The local chapter of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA T&T) is expressing concern over what it calls Government’s “continued vacillation” over the approval of a national gender policy.
A draft gender policy is currently before Cabinet. In a news release yesterday, the association said thorough consultations on the gender policy had been done more than ten years ago and added that the positions of all groups were well known.
It added: “While we respect the absolute right of individuals to believe, and to follow in their own lives, whatever religious teachings they choose, it is the duty of the State to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“These include the rights of citizens to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health and to live a life free of discrimination, coercion and violence. An approved gender policy signifies our country’s aspiration to work towards a society in which men and women are able to live equally fulfilling lives.
“It means recognising that men and women often have different needs and priorities, face different constraints, have different aspirations and contribute to development in different ways.”
The release said heterosexuals, as well as people who defined themselves as lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender, were born free and equal in dignity and rights.
It said continued discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation makes a mockery of their contribution to national development and flies in the face of the ideal of this country’s national anthem, which says, “here every creed and race find an equal place.”
It added: “Laws that criminalise individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity are anachronistic and breach international human-rights law (note the recent legal challenge to our discriminatory immigration law).
“By reinforcing stigma, these laws not only undermine efforts to fight the spread of HIV/Aids, they also fuel violence.”
The group also raised concerns over the issue of women’s right to abortion.
“In spite of legislation prohibiting the procurement of an abortion, every year 2,000-3,000 women in T&T are treated at public hospitals after unsafe abortions.
It said: “The fact that the Government is vacillating on approving even the minimally agreed-on issues of legal abortion in cases of rape or incest is unconscionable. No woman should be obliged to continue an unwanted pregnancy.”
The release said no religious belief or personal opinion, no matter how deeply held or widely shared, could ever justify depriving another human being of his or her basic rights.