Protection should be for all

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

SAHARA DUST is not the only thing clouding our vision these days. The world is removing relics, reckoning with the past, racing to fight ancient injustices.

Yet TT legislators are taking retrograde steps.

How else to characterise the Senate’s decision explicitly not to extend protection orders to same-sex relationships?

“Some in same-sex relationships have been killed but their lives can be saved,” Independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye said during Monday’s debate on legislation to update the Domestic Violence Act. “Protection should be for all.”

Presenting the amendment, the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, spoke of “changing unequal gender norms and harmful stereotypes.”

But that “equality” has limits.

Government voted against Ms Thompson-Ahye’s motion to include gays. The Opposition did no better. It abstained.

It is horrible to think this outcome – with all its implications for the suffering and even death that may ensue as a result – was the result of public officials, sheeplike, following political party lines.

Some of these same legislators, and the siblings, children, families and friends of others, will be affected by their vote or failure to vote on Monday.

What makes Monday’s vote even more disappointing is that in sharp contrast to their position on sexual orientation, senators showed little reluctance to embrace progressive concepts of relationships.

They readily acknowledged that abuse happens in all sorts of other relationships within domestic and institutional settings. Even the “visiting relationship” – traditional but informal, and hence often traditionally frowned upon – is covered.

Why not include gay relationships?

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who has led some of the most forward-thinking legal reforms in a generation, without embarrassment explained the Government’s position. He said he had no fear of the issue, but the State is waiting for the Privy Council to decide the pending case of activist Jason Jones.

So we fiddle while Rome burns.

Mr Al-Rawi would do well to remember the local High Court ruling on Mr Jones’s case has already influenced jurisprudence all over the world. It has even travelled to the Indian Supreme Court, which cited it in ruling for gay equality.

Nevertheless, it is odd for our legislators to defer to the Privy Council, itself a relic of our colonial past, particularly over a case that has nothing to do with the Domestic Violence Act. The Jones case is about laws forbidding sodomy.

Equally baffling, though, was the AG’s statement that: “We believe in equality but we believe laws are not designed only by ourselves.”

The Cabinet's chief legal adviser does not seem convinced that legislators have a duty to uphold the notion of equal protection under the law no matter what.

Equality is a notion so fundamental it is above the fray of any consultative process.

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"Protection should be for all"

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