By Aabida Allaham
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (GLBT) people in Trinidad and Tobago are calling on the Government to decriminalise homosexuality.
The community, which is reportedly made up of thousands of people, says they are tired of being treated like second-class citizens, Colin Robinson, spokesman for the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), says.
In a telephone interview with the Express yesterday, Robinson said while they appreciate the call by Gender Affairs Minister Mary King for a national debate on same-sex marriages, it is not what they need.
"The Government isn't listening, and has its priorities wrong. We've consistently given the Government six national priorities - this was never one," he said.Robinson said while being able to get married would be nice, it was really "putting the cart before the horse". He said while the Government does not need to amend the Sexual Offences Act or decriminalise sexual activities to protect GLBT people from discrimination and violence, "it probably would be appropriate to decriminalise some offences of sexuality and homosexual behaviour before looking at the recognition of same-sex relationships".
"We've consistently asked for action to prevent discrimination and violence, for attention to homelessness, to make schools safe for young people, to train police. We've repeatedly asked them to listen and consult, and offered our help with building a nation for everyone but they have not heard us."
In fact, according to a judgment passed by the Court of Appeal, in an appeal regarding the exclusion of sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunities Act of 2000, the Government has full responsibility to ensure protection is available from discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Robinson further argued that while political and religious leaders use religion to justify why GLBT people should not be afforded the same rights, they have nothing much to say when it comes to Carnival and the activities surrounding it.
"When it comes to women wining on the road for Carnival Tuesday, you don't hear them, and that is exactly what Senator Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam said (during the sitting), that we can't do this because it would offend religion. But why aren't those same concerns applied to Carnival, it's a double standard," he said.Also contacted yesterday on the matter, Leela Ramdeen, of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ), said they support CAISO's call for freedom against discrimination and violence, but noted they do not support people acting on their homosexuality and any law that will allow that.
"So in my opinion, I don't think any debate will be helpful now. The majority of people in this country believe in one faith, and most other religions will not agree to that," she said.Ramdeen said, according to the Roman Catholic Church, a man was meant to be with a woman.
President of the Inter-Religious Organisation, Haji Abzal Mohammed, meanwhile, said they would be in support of a national debate. He said while everyone should be able to voice their opinion, religiously the IRO's views will remain.
"If something like this is coming up, we will have to look at it ... but if God almighty made something unlawful, how can a human make it lawful?" he said.Asked about the IRO's role in Carnival and claims by Robinson that religious leaders do not complain, Mohammed said "people just don't listen to them".
"Every year we send out statements about the activities surrounding Carnival, about the alcohol consumption, but people don't take us on," he said.