You are here
Deputy COP leader calls for referendum on gay rights
Vernon De Lima, deputy chairman of the Congress of the People (COP), says the issue of gay rights is one that should be taken to the people. “All those things like the death penalty, abortion, gay rights, ought to be the subject of a referendum,” he said. He believes that the Government’s election promise to “take it to the people” has fallen terribly short.
“When we were on the platform, we promised the people of Trinidad and Tobago we would involve them in the decision-making.” The issue of gay rights, he believes, is an important one and is being addressed the world over. He says the answers to T&T’s questions on such issues lie in a referendum.
“These issues are not going to go away. We need to come to terms with these problems and take them head-on.” He feels a number of election promises made two years ago to the population have been broken. “That is a betrayal of trust. I think it is rotten of us to have done that. I feel remorseful of that. I am disappointed in PNM, UNC and COP. I am disappointed in all of them,” he said.
Paula Gopee-Scoon, PNM MP for Point Fortin, also believes the issue of gay rights deserves particular attention. Unlike De Lima, however, she does not think a referendum is needed. She believes the issue can be addressed through public consultation and dialogue. “The Government needs to decide if they want to take up the challenge. The issue is not unique to Trinidad and Tobago. But the Government must be willing to meet and collaborate,” she said.
In Jamaica the issue of homosexuality and gay rights has been a contentious one, and the country has become notorious for its homophobia, especially as expressed by dancehall musicians. But in December last year, prime ministerial hopeful Portia Simpson-Miller said, “Our administration believes in protecting the human rights of all Jamaicans. No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Government should provide the protection.”
Simpson-Miller’s bold statements, just before her election, to Dane Lewis of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), signified that as leader of that country she was willing to take the lead in the issue. Lewis said in a telephone interview with the Trinidad Guardian that he feels it is unrealistic to expect to see concrete changes in such a short space of time.
But he believes PM Simpson-Miller is holding true to her commitment to address gay rights. This was especially evident, he said, from Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites’s attendance at J-FLAG’s forum on homophobic bullying in schools. Like Gopee-Scoon and De Lima, Lewis believes progress on gay rights requires honest and open dialogue.
He says, however, the publicity shed on the issue by US president Barack Obama’s public statement that gay couples should be able to marry is not good for the dialogue in the Caribbean. “The US is light years ahead of us. It delays the kind of discourse we have on the ground here. It will take us years before we can get there,” he said.
On May 14, Beenie Man issued a public apology via YouTube to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community for his anti-gay songs. He said, “Let me make this clear and straight. I have nothing against no one. I respect each and every human being, regardless of which race or creed, regardless of which religious belief you believe in and regardless of which sexual preference you have, including gays and lesbians.”
In Trinidad and Tobago, the issue has been highlighted through an NGO, the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), which has called for HIV status, age and sexual orientation to be added to the Equal Opportunity Act.
If included in the Act, the LGBT members of society will be protected from discrimination in:
• provision of goods and services
• provision of accommodation
• offensive behaviour
They will then be able to complain to the Equal Opportunities Commission and receive redress.
Section 7 of the Equal Opportunity Act defines offensive behaviour like this:
(1) A person shall not otherwise than in private, do any act which—
(a) is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of persons;
(b) is done because of the gender, race, ethnicity, origin or religion of the other person or of some or all of the persons in the group; and
(c) which is done with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.