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

18 February, 2011

We don’t need debate on gay marriage, Mary King. We need Government action on violence and discrimination.

“No thank you!” CAISO has responded to Government’s proposal the day after Valentine’s Day for a national debate and referendum on same-sex marriage, made by Minister of Planning, Economic & Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs during Senate debate on the Statutory Authorities (Amendment) Bill. That legislation seeks to extend a death benefit available to public servants’ next of kin to the employees of statutory authorities. It goes further, to include in the potential beneficiaries common-law partners of unmarried employees and their children born out of wedlock – but restricts the benefit to only partners “of the opposite sex”. In floor debate, Government Senators defended on “religious” and “cultural” grounds their decision to recognize fornicators, but not sodomites.

Illustrating the circus such a proposed debate would be, Leader of Government Business in the Senate Subhas Panday, a Hindu, interrupted an Independent Senator, Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, as she criticized the bill for “entrenching” this discriminatory provision and bucking where the world was moving, by shouting a reference to an imaginary verse of Leviticus: 52. (Leviticus has only 27 chapters.) CAISO doesn’t trust that this debate proposal won’t simply take Trinidad & Tobago down the same path of national conflict and global embarrassment as Uganda, ironically as we too chair the Commonwealth of Nations. Holding a popular “referendum” (the word the Government used) on whether citizens who are a minority group have equal rights would also make the nation a laughingstock in the international community.

The proposal is a distraction, Government clearly isn’t listening, and has its priorities on GLBT issues wrong. CAISO has consistently given the Government six politically feasible national priorities for action; and same-sex unions or debate on them was never one. We’ve written the Prime Minister, and we met with Minister King early in the new administration to share these six items.

Three of them address responses to areas where social vulnerability is highest for members of the GLBT community, none requiring legislation or referenda:

We also advocated that Min. King build her own Ministry’s capacity to support the Government with planning, policy and programme development related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), through staffing, and government-to-government technical assistance; and we submitted an FY2011 citizen’s budget proposal for a SOGI desk in the Ministry.

Most important, we asked the Government to take action to protect us from the discrimination and violence we face on a daily basis because of who we are, discrimination that is fuelled when national leaders speak of us on television and radio from the chambers of Parliament, not as citizens who have sex in our bedrooms with other adults and party and form organizations and love each other and voted for them, but as people who are controversial and sensitive and connected to illegality and whose rights and relationships require debate.

The Equal Opportunity Act, a brainchild of the UNC Government, which has just entered its second decade, is an ideal vehicle to enact those discrimination protections. (The Catholic Commission on Social Justice, which opposed the 2004 Gender Policy, agrees that we ought to be so protected.) There is furthermore measurable national consensus in Trinidad & Tobago on protecting people from discrimination in basic walks of life, regardless to their sexuality. The Equal Opportunity Commission the Act established is also an ideal vehicle to take the national look at equality, sexual orientation and discrimination, and needed responses, that Min. King is concerned with – in a sober, deliberate and apolitical fashion. In the functions the Act assigns the Commission, it provides for it to review emerging questions of discrimination, conduct research and make recommendations.

In explaining why the Government had specifically excluded unmarried same-sex partners from the bill, Minister of Public Administration Sen. Rudrawatee Nan Gosine-Ramgoolam admitted she was not a legal expert but went ahead to conclude same-sex relations were illegal. As a result, she argued (before correcting herself), Government “can’t put the horse before the cart”. This seems sadly true. Protecting GLBT citizens from discrimination and violence is the political horse our Government should be riding, not flogging gay marriage.

Finally, CAISO has repeatedly asked the Government to exercise leadership and speak out boldly against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression, and we congratulated the Prime Minister because she did so at the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha just days after the election. She has also done so on HIV. We have also acknowledged the Government for its bipartisan work on strengthening the right to privacy.

Furthermore, we have persistently asked Government to listen and to consult, and offered our help and partnership with building a nation for everyone. But our Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CAISO the reason they abstained on two UN votes late last year was because Government does not have a position on whether gay people have a right to life. Young people are still being beaten by their families and bullied in school. Crime victims of anti-gay violence are taunted as bullers by police officers. A dozen 20-something-year-olds, many of whom have nowhere to go because of who they are and who are unsafe in the shelter, were recently charged for loitering. And our humanity is seen by the Government as in need of debate.

CAISO:

We salute Independent Senators James Armstrong, Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, and notably Helen Drayton who hammered away at the Government. They all assailed the restrictive common-law provision in the bill as antiquated and inconsistent with state obligations of equal treatment. And PNM Senators Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Terrence Deyalsingh showed welcome compassion on the issue. Sen. Beckles-Robinson, the Opposition Leader in the Senate, proposed to Government a modest amendment, which Sen. Panday rejected, that would have avoided enshrining in law new discriminatory language and simply have the bill reference the Cohabitational Relationships Act. What these Senators displayed was that many good people in Trinidad & Tobago of different political persuasions are more than ready to end the ways in which our laws and public policy discriminate unnecessarily against gay and lesbian people. They also displayed that those who do so are in the highest office, and that they are unafraid to speak out publicly. We also saw the sad display of how politicians who defend intolerance on religious grounds often can’t even cite the scriptures they are hiding their personal prejudice behind.

16 February, 2011 

Sen. Hon. Mary King
Minister of Planning, Economic & Social Restructuring & Gender Affairs
Level 14, Eric Williams Financial Complex
Independence Square, Port of Spain

Dear Minister King:

I am writing, in the wake of yesterday’s Senate debate on the Statutory Authorities (Amendment) bill, to ask you to meet again with me and other representatives of our Coalition at the earliest opportunity. We would like to discuss:

  • Government Senators’ conduct and remarks during the debate, including your own, and the damage we believe they risk doing to the cause of equality
  • the status of the community listening forum proposed in our July 8, 2010 meeting and discussions with you, MP Ramdial and other Government officials;
  • an alternative or complementary approach to the political referendum you proposed yesterday for achieving national engagement with human rights questions of sexual orientation, gender identity and discrimination, involving the Equal Opportunity Commission

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.

3 February, 2010

Is Carnival season…six tips for safety

Filed under: carnival,HIV,laws,online dating,TTAVP,violence — caiso @ 13:17

images courtesy Bohemia

Happy Carnival, family! Is winin season. Have real fun. But please do so safely. In blockin, in sexin, in drinkin, in drivin, in travellin, in leavin de party, in playin yuhself in public.

Welcome, too, to our foreign visitors. We’re proud of T&T’s reputation as the GLBT capital of the English-speaking Caribbean, where there’s no mob violence, little police harassment, a whole lot of social spaces, especially at Carnival, and certain people can walk down certain streets certain times in certain ways and not get bashed. But laws against homosexual sex are still on the books here (up to 25 years in jail, an HIV test, and listing in the sexual offender registry), even if they’re not usually used. And just like any other small place, public authorities and most police aren’t sympathetic to gay issues, individual attitudes vary, and you might be in trouble if you act “inappropriately”. So when you’re in public, pretend you’re in an ethnic or working class neighbourhood in your city; and listen to the natives.

Special warning: Over the past couple years an unacceptable number of us have found ourselves robbed, sometimes filmed in sexual poses, in some instances raped, and in a few cases killed by guys we met online, through A4A. These attacks were in people’s own homes as well as in strangers’ places, and not all were instant hookups. A few attacks have also happened as people left gay clubs. And Carnival is always a season of opportunity.

Unprotected – and unexpected – sex also happen quite a lot every Carnival. So make some plans. Guys: the chances the person you have sex with will be HIV+ are as high as 1 in 5; and he may not even know himself. You’ll find free condoms in most parties and events this season, but not necessarily lube and usually not dams. So walk with your stuff.

Here are six simple tips we hope you’ll remember throughout this season:

  • Talk about safety with each otherthink about safety for yourself
  • When you’re thirsty, sip
  • Start on the outside
  • Always tell somebody
  • If you get hurt, get help
  • Look out for each other

1. Talk about safety with each other. Think about safety for yourself. When you dress up, when you do up, when you do stuff, when you go out. Keep your friends safe. Just talk about it. Make safety a part of how you do Carnival.

2. When yuh tusty…Sip! When yuh real tusty is when you’s make de wuss decisions. So when yuh know yuh tusty, try an sip!

3. Start on the outside. If you are going to meet somebody you met online for the first time, consider doing so in a public place you are familiar with, where there are other people. Don’t agree to have them come to your residence, and don’t go to meet them somewhere strange. You can always decide to go somewhere else once things check out.

4. Always tell somebody. Make it a habit. Point out who you are leaving the party or the band with. Ask who knows them. Text somebody where you’re going. Text the licence plate. Call somebody to say you reached. Text to say you got back safely. Tell whoever you are going off with or you are going to meet that you have people who know who they are and where you are. Even if it’s not true. If they think you have nobody or that you’re ashamed to let anyone know, you become the best victim. If you really can’t tell anybody, make files: write the information down, text yourself.

5. If you become a victim, get help. Get medical care. If you’ve been raped, don’t hide it from the doctor. Ask for “PEP” (drugs that if administered quickly can prevent you from becoming HIV+). Talk and scream and cry about it with somebody you trust. Don’t suffer alone. Call the Carnival Safety Line at 857-7676 if you need to talk, you don’t know where to go for care, or if you’ve been mistreated by a service provider. We can’t answer 24/7, but we can call you back, we’ve helped other people, and we want to prevent people from getting hurt.

6. Look out for each other. Don’t abandon your friends. Encourage them to be responsible. But help them reach home safe when they don’t.

If you want to read more about ways to be safe, or suggest some: click here.

CAISO 2010: putting you at the centre

24 September, 2009

Garth John murdered

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Another member of our community, a legal professional and resident of Curepe, has died violently, stabbed to death repeatedly in his home by three assailants who then stole his car Wednesday night. We have no confirmation, but his meeting with one or more of the assailants is being widely rumoured as having been initiated on A4A.

Our condolences go out to all of his loved ones. Those we spoke with this evening remembered his generosity, self-acceptance, involvement in his neighbourhood, and passion for interior design.

The murder comes on the heels of those of Nirel Parks and Oral Brathwaite, and in the middle of an ongoing spate of internet dating-initiated violence and blackmail of community members, perpetrated in part by a ring of gay and non-gay assailants who are out on bail for one of these offences.

It’s beyond time to take stronger community action to prevent and address such violence, many community members are saying. Calls are also being raised about how we partner more effectively with victims’ families to fight together for justice and strengthen community commitment to safety. And about the need for our communities to undertake stronger partnership and advocacy with law enforcement on violence against us.

Look out for some action steps and community activities from CAISO and others soon. And tell us what YOU think our community and organizers should be doing.

Tell us as well how we can make the safety tips we posted on here two months ago more meaningful for you and those you know. Those tips have been visited by our readers fewer than 20 just about 35 times, as compared to our entries on murders and violence, which you have read over 700 1,200 times. Dating-related violence, though not the only form of violence targeting our community, appears to be the most common. And it is also a form of violence where our own prevention efforts can achieve significant success.

28 July, 2009

Recent murders & attacks

Filed under: courts,online dating,Oral Brathwaite,violence — caiso @ 18:30

Garth John, September 2009

Kolen Salandy & Rondell Thomas?, September 2009

27-year-old man on Cap-de-Ville Rd., Guapo, July 2009

“Rice”, July 2009

Dave Holder, May 2009

Oral Brathwaite, March 2009

Kendall “Bago” Nash, August 2008

Trevor Alexander, August 2008

Wendell Taylor, June 2008
(killed picking a fight with a gay man)

Lester Baptiste, April 2008

Diedre-Ann Layne, March 2008

Lester “Rampel” Diaz, December 2007

Allister “Big Joe” Joseph, December 2007

Sean Christopher Taylor, August 2006

Sean Luke, March 2006

Elias Thomas, February 2004

Christopher Rollock, January 2002

Frederick Wiltshire, March 2001

Do you have any updates or additional information in any of these cases?

Are there other people YOU know who’ve lost their lives or been injured because of sex or prejudice?


27 July, 2009

Dating site crimes against MSM in T&T raised with international human rights body

As we approach Emancipation Day, the international celebration of one of the biggest and longest human rights struggles ever, gspottt turns our attention, in a series of pieces over the next several days, to  questions of human rights.

Since late last year, GLBT groups in Trinidad & Tobago have deepened our participation in a coalition of 17 Latin American and Caribbean organizations and networks that since 2007 has been working on gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation issues in the Inter-American Human Rights system, in partnership with Global Rights, a human rights advocacy group in Washington DC. Next weekend we will update you on our participation in the OAS (Organization of American States) 39th General Assembly meeting in Honduras last month, and what the T&T Government promised to do there.

Through this Latin American coalition and another, Commonwealth-focused one, Trinidad & Tobago citizens and our organizations are part of ongoing collaborative efforts to advance human rights for GLBT people and address the ways in which the criminalization of same-sex intimacy in our laws violates those rights.

On October 24 of last year, the Latin American and Caribbean coalition was granted a hearing by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the first time in its history that the Commission (which has been in the news here of late) held a thematic hearing on human rights violations related to gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. The specific focus of the hearing was on the intersections between discrimination and violence based on gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation, and other forms of intolerance, namely those based on gender, age, socio-economic status and race/ethnicity.

The presentation to the Commission on the Anglophone Caribbean by human rights lawyer (and former T&T resident) Joel Simpson focused on the region’s sodomy laws and their impact on human rights. The violence many in the gay community here are aware  has happened, largely unchecked, to many local users of a well-known website was raised before this international forum in order to illustrate how in Trinidad & Tobago these laws prevent victims from seeking justice. The presentation also drew attention to the intersection between our sodomy laws and access to health.

T&T Police and Ministry of National Security officials had no response when the pattern of attacks was brought to their attention in January 2008. (more…)

21 July, 2009

Talk about safety with your friends!! Think about safety for yourself!!

Filed under: community organizing,online dating,TTAVP,violence — caiso @ 08:30
It seems like there’s been yet another gay date murder in Trinidad & Tobago. These dating safety guidelines, brought to you by the Trinidad & Tobago AntiViolence Project, are distilled from international groups’ and one focus group conducted locally. They aren’t perfect or complete (we’ve been trying to raise money to do so), and not all of them will make sense for everyone, but they’re a start.

Reports are going around about people in Trinidad & Tobago who have been taken advantage of by men they met online, including on popular sites like edis the no A4A. These stories involve people like us being murdered, carjacked, beaten, robbed, forced to have sex, filmed, and threatened with blackmail. Some of the attackers seem to be repeat offenders, and virtually none of the victims so far have been willing to report the crimes to the police, so many of the perpetrators are still active and on the site. Additionally, there have been reports of other serious crimes, including assault, robbery, rape and kidnapping, that happened to people outside clubs we go to.

“I don’t have a car. I travel. I met a lot of hot guys online. I largely avoid trouble through having rules that I always follow. My biggest rule is I stay my ass home and you know what when I am feeling real desperate or bazodie, because I found myself doing some really stupid things. I’m concerned about these crimes, though, and thinking about other things I can do to be safer.”

We are Anand and Harvey. One of us (we won’t say which) has been pretty successful with online hookups. One of us has been victimised. We can’t make choices for each other, or for you. But, as friends, we try to help each other make good choices, as a way of taking care of each other. Like us, you should talk about dating safety with people you care about.

“I’m not so lucky. I don’t take risks easily and I pulled out of more than one situation when the guy wasn’t flexible, or he was bigger, or he was different than he said. Still, I got robbed by a guy who was really nice and looked trustworthy enough for me to get in his car. I was afraid to walk in a police station and report it, but I did call 800-TIPS.”

Here are some tips both of us think you should consider to make things safer when you go looking for fun or fun finds you. Later, we’ll suggest some helpful steps to take if you or someone you know is victimised. Being victimised doesn’t only happen to stupid or careless people, but you will be at greater risk if you don’t take precautions.

(more…)