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Coudray: Gay rights out of proposed gender policy
God still reigns supreme in T&T, according to the Constitution, and gay rights will not be a part of the Government’s draft national policy on gender and development. Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Marlene Coudray, finally breaking her silence on the controversy yesterday, said gay rights were not a part of the gender policy which is now before Cabinet, nor were they likely to be.
Coudray was responding to questions on a survey by the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc, which reportedly showed the majority of citizens were either tolerant or accepting of homosexuality and that it was not politically dangerous. Coudray, who was at an open house held by her ministry at the Centre of Excellence, was asked whether gay rights would be included in the gender policy.
“There is nothing in (it) that speaks to any gay rights. There were rumours all over the place that certain things are in the draft that are not,” she said. “The draft policy is before Cabinet and those issues were not part of it, so they are not likely to come up to affect the policy at all at this stage.” Coudray said this decision was not hers, but the unanimous wish of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), which represents 25 different religious organisations, and a large number of other faith-based organisations.
“It really is not up to me,” she said. The ministry held two consultations with the religious groups at Capital Plaza on April 24 and May 3 and, according to IRO head Pundit Harrypersad Maharaj, they sent out a warning in advance to the Government that it would not get support for the legalisation of homosexuality.
Coudray said, “I convened a meeting with faith-based organisations and the IRO and its members and we had a very extensive, open and frank discussion with them. “We had to extend the discourse to two days and we came to terms with what they would like to see (in the gender policy). They reminded us the Constitution is based on the supremacy of God. “So those views are documented to be put forward. Proposals were formulated to be sent to the Finance and General Purposes Committee.”
The F&GP is a subcommittee of Cabinet. The minister said some word on the policy would be coming soon. Asked if a representative of the gay community had met with her, she said no one sought to meet with her as minister. Asked to comment on the survey, Coudray replied, “We need to know the sample size and all of that.”
She said it took 30-plus years for the gender policy to come into being but it had never before reached the level of Cabinet, which was something to be commended. She said the delay was due to an effort to hear everyone’s views. Maharaj, noting that religious groups represented a significant proportion of the population, said the argument put forward was that gender, according to religious beliefs, constituted male and female, not homosexuals or other.
“We all unanimously agreed that from time immemorial humans were created as male and female, not homosexuals and all these kinds of things.” Maharaj said Leela Ramdeen, of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, who was at the consultation with the minister, referred to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which declared that the term gender referred only to the two sexes of male and female.
Maharaj said while there might be objections to the religious community’s position, its members are holding to it very firmly. “We can’t tell people how to live their lives but we are saying it must not become lawful. “If the Government ever intends to legalise same-sex marriages in T&T, we are sending out a warning in advance it will not get the support of the religious community.”