Hosted at Kapok Hotel in Port-of-Spain, regional leaders in the LGBT community representing Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, gave graphic and detailed accounts of the discrimination they and other members of the fraternity face on a daily basis.
The activists also signed a Declaration of Intent as they seek to share information and come up with a united approach to improving social acceptance of the LGBT and changing unfair laws against them.
Snell, in his address to the audience, acknowledged that the discrimination LGBT people face in this region is as a result of British laws passed on from the colonial days. He noted, however, that his government has done a lot to change their stance towards the issue and implored others to do the same.
“As Lance mentioned it is a very unfortunate fact that the Commonwealth, an organisation that is sort of Britain’s extended family overseas, is also an organisation that has among it a number of countries that lead the world in homophobia which is nothing to be proud of. In some respect that it is a negative (consequence of) colonial era, laws that have never been repealed or updated...I think (Britain) it’s a pretty easy place these days to be LGBT but of course this wasn’t always the case...Change can come,” he said, while praising the LGBT rights activists for their work.
Meanwhile, Price, who was special adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, also commented on the draconian laws still in place and joked that if enforced he would not even have been be able to attend yesterday’s function. “I shouldn’t even be here at all because one of the laws in TT says it is illegal for a homosexual person to enter the country and that’s the immigration law that’s still on the statute book. Somehow I managed to sneak my way in so I’m very pleased to be here,” he said tongue-in-cheek.
Price, the founder of Kaleidoscope trust, a UK-based group aimed at improving LGBT rights outside of the country, revealed that he met TT Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in 2011 and wrote her about the subject. “I said it was lovely to meet you. I love the country and I love the people but what about those laws you’ve got and she kindly wrote back and said yes she agreed with me and said she wanted to see the new gender policy in Trinidad and Tobago as a vehicle for getting rid of the laws that discriminate against LGBT people. That was in 2011, now it’s 2014, we’re still waiting, you’re still waiting, we look forward to progress in the years ahead,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Steffan Edwards of the Silver Lining Foundation, hailed the formation of Generation Change as “a new era of youth who demand those acquisition of rights that were promised to all.”
“This is a project about change and growth and we hope to kindle a fire among youth in the region and make it truly inclusive, diverse and relevant,” he declared.
Speakers from throughout the Caribbean spoke of the problems LGBT people face in their country including job discrimination, violence, taunting and even rejection from their own family. Despite feeling proud of the increasing support among LGBT rights groups, the consensus among all speakers was that pressure must be put on governments to amend and in some cases repeal laws that specifically hurt the LGBT group.