gspottt•t&t's triggersite for sogi passion & advocacy

1 August, 2009

Emancipation time?


Will GLBTs be heard at CHOGM?

Will GLBTs be heard at CHOGM?

On human rights for gays, T&T makes great promises abroad and breaks them at home. Will November’s Summit help bring gay rights home?

by Colin Robinson

We all remember the recent crackdown on citizens’ free speech and assembly in order to make the country safe for visiting foreign leaders during April’s OAS summit. And Prime Minister Manning in a rare appearance in the Senate in July said that the upcoming Commonwealth Summit would prevent the country from holding local government elections before November.

Are our leaders more focused on pappyshowing for an international audience than doing the right thing by us here at home? On the question of sexual orientation and human rights, that certainly seems to be the case.

In one of the steps that facilitated CAISO’s formation last month, at the end of 2007 Trinidad & Tobago became part of a hemispheric coalition of  NGOs working through the InterAmerican/OAS human rights system to strengthen the enjoyment of human rights and equality by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual and Tranvestite and Intersex (LGBTTTI) people. Mulabi in Buenos Aires serves as the Coalition’s Secretariat; and Global Rights in Washington DC is a key partner.

Look out for Angela's report on the trip, coming soon

Look out for Angela's report on the trip, coming soon

Local GLBT groups agreed to collaborate informally to maintain T&T’s seat in the coalition. So when we were invited to participate with 23 other NGOs from 16 countries in meetings around the Organization of American States (OAS) 39th General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras last month, Velvet Underground founder Angela Francis agreed to represent us.

In San Pedro Sula, the NGOs met with and lobbied countries’ representatives to the OAS. They were successful in getting the Assembly, including Trinidad & Tobago and every other country in the Caribbean, to unanimously adopt the following resolution:

20090611oas

R to L: Angela Francis, Namela Baynes-Henry (Guyana), OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza at the civil society dialogue in San Pedro Sula

AG/RES.  2504 (XXXIX-O/09) HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND GENDER IDENTITY (Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 4, 2009)

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

BEARING IN MIND resolution AG/RES.. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08), entitled “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity”;

REAFFIRMING:

That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status; and

That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;

CONSIDERING that the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;

REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights; TAKING NOTE of the Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presented to the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2008; and

NOTING WITH CONCERN acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, RESOLVES:

  1. To condemn acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  2. To urge states to ensure that acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.
  3. To urge states to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who work on the issue of acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  4. To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the other organs of the inter-American system to continue to pay sufficient attention to this issue.
  5. To reiterate its request for the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) to include on its agenda, before the fortieth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
  6. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its fortieth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.
Celebrating....prematurely?

Celebrating....prematurely? (Photos: sasod.org.gy)

In other words, at the beginning of June, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago stood up in front of all our fellow nations in the Americas and for the second time pledged with them to protect its citizens from violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Then they came home and at the end of the month bluntly refused to put this commitment into the National Gender Policy and Action Plan.

The second time? Yes: the 2009 resolution references a very similar resolution that Trinidad & Tobago also supported the year before, the first time in the history of the hemisphere that the words sexual orientation and gender identity appeared in an official document approved by the 34 countries of the Americas:

  • The Commonwealth summit in Port of Spain this November poses a fascinating opportunity for GLBT Trinbagonians. British Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant wants gay rights to be a focus of the meeting and of UK foreign policy. And across the Commonwealth, human rights lawyers and activists are strategizing together to bring an end to the buggery laws we all inherited from colonization. When India’s was overturned in the courts in early July, the question was: will Trinidad & Tobago be next? Click below to find out.

AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND GENDER IDENTITY (Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 3, 2008)

Chilean trans activist Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte

Chilean trans activist Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

REAFFIRMING:

That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status; and

That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;

CONSIDERING that the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;

REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights; and

NOTING WITH CONCERN acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,

RESOLVES:

  1. To express concern about acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  2. To instruct the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) to include on its agenda, before the thirty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
  3. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-ninth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.

The history of sexual orientation with respect to the Gender Policy is itself an interesting story. In 1991, Trinidad & Tobago agreed to join much of the rest of the international community advancing women’s rights by signing the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. The impetus for the creation of the current Gender Policy came in large part from the comments received when the Government and NGOs submitted the first reports to the international CEDAW Committee in 2002. The expert Committee pointed out several inconsistencies between our laws and policies and the provisions we agreed to in the Convention—one of which related to the deliberate exclusion from the recently enacted Equal Opportunity Act of protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Gender Policy was seen as a framework to “critically review existing legislation, inform new legislation and to heighten public awareness of gender related issues”.

Click here for more on the Gender Policy.

Chris Bryant wants UK embassies and CHOGM to do more to address gay rights

Chris Bryant wants UK missions, CHOGM to do more to address gay rights

The upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government summit Meeting (CHOGM) promises to pose a fascinating opportunity for GLBT Trinbagonians to take advantage of the country’s concern with its international reputation. The Summit brings together all the former British colonies, and the Queen will be in attendance.

For one, we still have on our books an immigration law that forbids entry to homosexuals. (Remember the Tobago pastors and Elton John?) And Chris Bryant, the new minister in the United Kingdom Foreign Office (a government minister and an ordained Anglican priest) is gay! Not only that, but he came out two weeks ago urging British High Commissions across the Commonwealth to make support for gay rights an integral part of how they pursue the human rights commitments of British foreign policy; and he called for gay rights to be addressed at the Summit.

Furthermore, across the Commonwealth, a network of human rights experts, lawyers and activists has been strategizing and working together to bring an end to the remaining colonial-era buggery laws we inherited from the mother country, one by one. When courts overturned Section 377 of India’s penal code on July 2, the question immediately arose: which country will be next? When will Trinidad & Tobago go? CAISO has started planning and looking for the right opportunity, the best approach and the best plaintiffs to bring a challenge.

Putting an end to punishing people for making love to each other in private, is a key part of completing the process of decolonization, making these laws go the way of the whole colonial package of bigotry and spite and control of people’s bodies, just like the Shouter Baptist Ordinance and the 1883 Music Ordinance banning drums during Carnival.

377. Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

377. Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

We’ll keep you posted on plans and actions for you to take part in related to the Summit.

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1 Comment »

  1. Best wishes strategizing. Look forward to next steps.

    Comment by kavir — 1 August, 2009 @ 15:43 | Reply


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