Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trinidad PM States LGBT Support In Private Letter

The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is making news today due to the release of the contents of a private letter she wrote to an LGBT activist where she stated her personal support for equal rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.Trinidad and Tobago has explicit legal policies discriminating against LGBT people, for example in immigration where the entire class of LGBT people are prohibited from entering the country according to Section 8 of Trinidad's Immigration Act. (It should be noted that prior to 1990 homosexuals as a class were excludable from entering the United States and until 2008 HIV-positive people were excludable as well. "Excludable" means that the person technically could be excluded from entering the United States, even as a tourist and could not get permanent resident status.)

According to the Guardian newspaper the letter from the Prime Minister said:
“With respect to the concerns raised in your letter regarding aspects of T&T's Sexual Offences Act and the Immigration Act which may target persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), I wish to assure you that due consideration is being given to these issues by my Government. “I do not support discrimination in any form against any individual, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.  “I share your view that the stigmatisation of homosexuality in T&T is a matter which must be addressed on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every individual is entitled under international law.    “As such I am pleased to inform you that I have mandated my Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Senator the Honourable Marlene Coudray to prepare and present a national gender policy to Cabinet over the coming months.  “It is expected that once adopted, this policy will forge the way forward for T&T as my Government seeks to put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.” Thanking Price for writing to her and expressing his concerns, she added:  “Please rest assured that my Government is doing its utmost to uphold the human rights of all citizens and residents of T&T as we remain committed to a democratic, people-centred approach to governance and development.”
This is a good sign of some movement finally occurring in the region I was born in.  (Trinidad and Tobago is very close to Grenada and Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean section of the West Indies.) Hopefully, the PM will dare to repeat her comments in a public forum where they can be cited and debated on the record. Many of these West Indian (and African) countries have internalized decades of British colonial homophobia into their own cultural practices and public policies, such as maintaining the death penalty and sodomy laws even while the imperialist powers that colonized them have rejected such ideas.

hat/tip to TowleRoad.

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