Several faith-based organisations and the group known as Lawyers for Jesus assembled yesterday to speak out against Government's proposal for a re-definition of the term gender in the National Gender policy. The issue surrounding same sex marriages and abortion sparked attention locally since United States President Barack Obama publicly announced his position.
Several groups have expressed their position and concerns regarding the two issues. Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Verna St Rose-Greaves said the policy document is expected to be submitted to Cabinet June 2012. Speaking at the Emmanuel Community in Woodbrook yesterday, Hyacinth Griffith, a member of Lawyers for Jesus, said legislation of same sex marriages and abortion does not happen in a vacuum.
"It is an incremental process. The challenge begins with the deliberate re-definition of the term gender, which can be regarded as legal retrofitting, for example privacy and gender. The result of this is the protection of these newly crafted fundamental rights of the individual by way of legislative agenda."
She said the re-definition of the term gender was the beginning for most of countries in their position and legislation on abortion and same sex marriages. Griffith said the new definition referred to roles, responsibilities, behaviours, attitudes and identities, which provided a platform for all other changes to take place.
On the issue of abortion, Griffith challenged anybody including the prime minister to show proof that abortion was legal in T&T. The group, which comprised Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Orisha, Bahai and the Spiritual Baptist communities, has called for the Government to provide them with a copy of the draft policy before it was submitted to Cabinet next week.
Another member, Roma Paul, said Government's public consultation was selective and did not include all stakeholders. "We are in support of the gender policy, but it must seek to build our nation and not compromise our values and morals in the process." Pastor Vernon Duncan, who represented the Christian community, described the move to redefine the term gender as intellectual dishonesty.
The term gender, he said, was based on sex-male and female-not on social norms and to suit the fancies of personal sexual preferences. Quoting from the Bible to substantiate his position on the issue, Duncan said in Genesis chapter one verse 27, it states "God made us-male and female." Anything outside of that, he said, was deemed a behavioural disorder.
Asked by a media representative why the group was trying to delay the inevitable-which raised a hornet's nest from the six-member panel-Duncan said the group and the Christian community had a responsibility to take a position on what was right. Dr David Jackson from the Hospital Christian Fellowship appealed to the Government to consider their rights as Christians.
As the incremental process unfolds, he said, soon pastors and priests would be forced to conduct same sex marriages in churches. "We are not accepting that, so we are trying to nip it from the root." One of the representatives from the Muslim community said it would be unfair for the Government to present only a policy without consultation.