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21 May, 2011

It’s a matter of how you ask the question

Filed under: government/politics,human rights,Social Development,UWI — caiso @ 01:13

Any good pollster knows it’s a matter of how you ask the question.

When asked in a 2009 survey if they “support equal rights for gays/lesbians/ homosexuals”, half of Trinbs picked “Totally Unsupportive” over other options. Instead of defining “homosexuals” for the respondents, perhaps the pollsters needed to define “equal rights”. It’s very doubtful there was much unanimity to respondents’ notions of what that phrase means.

Findings were launched May 10 from a landmark “exploratory” “Survey on the Degree of Conformity to Norms and Values in Trinidad & Tobago” commissioned by the Government’s Ministry of the People and Social Development in 2009, and conducted by the UWI-St. Augustine ANSA McAl Psychological Research Centre, under the supervision of Derek Chadee. One of the study’s 15 areas of interest was “perceptions on homosexuality”, because “the prevalence of this lifestyle is no longer an issue that can be ignored nor hidden as its portrayal in the media is easily seen and accessed.”

“Homosexuality once defined as deviant behaviour is now being seen by many as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. This transitionary period between deviance to acceptable normative is also facilitated by the media and laws. However, the major theologies have all spoken against homosexual behaviours. The contradiction between political correctness and acceptance of homosexuals as well as religious condemnation of such behaviour creates dissonance which the majority of the population may have. These inconsistencies between rational/legalistic action and traditional action need to be resolved if possible to reduce not only psychological tension but the discriminatory behaviour that can arise from stereotyping.”

The study’s “final sample consisted of 1,988 respondents in Trinidad and 319 respondents in Tobago” 15 years or older. A “proportionate stratified random sampling” “across administrative areas in Trinidad and parishes in Tobago” “utilizing the cluster method” was employed. The instrument was administered from May 22 to June 22, 2009. The 392-page report is being made available to the public in six PDF volumes.

IDAHO interviews at the Waterfront Plaza

Two questions on homosexuality were asked:

  • To what extent do you support equal rights for gays/ lesbians/ homosexuals? (using a five-point Likert scale)
  • Would you go out liming with someone whom you knew was gay/lesbian or homosexual? (No Yes: female only Yes: male only Yes: both)

69% of respondents were unsupportive of equal rights. Support ranged from 15% of primary-educated to 41% of tertiary-educated respondents; and from 21% of those with incomes under $2,000 to 37% of those earning $10,000 and more. Support decreased slightly with age, but showed little sex difference. Tobago showed less support across sex, age, education and income: overall 86% of respondents did not support equal rights.

Leeron Brummell, TV6 • Verdel Bishop, Newsday

Almost equal numbers would lime with someone gay or lesbian as wouldn’t; 37% said yes they would without differentiation as to whether it was a gay man or a lesbian; another 10% would with only one sex. Men were more likely to restrict their answers by sex than women. Responses trended with sex, age and income: 65% of primary-educated respondents and 53% percent of those earning under $2,000 would not lime with a gay/lesbian person; 53% of those with tertiary education and 50% of earners of $10,000 and over would lime with a gay person of either sex. Equal numbers of teenagers (15-18) said they would not lime with gay people as said they would lime with a gay person of either sex; 60% of those over 56 said they would not lime with gay people. Numbers who said they would lime with gays of either sex were quite similar across age.

First of all, it’s impressive that the Ministry is interested in attitudes to homosexuality; and notable that the poll was commissioned by the last government. Our colleagues in Barbados at the Rights Advocacy Project at the UWI Faculty of Law recently commissioned a fascinating poll on the death penalty which was cited in the House debates in February. While the headlines made much of the 91% support for capital punishment, what the poll also showed was that:

.

  • while Trinidadians are in favour of the death penalty by a large majority, only a minority, close to a quarter, favour the death penalty being mandatory for all murders whatever the circumstances. And when faced with scenarios of murder cases the proportion of the…persons interviewed who thought that the death penalty was the appropriate punishment for all these crimes was only 1 in 5.
  • In only a tiny number of instances (1.3%) did these Trinidadians give as one of their reasons that it might have a general deterrent effect on others who might consider committing a murder.
  • The high level of general support for the death penalty was contingent on it being enforced with no possibility that an innocent person could be executed. If this should happen only 35% of those interviewed would continue to support capital punishment.
  • Trinidadians favour a discretionary death penalty…a majority of persons interviewed did not support the use of the death penalty in all cases involving violent robbery or drug/gang killing, preferring to take into account mitigating factors

“Most pollsters ask crude questions which will leave you with results that miss the nuance… until you ask them more specific questions”, one UWI lecturer told us.

Let’s search for more nuance in what Trinbs think about homosexuality!!

The study findings were cited in a powerful editorial on gay rights the Express newspaper wrote in response to our visits, pictured above, to 16 government ministries to mark the International Day Against Homophobia. Their take, though, was that “change in attitude…will not happen by itself, just as racism didn’t become objectionable without active measures taken by various individuals and groups to battle bigotry” which include “leaders in all spheres, but particularly in religion…the People’s Partnership administration, and the Parliament”, who must “turn the page on past obscurantist and homophobic attitudes and prejudices, and have the laws appropriately reflect progressive approaches of the present and future.”

The Ministry-commissioned study itself recommends:

The potential for discriminatory behaviour towards homosexuals is extremely high and the necessary legal framework should be put in place to protect this group. Legislation alone would not change attitudes and, therefore, integrative approaches should be considered. The challenge of communicating with institutions that have strong philosophies against homosexuality will need to be addressed in attempting to reduce discrimination.

Take a look at the Homosexuality section of the study for yourself, pp. 156-164. Or browse the brochure produced by the Ministry’s Social Investigations Division (now at cor. Duke & St. Vincent Sts.)

13 January, 2011

Who will protect you?

Feeling safe?

“Trinidad and Tobago hardly seems a likely battleground for America’s culture wars,” a Georgetown University professor wrote for the Washington Post/Newsweek recently.

“But recent months have seen a drama there involving visits by American pastors with an anti-gay agenda…[and] a response by locally based rights groups…The story begins with announcements of a planned visit by American pastors sent by His Way Out Ministries…a group based in Bakersfield, Calif. … As reported in a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper, the visit’s purpose was pretty clear: ‘Local Christian groups…have declared war on the issue of same-sex attractions…

“a local group, CAISO…were especially concerned by…plans to target young people with an anti-gay agenda. …CAISO was aware of the devastating impact U.S. evangelical groups had in Uganda, where a legislator proposed an anti-gay bill imposing the death penalty for some forms of gay sex…Trying to prevent the HWO visit seemed unwise and probably futile. CAISO alerted public health, HIV, and youth welfare officials to their concerns about the likely damage the visit could do to sexuality education and the effort to combat stigma and discrimination. They challenged leaders to stand up.”

So we did in fact:

And here’s how our Ministry of the People & Social Development – the one where the Prime Minister pledged “any interest group who believes their legitimate cause is not being heard by the relevant authorities” and “feel their needs and pleas for help are being overlooked or ignored by the authorities” can “take their grievances and be heard” – responded. We thought you wouldn’t believe it unless you read it in their own words.

Well, at least they didn’t say the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would protect us. They abstainedtwice – on the issue of whether people at heightened risk of murder, assassination or execution because of their sexual orientation deserved mention in a United Nations human rights resolution a few weeks ago. We’ll put theirs up here too when they write us another letter saying why our Government won’t protect us.

It’s a challenging year ahead educating our clueless leaders about young people’s vulnerability to homophobia and GLBT people’s vulnerability to violence. We’ll need your earnest support.

17 April, 2010

6 in 6: What CAISO wants a new government to do by Nov. 25, 2010

6 in 6
Six Suggested Policy and Leadership Steps
on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
for a New Trinidad & Tobago Government
to take in its First Half-Year in Office

CAISO is sharing this platform, and seeking meetings, with all of the parties likely to be part of the new Parliament after the May 24th election. We are also asking them to commit to voting to add sexual orientation to the Equal Opportunity Act, whether they form the majority in Parliament or not. This is a living document that we are continuing to revise in response to your feedback. Help build and amend the platform. Are these your top six issues? What would you add/change? If you are Lesbian, bi or Trans, what’s your top “to-do” for a new Government? Post a comment or email us at caisott@gmail.com.

PRINCIPAL STEPS

1. LEADERSHIP. The Prime Minister and the Attorney General should speak out forcefully early in the life of the new Government to embrace the full citizenship and humanity of Trinbagonians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT). Send a clear message to the GLBT community that they enjoy the full protection of the Government and that they deserve and have equal access to Government services and support, according to their needs. Also send a strong leadership message to public servants, unions, corporations and individuals that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Trinidad & Tobago is inhumane and wrong:

  • that the Constitution protects persons against discrimination by the State, and
  • that discrimination and stigma of any kind on the part of State entities and their employees is an offence that Government takes seriously and will respond to with prompt action, including corrective and disciplinary measures.

Throughout its term, the Government may further evidence its leadership on these issues through visible consultation with accountable representatives of the GLBT community; and the hire of qualified persons knowledgeable about GLBT community interests to policy roles in the Office of the Prime Minister and other relevant Government units.

Kee-Chanona Ltd.

2. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. As a key and principal initiative to effect the protection of GLBT persons from discrimination and violence (consistent with the State’s existing commitments under Organization of American States General Assembly Resolutions 2504 of 2009 and 2435 of 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity), the Attorney General must take prompt steps to draft legislation in consultation with affected communities, and to introduce and shepherd its passage in the Parliament. Such legislation should at minimum reflect the addition of protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender/gender identity to §3 of the existing Equal Opportunity Act.

Throughout its term, the Government may work further to build a strong culture of recognition and protection of minority rights, including sexual rights (as outlined in Sexual Rights: an IPPF Declaration and through the Yogyakarta Principles) by strengthening the machinery and funding for the Equal Opportunity Commission. In the immediate wake of the election, the Government may also move promptly to signal its strong commitment to anti- discrimination through the simultaneous addition of several protected statuses to the EOA, including political affiliation, sexual orientation and gender/gender identity.

ADDITIONAL STEPS

(one each for four key Ministries)

T&T Police Service

3. CRIME. The Ministry of National Security and the Commissioners of Police and Prisons may take leadership action and institute training across the protective services to ensure that officers understand sexual orientation and gender identity, and respect and protect the right to equal access to justice, safety and security of person for GLBT people. The Police Service must provide a level of stigma-free responsiveness to GLBT people that is equal to the quality of protection provided to the general public, especially in the case of victims of bias-related or opportunistic crime that is related to their sexuality or identity.

Reparative measures, including marketing efforts and designation of community officers, may be taken to counter GLBT fears of similar prejudice at the hands of the police as they encounter from attackers. Throughout the Government’s term, the Ministry may work: to more diligently investigate and prosecute well-known patterns of syndicated crime targeting gay men; to ensure murderers of GLBT people receive justice, especially in cases where an unwelcome sexual advance is used as a defence; and to ensure that comprehensive prison reform measures provide strong protections from sexual abuse.

tkon04, panoramio.com

4. HOMELESSNESS. The Ministry of Social Development may pilot a small initiative to provide a bridge to self-sufficiency and a meaningful alternative to sex work for a uniquely vulnerable population – young persons (some minors, some adults) made homeless and unemployed by stigma and discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. These young people have critical housing, health, emotional, training and developmental needs; and a troubling number of them have been victims of sexual and physical abuse in their families and in group homes.

Such efforts may be implemented in partnership with the Ministries of Planning, Housing & the Environment and Science, Technology & Tertiary Education. Throughout the Government’s term, the Ministry may also: take measures to mainstream competence in understanding and responding to the needs of GLBT persons into its hiring criteria, training initiatives, performance assessment, management portfolio, and policy initiatives; undertake a review, leading to recommendations, of the best way to deliver effective services to GLBT persons, including GLBT persons living with HIV; and include in broad-based efforts to strengthen protections of children from abuse specific measures aimed at ending the culture of sexual abuse of boys at children’s homes.

5. GENDER POLICY. The Ministry of Community Development, Culture & Gender Affairs should establish and staff a Sexual Orientation/‌Gender Identity (SOGI) Desk, aimed at building Government capacity to develop sound policy and programming on SOGI issues by:

  • soliciting and accepting offers of technical assistance from other governments and intergovernmental bodies, (e.g. Brazil’s Federal Special Secretariat for Human Rights, CENESEX: Cuba’s Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual, the Sexual Diversity Practice at the United Nations Development Programme)
  • mainstreaming sensitivity and competence on SOGI issues into gender awareness and training initiatives across the Government
  • providing support to local tertiary institutions, other accomplished researchers and community gatekeepers to conduct demographic, policy and programme research on local GLBT issues
  • facilitating public debate on the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons, irrespective of sexual preference or orientation
  • including violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in the Ministry’s gender-based violence measures and initiatives; and mitigation of homophobia in the Ministry’s Defining Masculine Excellence programme.

All the above measures should be included in the final version of the National Policy on Gender and Development, including designation of GLBT persons as a Special Interest Group.

6. SAFE SCHOOLSThe Ministry of Education’s Student Support Services Division should partner with the Trinidad & Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association to develop the competence of all teachers and school administrators in the areas of youth sexual development, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Division needs to develop and implement effective interventions that pay specific attention to SOGI issues and recognise homophobia’s contribution to male underperformance. Such interventions should promote a culture of tolerance and diversity among students into adult citizenship, and foster school environments in which bullying based on gender expression and perceived sexual orientation cease.

Throughout the Government’s term, the Division may support school personnel in strengthening skills at effectively managing faith beliefs in a professional environment whose core ethical values are non-discrimination and student-centred development.

VOTE on
MAY 24

The Ministry of Social Development may pilot a small initiative to provide a bridge to self-sufficiency and a meaningful alternative to sex work for a uniquely vulnerable population – young persons (some minors, some adults) made homeless and unemployed by stigma and discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. These young people have critical housing, health, emotional, training and developmental needs; and a troubling number of them have been victims of sexual and physical abuse in their families and in group homes.Such efforts may be implemented in partnership with the Ministries of Planning, Housing & the Environment and Science, Technology & Tertiary Education. Throughout the Government’s term, the Ministry may also: take measures to mainstream competence in understanding and responding to the needs of GLBT persons into its hiring criteria, training initiatives, performance assessment, management portfolio, and policy initiatives; undertake a review, leading to recommendations, of the best way to deliver effective services to GLBT persons, including GLBT persons living with HIV; and include in broad-based efforts to strengthen protections of children from abuse specific measures aimed at ending the culture of sexual abuse of boys at children’s homes.