Friday, October 25, 2013

Legal battle brewing - Lawsuit over Trinidad & Tobago anti-gay laws

Legal battle brewing
Lawsuit over TT anti-gay laws
Rachael Espinet, Newsday, October 25, 2013, Page 15

SIR GEORGE Alleyne, former UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS and editor of the book Legal and Policy Perspectives on HIV and Human Rights in the Caribbean, says the book is a serious commentary on HIV and human rights and the legal policy implications of HIV in the Caribbean.

Speaking with Newsday yesterday at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Sports and Physical Education Centre (SPEC) in St Augustine, after its annual graduation ceremony where he is the Chancellor of the university, he said: “What it does is it looks at policy issues; legal issues that have to be addressed and we address that certain approaches need to be taken to address these issues.”

When the book was launched on Tuesday, gay rights activists condemned the United Nations AIDS [sic] (UNAIDS), for having the event in Trinidad. UNAIDS and Pan Caribbean [sic]sponsored the book; however the objection comes from Trinidad having an immigration law that prohibits homosexuals from entering the country.

In Section 8 of the Immigration Act, “prostitutes, homosexuals persons living on the earnings of prostitutes or homosexuals, or persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes are prohibited from entering the country.”

Thus legally, non-national homosexual persons who were invited to the book launch would not be able to attend or they would be breaking the law. Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaica lawyer and legal adviser for AIDS Free World, was one such person who would have been legally barred from attending.

Though legally members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are barred from entering the country, the law is not enforced. In 2007, Members of the public were rallying to stop openly gay performer Elton John from entering the country. However, the government gave a waiver for John to sing in the Tobago Jazz Festival.

Currently, through AIDS Free World, Tomlinson is suing Trinidad and Tobago to remove homosexuality from the prohibited list. On November 12 Tomlinson will challenge Section 8 of the Immigration Act at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Alleyne stated, “Much of what is written has been written by people who have not read the book, and really don’t appreciate what the substance of the discussion is all about.” He added that he and UWI have an “intolerance to all forms of intolerance” and in his graduation address on the Cave Hill campus, “I addressed this issue of intolerance and discrimination pointing out that there is intolerance of intolerance in all forms as part of our university’s policy.”

Colin Robinson, director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), said, “The controversy around the event has brought attention to the outrageousness to the immigration law.”

However, Robinson said while CAISO supports the legal actions against the country’s law suit [sic], “The question of wether [sic] there should be a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago for events that would advance the position of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) community is a matter that AIDS Free World has not discussed with us.”

A release from AIDS Free World stated “It goes without saying that demonstrating indifference to hateful laws as though they were of no consequence is hugely damaging in the iight against HIV and AIDS.

“There is no question that the book will address the issue of high-risk groups, men who have sex with men (MSM) in particular. And with that in mind, many gay men from around the Caribbean would wish to attend, and indeed, some of them have undoubtedly received invitations (Tomlinson included). Neither Maurice nor any of his gay colleagues from outside Trinidad can attend. Why?

Because the immigration law of Trinidad and Tobago explicitly prohibits the entry of homosexuals.” The release continues to say, “Holding the book launch in a country that bars entry to homosexuals is a direct contradiction of the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law (that UNAIDS co-sponsored), and an equally direct contradiction of the Executive Director of UNAIDS, who has said time and again that UNAIDS has zero tolerance for discriminatory laws.

Justices on the leave hearing panel were back row, left Jacob Wit (Netherlands Antilles) and Winston Anderson (Jamaica) and front row: Rolston Nelson (Trinidad & Tobago), CJ Sir Dennis Byron (St. Kitts & Nevis) and Winston Saunders (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)

UPDATE: the CCJ reserved judgement - 

Caribbean Court of Justice reserves judgement on Maurice Tomlinson case on barred entry due to sexual orientation


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