Whatever the motivation behind it, the impact of Tuesday’s murder of a transgender woman had been clear: it has silenced none other than Sasha Fierce, a proud member of the LGBT community. This killing, hopefully, is not a hate crime, a result of the discrimination that usually attends members of that community. Such an aggravating factor should colour how our society and, specifically, the criminal justice system respond to it.
A recent Columbia Law School compilation of reports on the attitude of nearby Guyana for instance points to suffering among the LGBT community from harassment and abuse in the streets by those who believe they can act with impunity—a conclusion that police inaction has all too often confirmed. Frequently, the report notes, the police further harass LGBT people who attempt to report crimes perpetrated against them, or treat LGBT people who seek their assistance as criminals simply because of their sexual orientation. It adds, in most cases involving LGBT victims—even murders—police will not properly investigate or pursue potential leads, such that the cases remain unsolved.
TT must do everything to avoid being entrapped by this rampant show of discrimination and we call for the most diligent investigation into the death of Sasha Fierce. Already to date there are no laws targeting hate crimes here. Worse, members of the local LGBT community suffer the ignominy of a criminal law which effectively sanctions gay bashing under the dubious guise of “provocation.” It is hoped this week’s murder is not the start of a campaign of violence against members of the LGBT community. Already, concerns were raised earlier this year by lobbyists over a spate of murders involving gay men. Fierce’s death must not be allowed to constitute the crossing of the rubicon. All efforts must be made to apprehend and prosecute those responsible in order to send a strong message.
Yet, how can the police and the criminal justice system be expected to achieve what the State itself does not? What message is sent when our public officials are repeatedly evasive or vague when it comes to LGBT rights? How is our society to understand the Parliament’s dismal failure to repeal the anti-gay provisions of the farcically named Equal Opportunity Act?
The issue of our society’s handling of matters relating to sex workers is also pertinent. In this instance, Fierce’s line of work has been held against her on social media. But as a society we need to understand: murder is murder. As Jesus told those who were poised to execute the prostitute Mary Magdalene, let those who are without sin cast the first stone.
This was an appalling act of violence which has exposed our failure as a society to venerate the values of compassion and equality. We express deepest condolences to the loved ones of Sasha Fierce. May she rest in peace.