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7 February, 2011

Another step in the region towards bodily freedom, in Belize

Why do modern independent Caribbean states, where people have fought for centuries to free our bodies from enslavement, indentureship, control by our husbands, exploitation of our labour, colonial subjection, sexual harassment and prohibtions on dancing still defend laws that say that adults cannot use our bodies in mutually consenting ways with each other sexually in private? Why are only certain forms of sex between consenting adults against the law? Why aren’t other forms of sex, which are just as “unusual”? Or others that are unlikely to produce children, simply pleasure? Why are eating pork and beef and wearing headcoverings and extramarital sex not the subject of our secular laws, but homosexuality is?

Why would anyone committed to liberty deny someone of maturity control over her or his body and sexuality?

Although in many jurisdictions our laws against private sex are only occasionally enforced, they remain on the books and serve to legitimate violence, discrimination and stigma against gay men and lesbians whom they render “unapprehended felons”, as a South African jurist quoted in a judgment overturning that country’s sodomy laws. And their enforcement is technically just one election, or even one enterprising police officer, away.

The first constitutional challenge to the region’s colonially derived laws against sexual activity between consenting adults has been filed, in Belize, targeting a law against “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, which in common law means anal sex.

Many of our regional Independence constitutions, through “savings clauses”, hold immune from constitutional challenge any of these archaic laws (like others which PNM MP Colm Imbert mocked recently in Parliament that address wounding pigeons, bathing in the Maraval River and hanging clothes out to dry in the front of a shop) that were  put in force in colonial times; these savings clauses in effect say the colonizers knew best. Belize’s constitution limited that period of immunity to five years. Trinidad & Tobago preserved our savings clause through our 1976 Republican constitution, and in a number of more recent proposals for constitutional “reform”.

We wish our Belizean GLBT counterparts, the community organizers there, and their visionary legal advocates the best success with this landmark lawsuit; and we hope their bravery and jurisprudence will benefit the region as a whole.

Statutory penalties in the Caribbean for consensual sexual activity between two adult human beings; and the most recent date of the law’s enactment
Antigua & Barbuda 1995 15 years sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person
5 years an act, other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire (unless committed in private between a husband and his wife; or a male person and a female person)
Bahamas 1991 20 years any adult male who has sexual intercourse, in a public place
20 years any female adult who has sexual intercourse, in a public place
Barbados 2002 life buggery
10 years an act, whether natural or unnatural by a person involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire, on or towards another or inciting another to commit that act with the person or with another person
Belize 2000 10 years carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person
Dominica 1998 10 years; psychiatric hospitalization for treatment at the discretion of the Court sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person
4 years; psychiatric hospitalization for treatment at the discretion of the Court attempt to commit sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person
5 years an act other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural) by a person involving the use of genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire (unless committed in private between an adult male person and an adult female person)
Grenada 1958 10 years unnatural connexion
Guyana 1893 life buggery with a human being
10 years attempts to commit buggery
2 years any male person, who in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission, or procures or attempts to procure the commission, by any male person, of an act of gross indecency with any other male person
Jamaica 1864 up to 10 years hard labour the abominable crime of buggery with mankind
up to 7 years, with or without hard labour attempt to commit the said abominable crime
up to 2 years, with or without hard labour any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person
St. Kitts-Nevis 1990 up to 10 years, with or without hard labour the abominable crime of buggery
up to 4 years, with or without hard labour attempt to commit the said abominable crime
St. Lucia 2005 5 years; psychiatric hospitalization for treatment at the discretion of the Court attempt to commit sexual intercourse per anus by a male person with a male or by a male person with a female person
10 years (5 years on summary conviction) an act other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural) by a person involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire (unless committed in private between an adult male person and an adult female person)
St. Vincent & the Grenadines 1990 10 years commit buggery with any other person; permit any person to commit buggery with him or her
5 years commit an act of gross indecency, in public or private, with another person of the same sex, or procure or attempt to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her
Trinidad & Tobago 1986 25 years sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person
5 years an act, other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire (unless in private between a husband and his wife; or a male person and a female person)

4 July, 2010

J-FLAG stands up to CARICOM

Earlier today, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) mounted a “Stand Up to CARICOM” across from the entrance to the Hilton Rose Hall Resort, Montego Bay, site of the 31st CARICOM Heads of Government meeting, “because of the continued presence of anti-buggery laws in 11 of the 14 member states in CARICOM which contribute to discrimination, marginalization and other serious human rights violations of CARICOM citizens”. Members of the group bore placards calling for the immediate repeal of such laws and the full integration of LGBTI citizens into the CARICOM family”. The peaceful protest lasted 17 minutes before police professionallly asked the group to relocate due to security concerns.

23 March, 2010

Sexual rights: protection of sexuality as something good, natural, precious, essential – at the core of human expression…human freedom…human community

“Too often denied and too long neglected, sexual rights deserve our attention and priority. It is time to respect them. It is time to demand them.” – Jacqueline Sharpe, IPPF President

Nine-month-old CAISO was invited by our partner, the 53-year-old Family Planning Association of Trinidad & Tobago (FPATT), to be part of the first Caribbean region launch of Sexual Rights: An IPPF Declaration, a powerful new international human rights document developed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, under the leadership of FPATT’s President Dr. Jacqueline Sharpe.
UNIFEM, UNFPA and IPPF representatives joined CAISO as speakers at the March 22 forum at the Hyatt, and distinguished guests included former First Lady Zalayhar Hassanali, Minister of Social Development Dr. Amery Browne, Opposition Senator Verna St. Rose-Greaves, University of the West Indies-St. Augustine School for Graduate Studies & Research Campus Coordinator Prof. Patricia Mohammed, and several of CAISO’s NGO and government partners, including ASPIRE, CCNAPC, Friends for Life and PANCAP.
It was a wonderful experience of coalition and celebration around the forward-thinking and thoughtfully crafted vision of sexual rights that the Declaration advances. It is a bold and thorough tool that employs human rights to advance sexual autonomy, dignity and pleasure free from discrimination, and to strengthen protections from sexual violation and vulnerability. The 32-page page document is available for download in English and 2o other languages, as are an abridged version and a pocket guide in English. It articulates seven broad principles of sexual rights: sexuality as an integral part of personhood; the balance between the guarantee of protection of the rights of children and their “evolving capacity” to exercise rights on their own behalf; the core role of non-discrimination in human rights; the separability of pleasure from reproduction; the critical role of protection from harm; the relationship of individual rights to the rights of others, and limits on their limitation; and the State’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill sexual rights and freedoms. And it enumerates ten core clusters of sexual rights: equality and equal protection; participation; life, liberty, security and bodily integrity; privacy; autonomy; health; education; choice regarding marriage and reproduction; redress; and a tenth, which CAISO organizer Colin Robinson was asked to reflect on:

Respecting the Right to Freedom of Thought, Opinion and Expression of One’s Sexuality.

https://vimeo.com/41121522 w=727&h=409

These images have repeatedly landed in my e-mail inbox over the past two years, persistently labelled “Gay beating in Laventille”. The tone of the multiple senders who have received them before me (you know those e-mail forwards go…) is usually one of alarm. But occasionally I detect a hint of satisfaction or righteousness.

The images are of a real incident that happened on April 27, 2007. But not in Laventille. In Falmouth, a town a few miles from Usain Bolt’s birthplace in Trelawny, Jamaica. And you breathe a sigh of relief: Oh, Jamaica!

I am honoured that CAISO and I have been asked to join with all of you today in celebrating this wonderful international document, developed under Trinidad & Tobago and Dr. Jacqui Sharpe’s leadership of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, a document which affirms our shared values and beliefs about humanity and sexuality.

I am proud to live in Trinidad and Tobago, and to be part of this wonderful legacy: Of a 53-year-old Family Planning and sexual health movement. Of a feminist movement that has demonstrated leadership on gender and sexuality issues not just for women but for men and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

I am proud that none of our teenagers were detained last year and put to death by the state after having had homosexual sex, as has happened in Iran. Although, how many teenagers in Cocorite or Ste. Madeleine, D’Abadie or Rockley Vale are isolated, bullied and beat up and taunted every day at school? Or robbed as they make their way home through their neighbourhoods? Because they are seen as gay, regardless to what their actual sexual orientation or experience may be. How many of them have tried to kill themselves? This is what we fight against when we fight together for sexual rights.

I am proud that no one I know of is in hiding from the Islamic police, like one woman in oil-rich Nigeria, threatened with being hauled before a sharia court for lesbianism, and sentenced to stoning. But I can turn on Isaac and other radio stations any day and hear calls from fundamentalist faith leaders for the state to inflict such Biblical and Koranic punishments on people who have sex in private. This is what we fight against when we fight together for sexual rights.

I am proud that we have a forward-thinking Chief Justice willing to stand up to the executive, and who leads a largely independent judiciary – the very conditions in India that led last year to the overturn (in a case defended by their Government) of the use of Section 377, a colonial-era law that criminalises “unnatural sex”. One much like our own buggery law, which can send a man to jail for 25 years for having consensual anal sex, not onlywith a man, but also with a woman – in their own home. This is what our fight is about when we fight together for sexual rights.

I am proud that police will not sweep down on the Avenue tonight, as they have in Commonwealth member Cameroon, arrest the patrons of one of our not-at-all-secret gay clubs, ordering them to be anally examined for evidence of homosexual sex. Or will they, if we do not stand together and fight for sexual rights?


I was born one of Her Majesty’s subjects in the province of Trinidad and Tobago at the sunset of that brief and bright imaginary vision of association that was the West Indian Federation. Our nation of Trinidad and Tobago, now heading like me for 50, was forged in the fires of overcoming several forms of domination and repression: Colonialism, that says your land and decisionmaking do not belong to you. Imperialism, that says your resources do not belong to you and you do not think for yourself. Indentureship, that says your labour does not belong to you. And slavery, that says your body does not belong to you. And, as we know well from the history of miscegenation during slavery, when your body does not belong to you, neither do your sexuality nor your reproduction – they belong to the master.

Now that “massa day done”, we cannot replace massa with husbands; or political leaders; or the state; or laws and policies that say: yes you are free, but we will still tell you what you may do with your free body, with your sexuality, with your reproduction. That we decide from which forms of mental slavery you will emancipate yourselves, as Alissa Trotz wrote recently in Guyana’s Stabroek News, commenting on a constitutional suit by four brave Transgender citizens against a law against cross-dressing.

What is the point of a free body if it is not ours to enjoy and to share? of a free mind if we are not free to engage in fantasy and desire? of the lack of bondage if we are not free to come together in ways limited only by imagination, technology, the exercise of choice, and the rights of others. And, of course, by our age and maturity.

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17 February, 2010

Remembering our history (Know Your Country)

2010 feels like it will be a historic year. We began by looking forward. Now let’s take a look back. Know Your Country (gspottt’s ongoing effort to document and share a community history of GLBT T&T through monographs and memoirs by diverse Trinbagonians) opens the year with an excerpt of a memoir written for us shortly after CAISO formed by 1940s-born architect and art historian Geoffrey MacLean .

Governor Woodford

Governor Woodford

Historically Trinidad and Tobago has probably always had an active gay community – active in the sense that it has always been there. Its early colonial history is not known, but it can be assumed that it followed the British Victorian pattern – homosexuality was a “gentleman’s vice” that was enjoyed, but not spoken of. And lesbianism was likely considered a curiosity, eccentricity or for male voyeuristic enjoyment.

One of the earliest documents of this history is a reference (in Lionel Mordaunt Fraser’s 1896 History of Trinidad Vol 2: 1814-1839) to the British Governor of Trinidad, Sir Ralph Woodford, who reputedly surrounded himself with “pretty young men”. There have always been rumours about the dallying of our colonial administrators, not to mention their wives, up until Independence.

In the late 1920s, a group calling itself the Society of Trinidad Independents that promoted Trinidad and Tobago’s art and published The Beacon magazine, was noted for its tolerance toward the gay and lesbian

Hugh Stollmeyer (1912-1982) was one of the Independents. They advocated an end to class divisions, capitalism, racism, religious extremism and prejudice against homosexuality.

Hugh Stollmeyer (1912-1982) was one of the Independents. They advocated an end to class divisions, capitalism, racism, religious extremism and prejudice against homosexuality.

community, their leading members being homosexual. Made up of all ethnic and social groups, from French Creole to Black, the group was considered bohemian and condemned as immoral.  Preached against by the church, the Independents were forced by the late 1930s to abandon their outspoken views.

The occupation of Trinidad by American naval and military personnel during the Second World War fuelled the free spirit of both the heterosexual and homosexual seeking to make a living to survive. Our Carnival, of course, has always been an excuse to behave in a manner that on Ash Wednesday we can either forget – “I had too much to drink” is often an adequate excuse – or repent.

Throughout the twentieth century, most gay and lesbian interaction has been through private gatherings, but there has never been a shortage of bars that welcome the GLBT Community “after hours” or those that cater purely to them. In the 1970s and 1980s there was the “Grand Canyon” in Curepe, “Lote’s” on Oxford Street, “The Iron Pot” on Abercromby Street, “The Sidewalk” then “Metal House” on Wrightson Road, “Club Liquid” in Barataria and in the 1990s “After Dark” in St. James and then Corbeaux Town. The ramps of the law courts on Woodford Square, and Murray Street in Woodbrook were, and still are, used for the late night parading of transvestites. Most recently gay clubs have opened in San Fernando, Chaguanas, Arima, St. Augustine and Port of Spain. The popular nightspots, from “J.B.s” in the 1970s and “Just Friends” in the 1980s to “Base” in the 1990s, were gay friendly, and even today “Zen” and most of the bars on Ariapita Avenue welcome gay and lesbian patrons.

And the community knew where to “pick up” as well, Victoria Square in Port of Spain in the 1960s and 1970s being a favourite spot and where one could meet with male prostitutes, other “cruisers” and characters like “Stingy Brim” who would give you a free service.

The 1970s were a very active time with well-known and flamboyant characters within the community: John, Tom, Hal (otherwise known as “The Rocket”), “Carlota”, “Pongin’ Patsy” and several others.

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1 December, 2009

GLBTIQ Issues Make Inroads at Commonwealth Summit

For the first time at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, at CHOGM in Trinidad & Tobago, there was significant representation of GLBTQ (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/queer) activists among civil society participants, and a concerted effort to highlight issues of sexual citizenship and rights. A delegation of GLBTQ activists from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean participated actively in the thematic assembly discussions and drafting process in the November 22-25, 2009 Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF), a gathering of civil society organizations that meets in advance of, and sends a statement to, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Working in partnership with gender, disabilities and other human rights advocates, they achieved visibility for a number of key concerns, and won inclusion of these issues in the broad civil society agenda for the Commonwealth.

The issues cut a wide swath: repealing laws criminalizing non-normative sexualities and gender expression; preventing and prosecuting bias-related murders and violence, including punitive rape of Lesbians; ending discrimination in accessing health services; creating safety in the school system from violence and bullying; addressing the need for support and resources for parents; and developing training and sensitization for a range of public servants and service providers. Both scheduled speakers and participants from the floor made moving contributions related to human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Commonwealth member countries. Especially powerful speeches came from Ashily Dior, a Transgender activist from Trinidad; Canadian Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS Free World and former UN Special Envoy on HIV in Africa; and Robert Carr, director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. Together, contributors raised a comprehensive range of concerns in several of the assemblies, particularly those focused on Gender; Health, HIV and AIDS; and Human Rights.

The final Port of Spain Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting includes language calling on “Commonwealth Member States and Institutions” to “recognize and protect the human rights of all individuals without discrimination on the grounds of…sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression”; to “repeal legislation that leads to discrimination, such as the criminalisation of same sex sexual relationships”; and for “the Commonwealth Foundation to facilitate a technical review of such of laws”. Further, it issues a call for “Commonwealth Member States to ensure universal access to basic” health “services for marginalised and vulnerable groups”, including “sexual and gender minorities”, and to “work to actively remove and prevent the establishment of legislation which undermines evidence-based effective HIV prevention, treatment and care available to marginalised and vulnerable groups, such as sexual minorities”. Its Gender section includes a distinct item on “Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians” (“We call on Commonwealth Member States to include gender and sexuality as a specific theme on sexualities, sexual and gender minorities, related violence and discrimination, making them no longer invisible”) and echoes the recognition in the human rights section “that gender equity implies equality for all and therefore issues related to non-normative sexualities, such as sexual and gender minorities”.

The Statement also makes reference to proposed “Anti-Homosexuality” legislation introduced in the Parliament of Uganda, home of current CHOGM Chair President Yoweri Museveni. The legislation would require reporting of homosexuals, provide a sentence of life imprisonment for homosexual touching or sex, and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, if the offender is HIV-positive. In remarks in more than one CPF assembly and in a special press conference, Lewis, Carr and a representative of the Caribbean HIV & AIDS Alliance, spoke out forcefully against the legislation, asking Museveni to take a clear position on it, and calling on others to condemn it. The Trinidad & Tobago Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation joined these voices, asking its own Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who will assume the chairmanship of CHOGM, and other CARICOM leaders, to do the same.

Eighty-six countries in the world currently have legislation criminalizing same-sex conduct between consenting adults as well as other non normative sexual and gender behaviours and identities; half of them are Commonwealth member states. Criminal provisions in these countries may target same sex sexual conduct, men who have sex with men specifically, or more generally any sexual behaviour considered “unnatural”. Some countries criminalize other non normative behaviours, such as cross-dressing, or utilize criminal provisions on indecency or debauchery, among others, to target individuals on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. These criminal provisions not only constitute a violation of civil and political rights in and of themselves because they violate key provisions established by international human rights law; they also have significant human rights implications, representing a serious risk for the exercise of other fundamental rights, such as the right to association, the right to assembly, and the right to expression, the right to health, the principle of non discrimination, to mention a few. Furthermore, the mere existence of these laws is in many countries is an avenue for other human rights violations by state and non-state actors.

We acknowledge and welcome the civil society consensus on the above mentioned issues, and call on Commonwealth member states, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth People’s Forum.

You can access the Port of Spain Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 25 November at: http://www.commonwealthfoundation.com/governancedemocracy/CPF2009/NewPublicationsCPF/

·     Alternative Law Forum (ALF) – India
·     Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG)  – Ghana

·     Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) – Trinidad & Tobago
·     Gay and Lesbian coalition of Kenya (GALCK) – Kenya
·     GrenCHAP – Grenada
·     Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays – (J-FLAG) – Jamaica
·     Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS) – Malaysia
·     Lesbians and Gays Bisexuals Botswana (LEGABIBO) – Botswana
·     People Like Us (PLU) – Singapore
·     Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) – Guyana
·     The Independent Project (TIP) – Nigeria
·     United and Strong – St. Lucia
·     United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) – Belize
·     United Gays and Lesbians against AIDS Barbados (UGLAAB) – Barbados
·     Global Rights
·     International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

Links:

Human Rights Defenders Look to the Commonwealth

Mia Quetzel on Caribbean Transgender Issues

“Law to protect gays, lesbians”, Barbados Nation, 26 November 2009: Minister of Family, Youth and Sports Esther Byer-Suckoo promises domestic violence protections the day after participating in the Comonwealth People’s Forum

Fridae: Letter from Trinidad

LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth

Can’t Every Body Be a Commonwealth Citizen? Making Safe Space for Sexuality on the People’s Forum Agenda

Taking responsibility for creating spaces at CPF for discussion and action on questions of sexuality, gender and development

26 November, 2009

The gayest CHOGM ever: join the conversation!

A Conversation on the Commonwealth and LGBTI Advocacy:
sharing experiences and discussing strategies

generously supported by Arcus Foundation, UWI-St. Augustine Institute of
International Relations, and individual donors

Sunday November 29th, 2009
Classroom, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies-St. Augustine

9:00 Setting the Stage
Stefano Fabeni, Director, LGBTI Initiative, Global Rights
Marcelo Ferreyra, Latin America and Caribbean Coordinator, IGLHRC
Zaharadeen Gambo, Program Officer, Global Rights Nigeria
Colin Robinson, Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation, Trinidad & Tobago
Timothy M Shaw, PhD, Director, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies-St. Augustine

10.00 Decriminalizing Same-Sex Intimacy: first India, then Trinidad & Tobago?
Colin Robinson, CAISO, Trinidad and Tobago
Siddharth Narrain, Alternative Law Forum, India
Tracy Robinson, UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP), Cave Hill, Barbados

11.30 Coffee break (provided)

11.45 Sexual Citizenship in the Commonwealth: charting a civil society agenda
Zoe Ware, Royal Commonwealth Society
Robert Carr, Commonwealth HIV & AIDS Group (CHAAG)/Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)
Heather Collister, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Hassan Shire Sheikh, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

1.15 Lunch (provided)

2.00 Viewing of LGBTI advocates’ interview on TV6 CHOGM broadcast

4.00 Coffee break (provided)

4.15 Human Rights in the Commonwealth
David Kalete, Civil Society Liaison Manager, Commonwealth Secretariat
Clare Doube, Commonwealth Foundation & civil society consultation processes

Both days are free, catered and open to the public and the UWI community.
To reserve a meal, please RSVP to caisott@gmail.com

Monday November 30th, 2009
Conference Room, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social & Economic Studies (SALISES), UWI-St. Augustine

9.00 The Commonwealth of Nations: functions, opportunities, obstacles and allies
Stefano Fabeni, Global Rights

10.30 Coffee break (provided)

10.45 Framing an LGBTI advocacy strategy
Moderators: Marcelo Ferreyra & Zaharadeen Gambo

12.00 Conclusions

12.30 Lunch (provided) & Networking

Eighty-six countries in the world currently have legislation criminalizing same-sex conduct between consenting adults a well as other non normative sexual and gender behaviors and identities; half of them are member states of the Commonwealth. For the first time at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, at this week’s CHOGM in Trinidad & Tobago, there is significant gay, lesbian and transgender (GLT) representation among civil society participants, and a concerted effort to highlight issues of sexual citizenship and rights. Working in partnership with gender and disabilities advocates, GLT participants have already achieved visibility for a number of key GLT concerns, and won their inclusion on the broad civil society agenda for the Commonwealth.

Read more about the event:

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23 September, 2009

58% of Trinbagonians polled OPPOSE CONTINUED CRIMINALIZATION of homosexuality

Filed under: buggery,community voices,laws,media — caiso @ 14:57

To vote in future Guardian reader polls, visit their website home page. The poll appears towards the bottom of the rightmost column.

22 September, 2009

Lord, hear our prayer

In what some participants described in eager anticipation with terms like “This is our Stonewall” and “Today I’m proud to be Trinidadian”, last Friday evening about 50 Trans, lesbian, gay, bi and straight Trinbagonians, mostly laypeople but a few clergy from other denominations, were welcomed by one of the most senior officials of the Anglican church and one of its youngest woman priests into a church in Curepe. The two priests celebrated a mass targeted to GLBT people and their loved ones on the theme of peace, human rights and inclusion. It was a simple service. Its biggest stroke was the lip-synched performance of the offertory hymn. The sermon challenged GLBT people to not see our struggle as so unique, to hold on to and learn from similar struggles of Biblical characters like Esther, Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and to recognize that inclusion requires hard work and not just telling a victim story and expecting to get a bligh.

service 2

Following on a July conversation between clergy and GLBT laypeople about Biblical interpretation, faith community and reconciliation with the Church, it is one of the ways in which GLBT Trinbagonians are claiming our right to faith and partnering with those willing to practise a theology of inclusion to create safe spaces for us to worship and heal from the spiritual violence organized religion has inflicted on our lives. No demonstrations in Tamarind Square, no full-page paid ads in the Express, no foreign evangelists or donations, no grand statements by faith leaders, no letters to the editor to Pastor Cuffie. Just a small action step that proves that our nation is capable of “dealing” with sexual orientation, and that people of faith of all sexualities can work together to build faith communities of inclusion.

Here are the prayers that GLBT community members offered at the service:

As members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community and as children of God, we bow not only our heads but our hearts in prayer.

We pray that we will know that there is a place for each one of us in you. That you provide not only strength, hope and comfort but there is peace, security and safety in your loving arms. We pray that in our times of danger, in times when we feel that there is no one else there, that we will know that your love is non-judgemental, and in your eyes we are all your creation.

We especially pray for those among us who choose to cross-dress and be on the streets at night until the wee hours of the morning. We pray that you will keep them safe and in their times of terror that they will feel your strength.

We pray for those who have been cast out of their homes, those who have been victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. We pray that you keep them safe in a world that can be cruel, brutal and exploit their vulnerablities.

Above all, we pray that you rekindle a spirit of community within all of us, so that we can be our brother’s keepers.

In your name we pray. Amen

crop

Click to link to Cedriann Martin's TnT Times story

O Powerful, Wondrous and Loving God, who has overseen humans’ creation of law and order, hear our prayers.

Creator of all nations and all times, who manifests in so many different forms in this multicultural and multireligious land of ours, we call on you in our Christian traditions to fill the hearts and acts of all those who hold political, judicial and law enforcement power in Trinidad & Tobago with the compassion and simplicity of our New Covenant. May they govern with the sense Jesus Christ laid out two thousand years ago, long before our young nation was born, that the core of justice is not the retribution of the Old Testament but the redemption and reconciliation of the New.

In the spirit of Christ’s words, similarly recounted in the Gospel by his disciple Matthew – “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” – keep our leaders firmly on a path that separates their administration of secular justice from the judgments that are only yours, o God, to make.

O Jesus, who called out hypocrites and ran usurers from your father’s temple, drive religious bigots and panderers and those who use your name falsely out of our courts and legislatures, ministries of government and state corporations.

We pray especially at this time for those officeholders whose work and vision touch our lives deeply: For Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Chief Secretary Orville London, Leader of the Opposition Basdeo Panday and Minority Leader Ashworth Jack. For Independent Senators Ali, Anisette, Baptiste-McKnight, Deosoran, Drayton, Merhair, Nicholson-Alfred, Ramkhelawan and Seetahal. For Minister of Social Development Amery Browne, Attorney General John Jeremie, Minister of National Security Martin Joseph, Minister of Gender Affairs Marlene McDonald and for Acting Chief of Police James Philbert and his force. For Ellis Clarke and others drafting our new constitution, for Chief Justice Ivor Archie and all judges and magistrates, especially newly appointed Appeals Court Justices Humphrey Stollmeyer, Gregory Smith and Rajendra Narine, and for high court judges Shafeyei Shah and Judith Jones. For the members of the Equal Opportunity Commission who will one day hear our complaints. We pray fervently for those who work to create safety for people of all genders and sexualities in this bloody country – that you will continue to bless them with integrity.

We pray for the bravery and effectiveness of the United Nations, the Organization of American States, members of all charter and treaty bodies, special rapporteurs, lawyers, advocates and all those who defend human rights and address conflict internationally, especially in places where we are persecuted in yours and other Gods’ names. We pray for safety and relief for those of us who seek asylum, and your grace and protection for those of us who are able to stand and fight.

In profound recognition that Jesus took on our humanity and of the lessons that this continues to teach us, we pray to more perfectly reflect your vision for the divinity of humankind in our own mortal commitment to ensure that no human whom God has created is alienated from the rights with which that humanity is automatically endowed.

Finally, with faith that nothing can keep us from the love of God, we pray sincerely for those who have in good faith enacted laws and rendered judgments that have violated our rights. We pray for former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, retired Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma, and for Justice Smith. We pray for the deceased colonial administrators who enacted our buggery laws, and for the members of the 1986 Parliament that enacted the gross indecency law. We pray that those among them who have entered into your kingdom and been enlightened by your grace may intercede with those still living to change their understanding of God’s wondrous purpose for sexuality and sexual diversity, so that the living may one day add their voices to our work to change policy and legislation, hearts and minds and to ensure the freedom and equality of gay, lesbian, bi and trans communities here on earth, as it is in heaven.

And we ask you to bless and keep us in that difficult work, until you welcome us into your kingdom, where we and all those who oppose our right to God’s love shall be equal in your sight, and all redeemed.

Lord, hear our prayer!

Prtz@EcuService(2)

Most Precious and Sanctifying Lord, we come before you this evening with humble hearts, seeking strength, wisdom and guidance.

For our community, that we may be open to accept ourselves for who we are. For our family and friends, that they would embrace us.

For society, that they would tolerate us and for the groups that make up our community; which seek to implement these, that you would continue to grant wisdom and courage.

Open their minds to new ideas, bless their hearts to positively contribute to our community and in turn to society as we appeal for peace, human rights and inclusion.

Continue walking with us Lord as seek to become closer to you. For in these times, whom can we turn to?

All this I ask, in no other name, but in the Most Precious Name of Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever.

Lord, hear us!

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17 September, 2009

Are we all citizens? Are we different, but are we equal?

Republic Day is coming up next week, and many of us are looking forward to a work week with two public holidays, some trying to figure out how to break biche Friday and make it a four-day weekend. But this annual period between August and September in which the country is draped in red, white and black bunting – between our celebration of 47 years of Independence and the 33rd anniversary of Trinidad & Tobago’s entry into full adulthood in the community of nations – provides us at gspottt with an opportunity to reflect on how well we’ve moved beyond the puberty of independence and taken up the local responsibility for our sovereignty and statehood that being a republic involves.

Are we growing up as a nation? We’ve raised that question here before. To help us examine it again, we turn to: CAISO’s friend Kennty Mitchell; one of our own members; disabilities advocate George Daniel; grandmother with HIV Catherine Williams; and activist/journalist Verna St. Rose-Greaves.

caisoOn her 2007 “Treeay” television show marking the 45th anniversary of Independence, Verna looked back at herself standing in Woodford Square in 1962 with her parents, “waving my little red, white and black, feeling my chest full as if it would burst, so proud I was of my country”. Though “much older and much more in love with my country”, she laments that, despite the diversity and richness of our beauty, culture and “wealth…that can take care of all of our citizens”, we still “have citizens who live in constant fear, citizens who are discriminated against, who are marginalized, who are beaten, who are spat upon, who are kicked, who are treated worse than animals”.

Through a long live interview with Mitchell, interwoven with taped segments from Daniel, Williams and the young gay man, she issues an invitation to viewers “to remember a time when you were discriminated against, to remember how you felt, to remember what it did to you, how it stayed with you, how did you react”, and helps us contemplate: Are we all citizens? Are we different; but are we equal? “Are you all organized? … You need to be organized,” she also urges.

Click here to watch Part 1

(Apologies! We’ve now fixed the link above. Next time, please let us know.)

Click here to watch Part 2

Video courtesy Gayelle TV.

13 August, 2009

The law is an up my ass

Filed under: buggery,laws — caiso @ 11:00
  • Under Trinidad & Tobago’s Sexual Offences Act, anal intercourse between a man and a man or a man and a woman who are both adults, whether consensual or not, is punishable by 25 years in jail. A person convicted is required to be tested for HIV and other communicable diseases, and the Court notified of the result.
  • The Immigration Act prohibits entry of prostitutes, homosexuals, persons living on their earnings, persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes, and “persons who are reasonably suspected of attempting to bring into Trinidad and Tobago or of procuring prostitutes or other persons for the purpose of prostitution or homosexual or other immoral purposes”. This exclusion does not apply to citizens and residents.
  • All non-heterosexual sex is criminalized under the Sexual Offences Act. Pleasurable use of the genitals is punishable as “serious indecency”, worth five years in jail, except if it’s done between a man and a woman, both over 16, in private (or between a husband and wife, e.g., if she’s under 16 under the Hindu or Muslim marriage laws).
  • Anyone convicted of a sexual offence (whether the activity was consensual or not) is subject to sexual offender notification requirements for at least five years after sentencing, regardless to time spent in jail. This involves reporting your name and home address to the police station for that area (where it is recorded in a register) on sentencing and every time you move.

Text of laws below:

(more…)

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