Trinidad happenings: Coalition for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation awards ….

Something happened in July 2007 that sowed the seeds of an exciting new advocacy movement by gay and lesbian, bi and Trans people in Trinidad and Tobago – a movement that we have seen flourish over the past year. CAISO wants to recognise the person who sowed those seeds, and to acknowledge his role in making history:

On July 4th of 2007, some of us read in our newspapers about a man from Ste. Madeleine who had won a small money judgment against the Government in the courts, because of a violation he suffered from the police some years earlier. The stories told about how he had been detained by the police, stripped naked, ridiculed. Some stories talked about his size. Some of them talked about his sexuality. He wasn’t a posh middle class person with lawyer friends. He hadn’t completed a lot of school. But he was a really determined person: he ran a small business out of his home, he drove a maxi, and he’d done a lot of other things to earn a living. Three weeks later, it got even more amazing: the SaturdayGuardian had a picture of the man on its front page leading to a story captioned “Give Gays Equal Rights”.

“At 29 years, Kennty Mitchell seems to have everything going for him. He is a striving entrepreneur, a community activist and is involved in a nine-year ‘common-law’ relationship. Yet, he is put down by society and verbally and physically abused by many, including the police. Why? He is homosexual. Mitchell, however, is determined to keep his head up and refuses to be forced into living his life in secrecy and shame. He has always been open about his sexuality, and now he has decided to speak out publicly. … Mitchell says he’s fed up with being ridiculed and discriminated against, and is calling on the Government to ensure gay people have equal rights. ‘Gay people are people too, they are citizens of T&T and they make a valuable contribution to the country…They should not be treated as though they don’t belong or have no rights,’ he argued. … In his way of marking Gay Pride month (July), Mitchell said he was speaking out for all the gay people without a voice. ‘We might not be able to tip the scale in the next election because we are a minority,’ he said. ‘But we belong to a family, we have friends and they all support us so it will be more than just the gay votes,’ he said.”

The fact that Kennty is a regular fellah isn’t the only remarkable part of the story. What’s equally remarkable is the public’s response: virtually all the people who wrote comments on the Express website sympathised with him, and said: Whatever your sexuality is, you shouldn’t be treated that way. That story transformed the face of GLBT organizing in Trinidad and Tobago. It said powerfully: I can stand up for myself, no matter who I am. I can stand up to the Government. I can stand up to the police. And I can win. And people will support me. And I can be visible. That story inspired gay people to come together across class and gender, race and education, age and nationality in ways we never had before. We first met with Kennty on Emancipation Day 2007; and that same group of us went on to found the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation last year.

Photo courtesy Bohemia

Kennty was harassed by the police again, and he has sued the Government again, and he has won again – $125,000 the last time.

Kennty is not an angel. He is not a perfect person. He is every one of us. He is a perfect example of how every one of us can make change. And that is why he is the recipient of CAISO’s very first Advocate Award.

continue here

Meanwhile……..

On Guard: CAISO & Friends for Life on a panel on homosexuality from CAISO on Vimeo.

Gayelle.com takes a look at Caribbean GLBT organizing from CAISO on Vimeo.

Kamla, on discrimination, at Maha Sabha Indian Arrival Day from CAISO on Vimeo.

Buggery no shackle, gays want ‘hate crimes’ law (flashback 22.05.08)

Another emancipation day flashback post that I want us to look at in terms of tracking the various points of view presented over the years epecially those that are with merit. I particularly was taken by this letter as it seem to have come from an individual with a fair perspective.

What do you think? …

Have a read:

Buggery no shackle, gays want ‘hate crimes’ law

The Editor, Sir:

I believe the Legislature and Government of Jamaica have missed the point on this whole issue of homosexuality. The fact is, the buggery laws are not a shackle for homosexuals who exist in this country and the decriminalising of such acts would have had little consequence on those men who perform sexual acts consensually among themselves.

In reality, these laws don’t make ‘homosexuality’ illegal as, in its broadest sense, homosexuality includes lesbians as well. So, for our prime minister and government who would much rather political expediency than an ‘objective’ discussion on same-sex relations in our nation, the buggery laws shall remain.

Put reasonable laws in place

The gay people of Jamaica do not need the permission of churches, Government or public figures to live our lives and have sex with whom we choose. However, we do want the Government to put its policy where its mouth is and ensure that violent acts against people of different sexual orientation and also other vulnerable members of society, such as the disabled, mentally ill and even people living with HIV and AIDS, are punished to the full extent that law provides.

This should be done with the creation of a hate crimes law which would serve specific penalties for persons accused of harming or murdering people because of their differences, whether perceived or otherwise.

In reality, it only takes an assumption or a suspicion of being homosexual in some Jamaican communities for someone to be attacked and brutalised. Of the many cases that have come to public attention of ‘gay’ men being beaten and even killed, very few have been as a result of these said men being caught in compromising positions. Yet, they are set upon and, in what might seem like sanctioned events, the all too familiar scene unfolds.

Classic defence

And when someone murders a known homosexual, we are tired of hearing the classic gay defence of ‘he tried to rape me’. What of the many lesbians who suffer in silence after being raped by men who believe they can turn them ‘straight’? Why should they suffer because of circumstance?

Of course, the hypocritical ‘religio-political’ mass of this nation will quickly condemn such efforts as protectionism for ‘sinners’ and the morally decadent, yet they would decry general acts of violence in society. So, I ask, what is the distinction?

Aren’t we all just a bunch of sinners being murdered by a bunch of other sinners? Our Government promised protection for all. ‘All’ should include the yet to be acknowledged homosexual men and women of Jamaican society.

I am, etc.,

JAMES MARCHAND

jtmarchand@gmail.com

Kingston 8

Holding a corner for gays (flashback 26.04.07)

With today August 2nd being celebrated as Emancipation Day as August 1st was on a Sunday let us take a look in the flashback category of posts that appear here and on Gay Jamaica Watch and GLTBQ Jamaica (blogger) as to where as LGBTQI people are we in a so-called emancipated and independent nation.
With a weak Charter of Rights Bill that hasn’t even recognised humans as humans before distinguishing rights to same as to mention any item towards us would jeopardise the political establishment’s popularity, we are still highly a marginalised group held under the thumbs of biblical literalists and misguided christians on the face of it who do not understand or try to understand the thing they so readily condemn.
The article below was an editorial in the Gleaner published April 26, 2007 after a most unfortunate comment by Public Defender Mr. Earl Witter, an agent of the state openly displaying homophobic and stereotypical tendencies or a lack of understanding or ignorance on his part? you be the judge. This is the officer that is charged to protect the rights of citizens who otherwise would not have a voice or financial and legal means to do so in seeking redress for state matters.

One would have thought that in a functioning democracy we would have seen and learnt by now that all citizens are equal.

Emancipation and respect for us anytime soon?

here is the article:

EDITORIAL – Holding a corner for gays?

It is tempting, and perhaps easy, to be sympathetic to Public Defender Earl Witter’s suggestion to gays in Jamaica not to flaunt their tendencies to avoid being victims of violence.

Mr. Witter’s advice is particularly arresting, given his uncharacteristic retreat, in a speech on Tuesday (24.04.07), to the Jamaican vernacular, to tell homosexuals to “hold your corners”.

But while appreciating Mr. Witter’s intent we believe that his statement was unhelpful and his prescription unfortunate. Or perhaps more accurately, what Mr. Witter perceives to be his delicate balancing act is a rather ungainly and ungracious tilt into the arms of the vulgarians. He should instead be using both the real and symbolic authority of his office in breaking new legal ground in the expansion of individual rights and freedoms, as well as the promotion of tolerance.

As we understand it, the job of the Public Defender is to help in the protection of people’s constitutional rights, especially when these rights are infringed by the state. And to be fair to Mr. Witter, in his speech to Rotarians in Mandeville, he did abhor violence against gays and stressed the right of every single individual to protection under the law.

But Mr. Witter also made two other points that are of considerable significance. The first is that buggery, the main act of sex for homosexual males, remains an illegal and punishable offence in Jamaica; the other is that “tolerance has its limits”.

So, in the context of Jamaica’s homophobia and the legal sanctions against buggery, as Mr. Witter’s argument goes, gays should keep their behaviour to themselves and in their bedrooms so as not to “provoke disapproving reactions”.

That’s the easy way. For the question to be raised is what, in Mr. Witter’s view, constitutes provocative behaviour by gays. As the Public Defender should well know, this ‘provocation’ needs not be a public display of affection or anything which the courts would deem to be acts of public indecency.

It is enough for an individual to be assumed to be gay for that person to be subject to physical attacks, as happened to three young men recently at a Kingston mall. They found refuge in a store against a baying mob and had to be rescued by the police. Then there was the case of alleged male cross-dressers being attacked at a funeral service at a church in the same town in which Mr. Witter spoke.

The fundamental test of a democracy is not merely its tolerance of its minority, but how well that democracy protects their rights and freedoms – no matter how much the majority abhor the views and/or lifestyles of the disparaged group.

What we would have preferred and expected of Mr. Witter, therefore, is his insistence that not only should the state have no voyeuristic place in people’s bedrooms, but that anachronistic laws ought to be removed from the books.

He should have insisted, too, on the courage which he suggests is lacking in legislators. Mr. Witter should have demanded, too, that the police, even at this late stage, charge those who attacked the alleged gays at that Kingston mall.

The first stage of compromise is usually the rights of those we abhor, or of the vulnerable, but we don’t usually stop there.

editor@gleanerjm.com

Reclaiming our independence by becoming independent (Observer Column)

Christopher Burns

Jamaica’s political independence was never meant to become a conduit, lubricated or not, to socio-cultural stagnation, political apathy, economic injustice or marginalisation. Essentially, it was intended to be the path through which our country would achieve broad-based social advancement, cultural liberation, political enfranchisement and economic justice and prosperity for all its citizens. Furthermore, independence should be the locomotive by which the country transports optimism and opportunities to its citizens so they can take charge of their own lives, enjoy their individual liberties, realise their dreams and live prosperously and safely.

Some 48 years later, while some progress has been made in areas of education, health, infrastructural development, sports and human development, it is obvious that we have squandered much of what political independence presented us in 1962. And sadly, we have fallen from the once vaunted position of a proud and assertive nation to the lowly place of perpetual humilitation and timidity, a place where there are two sets of laws: one for the rich and the other for the poor. Many are caught up in a spiralling and vicious vortex where the struggle to make ends meet comes with enormous suffering because of the lack of opportunity.

NORMAN MANLEY… And what is the mission of this generation? It is reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica

For thousands of Jamaicans, life is a constant reminder that “Rain a fall but dutty tuff. Pot a boil but food nuh nuff”. The underacheivement and underperformance are not restricted to economics. They affect virtually every area of national life, none more prominent than the issue of crime and violence. Hence, the frequent talk about reducing crime and violence. But getting our country on a path to economic development is as fundamental to achieving a sustainable reduction in crime and violence as it is to securing economic justice and prosperity. In fact, as one of the chief architects of independent Jamaica, Norman Manley placed this objective squarely at the centre of his farewell address to the People’s National Party Conference in 1968. He summoned the “next generation”: “And what is the mission of this generation? It is reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica.”

However, realisation of NW Manley’s dream for the reconstruction and preservation of an economically sound, socially stable and prosperous society remains discouragingly embryonic. For, according to the 2009 Annual Statistical Yearbook, published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean, Jamaica recorded the second highest inflation rate at 10.20 per cent, but the sixth lowest estimated economic growth rate among 33 regional countries. Real Gross Domestic Product declined by 2.8 per cent, while its external debt grew twice as the rest of the Caribbean and nearly 16 times faster than Latin America between 2001 and 2009.

Jamaica’s external debt grew from US$4.1 billion in 2001 to US$6.30 billion in 2008 and heaven knows where it is today, with that 27-month facility for US$1.27 billion with the International Monetary Fund. The country ranked 100 on the UN Human Development Index – eight places below its 2006 ranking – and was graded by the World Bank in its 2010 “Doing Business” report as one of the 10 most difficult countries in the world to pay taxes. Worse yet, the ECLAC report also contends that Jamaica will continue to be one of the worst performing economies in the region and will hold that place for quite some time. And it seems the scope of our economic plight is completely beyond the reach of the Opposition People’s National Pary, as we have not heard of any alternatives.

We have not managed our political independence well, and the mismanagement has manifested itself in the quality of post-Independence governance. Today, we have a country in which, according to the recently published RJR-TVJ poll, 54 per cent of the people believe the prime minister has a credibility problem and is untrustworthy, while another 52 per cent believe he does not have the moral authority to lead. Even so, the same prime minister callously dismissed critics telling them, “I will not be distracted”, while implying that they can continue to write columns and editorials requesting his resignation, but he is not going anywhere.

Things have gone so bad over the years that in this 21st century, when other nations are moving to expand civil rights for their citizens, Jamaica still grapples with passing a very limiting Charter of Rights Bill and can only achieve a lull in murders through the imposition of a State of Emergency that deliberately targets the urban poor. The disgraceful thing about the latter is that a certain segment of the population continues to ignore some fundamental truths about gang operations and the effects of a prolonged State of Emergency. If it takes the imposition of a State of Emergency, during which about 4,200 inner-city residents were detained, but only 16 or 0.380 per cent of them charged; with 73 civilians killed by the security forces and hundreds displaced to send gangsters running to other parts of the country only to re-emerge, then our security forces are either incompetent, myopic or under-equipped.

Clearly, what is required, in addition to several other things, is not an imposition of a State of Emergency, but a revamping of law enforcement to include merging the Jamaica Constabulary Force with the Jamaica Defence Force to achieve critical mass. We are only fooling ourselves into believing that the recovery of about 110 guns is significant enough to dismantle the enormous stockpile of weapons that these mercenaries have at their disposal. Are we not just kidding ourselves into believing that having the criminals on the run represents sucess, in and of itself, when the “factories” that produce them are in full swing? Still, it is not too late to reclaim our independence and we can do so by becoming truly independent. We can do so by positioning ourselves to accept that Jamaica belongs to all of us, and as part of the “collective” we must play our part in demanding better from the political directorate, but even more so of ourselves.

It starts with education, with an understanding of how the three branches of government ought to operate. It includes having a greater appreciation for the rights and responsiblities that come with citizenship. We must eschew political frivolity and tribalism and embrace political maturity, the kind that instils a culture of accountability, aids the development and implementation of credible socio-economic policies and restores that 1962 atmosphere of civic and national pride. As we reclaim our independence, we must be prepared to extricate ourselves from the two-party syndrome as we look to independent thinkers to represent our interest both inside and outside of Parliament. We can do it and we should.

Burnscg@aol.com

Largest Gay Market Research Study Expands

It was announced on July 31 that the world’s largest ever study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is to expand into three additional countries.

The ‘2010 Out Now Global LGBT Study’ is the world’s largest sampling yet undertaken of LGBT people and will now track lifestyles, consumer habits, social factors, workplace issues, discrimination and demographics across 20 countries around the world.

In announcing the move, CEO of Out Now – Ian Johnson – said that the new research was becoming increasingly relevant as it expanded its reach to cover the lives of more LGBT people.

Click LOGO for the Community Values 2010 LGBT Study Page

“Out Now is really pleased to be bringing its global LGBT study to Poland, Australia and South Africa,” Johnson said. “LGBT people live everywhere, and this new Out Now research measures not just data – it provides a window into people’s lives. LGBT people living around the world are a very diverse group, and no-one has previously considered how their lives are similar – and how they differ.”

The three new countries being added to the ‘2010 Out Now Global LGBT Study’ are Poland, South Africa and Australia.

“Out Now’s study now reaches into countries around the world, where more than 50 million LGBT people live,” Johnson added. “Through better understanding LGBT issues and concerns, we believe this study has an important role to play in helping inform governments, NGOs and corporations about a very significant group of the world’s people.”

About Out Now

Out Now was established in 1992 in Australia, and has grown to comprise a team of the world’s leading LGBT marketers in countries around the world.

Out Now is a global LGBT market specialist with two decades of marketing experience relied upon by leading brands including IBM, Toyota, TUI, Lufthansa, German National Tourist Office, Merck, Sony Music, Barclays, Lloyds TSB and Citibank.

The agency has pioneered LGBT market research studies since 1992, and is also responsible for the industry-leading GayComfort.com online LGBT sensitivity staff training and certification program for the global tourism and hospitality sector.

FURTHER INFORMATION:
Ian Johnson, CEO, Out Now
info(at)OutNowConsulting(dot)com
www.OutNowConsulting.com
www.GayMarketNews.com

Phone:
+44-20-8123 5288
+61-2-8003 5253
+55 – 11- 3020 3429
+1 – 310 – 878 4878

Living in Diversity

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I have heard and listened to stories of persons who have been mistreated due to their same sex preferences.  Persons have complained about violence against them, being bullied in schools and having to bribe police officers to escape prosecution when caught with a partner in a compromising position.  A more common complaint is being subtly looked on by others as being less than equal due to their actual or perceived homosexual orientation.

Regrettably, the church has been often times less than merciful to such persons although as the church it cannot condone such behaviour.  When the Christ had walked the planet he told the now famous woman at the well that he knew she was living inappropriately but he never condemned her.  He showed her love and compassion, which caused her transformation.

In our post-modern world as we call it, the thinking of some is that “diversity” is the way to go.  Diversity includes racial diversity where public and private spheres should be open to all regardless of race.  However. I would say that diversity has also been used to speak to a kind of inclusiveness whereby morality based on Christian principles must make space for other views that allow persons the legal right to self-determination.

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Based on this thinking, society is not truly diverse unless it includes alternate views of the good life, which may or may not be opposed to the time-honoured views of others.  Therefore some will hold up a society as being truly diverse if it includes alternative sexual lifestyles such as lesbianism, or family constructs other than the heterosexually headed household.  However, what are the limits of such sexual diversity and have we thought the process through to its outer limits?

The interpretation

In my view the definition of “sexual orientation” is not settled.   The term has been judicially interpreted in South Africa to include the right to enter into marriage with one of the same sex.  A similar position exists in Canada.

Both of these countries belong to the Commonwealth of which we are a part.  Some persons may feel that sexual orientation being interpreted in such a way is fine and that the matter will stop at same sex marriage between two human beings.  However in my view that cannot be so, because if it includes same sex marriage then it may later be held as discriminatory to exclude something else such as polygamous and poly-amorous marriages.

For others who may or may not be interested in marriage why should it exclude persons who are sexually drawn to a cute pet or to adults who are drawn to children who may or not have passed puberty?  These things may sound strange now, but so did the idea of same sex marriage between two persons of the same sex several decades ago.

An article published in the well respected Life SiteNews.Com dated July 14, 2009 gives an account of a gay pride march in Madrid, Spain.  The article reported that the march, which took place last week had the following words as one of the “principal chants” that is to say, “I like dogs, I like apples, in my bed I sleep with whomever I want.”  In that march, hundreds of thousands marched in support of gay rights.

How far diversity?

In the Netherlands the NVD Party was formed to legalize sex between adults and children.  Concerning bestiality, it was reported in the WorldNet Daily, June 29, 2009 that a Mr. Frank Kameny who is well respected in the Gay Rights Movement has also advocated that the American Psychiatric Association no longer consider bestiality as being a sexual perversion, although he himself says he is not into it.  He has gone as far as say that there is no such thing as a sexual perversion.

So how far should diversity go?  Or bearing in mind what I would consider the above risks, should we have this kind of diversity in the area of sexual relations and norms.  How far should our education system incorporate this kind of sexual diversity, if at all?

The above mentioned Life SiteNews article included quotes from Spain’s Minister of Equality Bibiana Aido who endorsed the gay pride parade and re-affirmed the government’s support for gays, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals.  She stated, “We have many motives for being proud.” “We are an open country that has broadened rights,” “We all have to help schools to be a safe space for diversity, because what is learned by children remains forever.”

What are your thoughts?

Stokeley Marshall is an attorney-at-law who may be reached atstokeleymarshall@gmail.com or editorial@sunheraldja.com.