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FPATT head: T&T’s laws must focus on human rights

Friday, June 24, 2011
Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, centre, shares a light moment with Barbados Opposition Leader Mia Amor Mottley, left, and chairman of the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) Gerry Brooks, during its report to the nation meeting at the Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain on Tuesday. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

T&T’s legislative agenda must help and not hinder the protection of human rights for all citizens. This was a message conveyed by the Family Planning Association of T&T (FPATT) chairman Gerry Brooks on Tuesday. He was speaking at FPATT’s report to the nation titled Building Tolerance and Empathy: Eradicating Stigma and Discrimination. It was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre, Port-of-Spain.

Brooks said all legislation must protect citizens from discrimination, drawing example to recent debate in the Senate pertaining to the issue of same sex marriage and the law. He said FPATT believed and advocates that “sexuality is an integral part of the personhood of every human being in all societies” and that non-discrimination was a basic pillar of equal human rights. Brooks said the Senate’s discussion, which was adjudicated to another time, showed that “Government and society are deeply divided on the issue.”

He said the FPATT held discussions with its partner group Coalition for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) and it was determined gay, lesbian and transgender members of society simply wanted to be free of discrimination and abuse. Brooks said work was needed by the Government and societal stakeholders to work towards educating the public and eradicating stigma and discrimination based on sexual preference. He also called for the end of stigma and discrimination against HIV and Aids-positive citizens.

Brooks said FPATT believed that all persons, regardless their HIV status, had equal rights to access education, employment and other social benefits without discrimination. Addressing the rapidly rising HIV rate in T&T, Brooks called on Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to make the wilful spread of HIV a criminal offence. He said statistics showed there were at least four new cases of HIV daily in T&T. He said if nothing was done to destigmatise HIV/Aids and to end discrimination against those living with the disease, little to no progress would be made in trying to control the spread of HIV/Aids in T&T.