WHEN, a few months ago, the possibility of an attack on Carnival by Islamist terrorist groups emerged, many were the voices that spoke out against fundamentalism. “That is not who we are,” citizens said in response. The threat was diffused by the Police Service and Carnival proceeded apace, with its gay celebration of colour and vitality. Today, we reaffirm that spirit in relation to reports of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community following last week’s landmark ruling which decriminalised consensual anal sex.
We strongly condemn any instances of harassment and violence against members of the LGBTQ community and their allies that may have occurred last week on the steps of the Hall of Justice. Scenes of fundamentalist protesters, including some bearing placards quoting Old Testament scripture outlining death as a punishment for gay activity, as well as instances of intimidation by people aligned to various religious sects, must trigger the strongest possible disapproval.
We also condemn the eviction of members of the LGBTQ community from their homes, whether by landlords or family members. It is a strange morality that would see children thrown onto the streets for being different.
Ironically, all of this underscores why Justice Devindra Rampersad’s ruling was so badly needed. It further highlights why broader legal reforms must occur beyond what was covered in the Jason Jones case. It is precisely because of the fallout we are seeing now that statutes such as the Equal Opportunity Act need to be amended.
Section 3 of the Act, which was passed under a previous UNC administration, deliberately excludes “sexual preference or orientation” from its remit, meaning LGBTQ citizens do not have the benefit of the law as a shield in relation to landlords, service providers, employers, educators and State departments. Had this not been the case, perhaps a lot of what is being seen now would have been discouraged. Still, for every instance of hate and discrimination reported, there has been, equally, a strong countervailing instance of inclusivity.
What is notable about last week’s demonstrations outside of Parliament and the Hall of Justice is the fact that they were not limited to only people who identify as LGBTQ. Parents, family members, friends and allies also turned up in solidarity. All of it would have been unimaginable but a few years ago. That degree of visibility itself is a triumph for our country. And in the end, it is a reaffirmation of our values as a nation.
Indeed, what else has Trinidad and Tobago represented over the decades if not the idea that every creed and race can stand side by side in harmony? When we say we are a rainbow nation, we must really mean it.