Press Releases

Activists Condemn Commonwealth


T&T activists condemn Commonwealth refusal to discuss human rights for LGBTI citizens

Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bisessar should ‘lead a movement for change’.
Commonwealth urged to listen to all its people.

Human rights defenders in Trinidad and Tobago have called on the Prime Minister, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to speak out in favour of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week.

The activists, from the Silver Lining Foundation, said the Prime Minister’s stated support for ‘an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation’ put her in a perfect position to lead a movement for change within the Commonwealth. The call has been supported by LGBT and youth organisations elsewhere in the Caribbean region.

In a report published today by activists across the 53 member countries, the Commonwealth is being urged to put the rights of LGBT citizens on the agenda for the first time.

Jeremy Edwards of the Silver Lining Foundation said: “Trinidad and Tobago could and should be at the forefront of efforts to get the Commonwealth to recognise that human rights are not divisible and all people, whatever their sexuality or gender identity should be free to live their lives free from discrimination. Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is on the record as stating that the stigmatisation of homosexuality should be addressed on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every individual is entitled under international law. This is her chance to show real leadership on the issue.

“The younger generation of Trinbagonians will not forgive today’s political leadership if they condemn us to a future under discriminatory laws that they know are unjust and undemocratic.”

The report, which is being sent to all Commonwealth leaders, includes testimony from LGBT people across the Caribbean region. Candace Moses from T&T describes her life as a lesbian, saying “I have felt butterflies and moths, passed through rainbows and thunderstorms and am surviving the test of time.”

It urges the Commonwealth leaders meeting in Sri Lanka from November 15 – 17 to:

• Make clear that human rights are indivisible and must be extended to all citizens and that the new Commonwealth Charter’s assertion that, ‘We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds,’ must be explicitly taken to include LGBT people;

• Make a public commitment to include rights for LGBT citizens as an agenda item for the next CHOGM due in 2015;

• Take every opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with their own LGBT communities in order to facilitate an informed debate within the Commonwealth about the means to remove all legal and other impediments to the enjoyment of their human rights.

The heads of government meeting, which is held every two years, is expected to ignore demands to condemn human rights abuses against LGBT people and discriminatory laws in a majority of member states.

Of the 76 countries worldwide that continue to criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity between adults, over a half are Commonwealth member states. Nearly 80% of the Commonwealth – 41 out of 53 countries – still maintain laws on homosexuality that are contrary to international human rights law and the Commonwealth Charter.

Today’s report notes that: ‘Same-sex sexual conduct is prohibited for both men and women in Trinidad and Tobago. Although the law criminalises consensual homosexual relations, providing penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment, the government generally does not enforce such legislation, except when paired with more serious offenses such as rape. Immigration laws also bar the entry of homosexual persons into the country, but the legislation is not enforced.’