“That statement is totally untrue. I don’t know why she made that statement. Some might call it a reckless statement,” Harris said.
A release sent yesterday from the Vicar of Communications said, “The Prime Minister is reported as having said that a gender policy was drafted by the previous PNM (People’s National Movement) administration, but did not see the light of day ‘because the previous Government faced many persons who were against issues for decriminalising gays.’
“She is reported as saying that her administration circulated a Gender Policy for public comment but ‘again it faced tremendous opposition, especially from the Roman Catholic group.
The Prime Minister is said to have identified two issues: ‘The decriminalising, but also the issue of discrimination, that they should not be discriminated against by reason of their preferences, their sexual orientation.’”
Harris said the statement suggested that the Catholic Church was leading a campaign for the continuation of discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“This is totally false. The Catholic Church is one of several faith communities in Trinidad and Tobago which has raised objections to the Draft Gender Policy, and this was done at meetings organised by the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development in April, and May, 2013. “Concerns about the Draft Gender Policy were raised at these consultations by representatives of various Christian denominations. Therefore, any singling out of the Catholic Church as an objector is most regrettable,” the release said.
Regarding the issue of homosexuality, the release said the Church made their position on homosexuality as it is “contrary to the natural law.” However, the release emphasised that persons of all sexual orientations must be accepted with compassion, and sensitivity.
The Prime Minister is wrong on the issue of human rights. This is the view of Colin Robinson, executive director of the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), who yesterday responded to Persad-Bissessar’s statements on removing laws against persons in the LGBT community.
On Thursday during an interview in New York, Persad-Bissessar said the country has been divided on the issue of removing the anti-gay laws. She suggested there be a referendum to determine how the population feels about removing those laws, because it was not a decision for the government to make, but for the people.
In response to Persad-Bissessar’s statements, Robinson said, “The Prime Minister was dead wrong. This is an issue for the Government to decide. The issue is whether her Government is committed to respecting and protecting all its citizens’ rights and dignity, or just those of some.
“Other citizens don’t get to decide if Hindu citizens or Chinese citizens get rights or not. But apparently for this Prime Minister and Government, we do when it comes to other citizens,” Robinson said.
Regarding the idea of making decisions on a general consensus, Robinson said there is a general consensus to end discrimination, yet there is nothing written formally to end it.
“There’s consensus on child marriage and anti-gay discrimination. Except young Hindu and Muslim girls are waiting too. And there is consensus that their fathers ought not to be able to marry them off at 12 and 14 as our laws say, but there’s been no move on that consensus by the Government either.
“Worse, there is also consensus in public opinion polls that people should not be discriminated against, based on sexual orientation (only 15 percent of us think that), and a majority of people think our immigration law should not prohibit gay people from coming here. But Government is defending the law in court,” Robinson said.