Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

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Statement on the Draft National Gender Policy and Action Plan

Published in Trinidad Guardian • Reported in Trinidad Express
15 April 2005 • 335 words

The Trinidad and Tobago Humanists Association wishes to support certain recommendations contained in the Draft National Gender Policy and Action Plan, which is now in the hands of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs.

Specifically, we refer to the suggestion that the Government “facilitate public debate on the promotion of and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons, irrespective of sexual preference or orientation.”

To reasonable individuals, this is not a controversial idea. The policy is, first of all, asking only for debate. Admittedly, its phrasing also strongly implies that homosexuals should not be discriminated against - and this suggestion has already aroused the ire of religious fundamentalists.

The Catholic Commission for Social Justice, for example, has warned that such a recommendation would "irreparably damage the fabric of our society". We understand their perspective. This country has a murder every 25 hours, a poverty rate of over 40 percent, and plummeting literacy. But Ms. Leela Ramdeen, who heads the CCSJ, believes that what will ensure social collapse is the government passing a law stating that individuals cannot be denied employment because they are gay.

Curiously for Ms Ramdeen's Catholic perspective, those countries which outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation have not had their social fabric torn apart. In fact, every relevant indicator - crime rates, poverty levels, literacy - says that their societies are much more tightly wrapped than our own. But what the CCSJ wants is to inject specifically irrational and intolerant religious beliefs into secular legislation.

However, since secularism is strongly correlated to social development, we urge the government not to be intimidated by the rantings of religious fundamentalists, and to let the discussion on gay rights and abortion law reform go forward. The TT Humanists recommendation is that the Draft Policy be tabled in Parliament, so that citizens can hear a debate on fundamental issues of human rights, discrimination, and morality in the nation's highest forum.

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