Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It's about homosexuals and the law, not religion

UWI Gender Studies lecturer:


'COUNTRY READY': Wendell Manwarren

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THE decriminalisation of homosexuality should have nothing to do with religion, says Dr Gabrielle Hosein, lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Developmental Studies at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine.

Hosein said while religious organisations are ready to hold their own positions based on religious texts, those religious positions should not be applied to persons who do not share those religious views.

"We are living in a multicultural society, so we need to live in a society where the views of different persons are not necessarily imposed on others," Hosein said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

Her comments came one day after Colin Robinson, spokesman for the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), called on the Government to adopt a policy of equality for all, inclusive of those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.

Hosein, an active member of the Caribbean youth and feminist movement, said since same-sex unions were "as old as human sexuality and desire", the state has no right to get involved in people's sexual life and should therefore seek to decriminalise homosexuality as soon as possible.

"The fact that certain sexual relations are criminalised and others are not speaks to a discrepancy and also hypocrisy in ways in which the state sees sex," Hosein said.

Besides that, "there is no basis for denying relations between people, once people have themselves decided upon these unions, particularly when it causes really discriminatory behaviour... and gives some citizens more rights than others", she said.

Hosein added that all citizens should have the right to choose their partner, to marry, to inherit from their spouse or from their common law partner and to be free of discrimination.

In response to this, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, said although "the rest of the world is turning upside down to accommodate these people", Trinidad and Tobago has more important things to address than "the rights of gays and lesbians".

"We (as a Hindu organisation) recognise that there are these oddities in society that have odd behaviours, but we do not believe that is sufficient grounds to change the laws.

"A marriage is between a male and a female, it's not sufficient to change that because you have odd people who are gay," he said.

Wendell Manwarren, a popular musician and activist, however, said it was about time the Government address the situation as he believed the country was ready to embrace GLBT people.

"Trinidadians are ready, they are not as close minded as some may want to believe," he said.

An attempt by the Express to reach Gender Affairs Minister Mary King, who had initially called for a national debate on same-sex marriages earlier this week, was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, legal head at the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Narendra Lalbeharry, said although the Equal Opportunities Act does not deal with gay rights, it did not mean they were opposed to it.

"In fact, it was part of the whole concept of equal opportunity and if Trinidad and Tobago is to follow other countries, as they have done by setting up an EOC ... I think a first step could be actually amending our Equal Opportunity Act to at least provide some kind of protection (for the GLBT community)," he said.