taken in 2013 in
In a December 2012 letter published in the T&T Guardian,
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said her
Government were giving the issues due consideration.
"I do not support discrimination in any form against any
individual, regardless of their gender identity or sexual
orientation. I share (the) view that the stigmatisation of
homosexuality in T&T is a matter which must be addressed
on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every
individual is entitled under international law," she wrote.
Nothing has emerged since that show of support and
many within the LGBT community and outside it voiced their
dissatisfaction with the Government's inertia.
which just 15 per cent of the popu-
lation said they agreed with discrim-
ination against gays, said that sug-
gested there was in fact consensus on
He reminded the commission that
the PNM's draft policy on gender in
2004 stated there would be further
"Here we are, ten years later, dis-
cussing it some more. I just wonder
how long we will continue discussing
the matter," he added.
An eloquent contributer from the
floor ended by saying: "The idea that
we need to wait on consensus before
active leadership is taken on this issue
is repugnant to justice and supports
the notion that rights can be held
hostage to the prejudices of other peo-
ple until those prejudices change.
"What the LGBT community in
T&T needs is very firm recommen-
dations that do not facilitate the kind
of political cowardice exhibited by the
T&T Government in avoiding lead-
ership on the issue of LGBT discrim-
Gay rights in spotlight at reform forum
A group of deaf and hearing-impaired people had the discussion signed
to them by an interpreter. One deaf man stood and signed his response,
which was read out by the interpreter. He said there was "nothing in the
document about people with disabilities" and that deaf and blind people
had waited long enough for equal rights.
First Peoples' rights
Roger Belix said the document was an "insult" to the First Peoples,
who were "excluded in every part of our country, even the rights to land,"
and contravened a UN ruling on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Elected President and Speaker of the House
Reginald Vidale, chairman of the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Committee,
said the election of the President and the Speaker of the House should
take the form of a national election and they should be "elected by the
people, not just by a few."
Right of recall for MPs
Vidale also told the commission that recall must be a constituent-led
mechanism not Parliament-led. He was the only member of the public to
meetings will be held as
part of the national
consultation, open to all
who wish to attend
today at the Chaguanas
February 17 at Signal Hill
Tobago and February 19
at Paria Suites Hotel, La
OTHER ISSUES BROUGHT UP
THE LGBT ISSUE
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