Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been congratulated by regional and international organisations on her commitment to end discrimination against gay people in T&T. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an organ of the Organisation of American States (OAS), issued a statement on December 20 welcoming Persad-Bissessar's comments in a letter to Lance Price of the UK-based Kaleidoscope Trust.
Price had written to the PM complaining about T&T's immigration law and the Sexual Offences Act, which he said discriminated against homosexuals. Section 8 of the Immigration Act bars entry to homosexuals, describing them as a "prohibited class." In her response, dated August 14, Persad-Bissessar said her Government was giving due consideration to the issues raised by Price.
IACHR noted the PM's position was consistent with "the commitment made by OAS member states on June 4, 2012 to 'consider, within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems, adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity.'"
The organisation said it had received "ample information" on the extreme violence and discrimination faced by lesbians, gays and trans- bisexual and intersex people throughout the Americas, including the English-speaking Caribbean, and "is acutely aware that several countries of that region, including T&T, still have laws criminalising same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and other laws used to penalise individuals because of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Amnesty International, also on December 20, noted the PM and her Cabinet "have now an historic opportunity to ensure that the Prime Minister's words become a reality." Amnesty pointed out that T&T's Sexual Offences Act criminalises consenting same-sex relationships, making them punishable with up to 25 years' imprisonment, depending on the age of those found guilty, and that the Equal Opportunities Act 2000 (EOA) explicitly excludes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Also referencing to Section 8 of the Immigration Act, Amnesty acknowledged that those provisions were not enforced but they contributed to creating a discriminatory environment. Meanwhile, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) applauded the PM, saying it stood in solidarity with its Caricom sister.
"Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, who continues to display firm political judgment, will definitely set a legacy by recognising the rights and humanity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens in the twin-­island republic," said GEF representative Alistair Sonaram. "Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar should to be seen by the rest of the region as a bold female politician who took a firm step towards human rights and equality and we hope her bold leadership inspires other Caricom heads of state," he added.
The Rev Dr Sid Mohn, president of the Chicago-based NGO Heartland Alliance, said the PM's comments demonstrated an awareness of and respect for human rights.