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Draft National Gender Policy

Rights of everyone must be protected

Sunday Express Opinion May 8th 2005

The publication by Government of a draft gender policy for public discussion is a step in the required direction. Trinidad and Tobago is a relatively young country built on waves of immigrants from many sources and cultures, many having come to the islands in chains, or as the economically deprived seeking another life, or simply as adventurers, plunderers and colonists. All have brought with them their mores or cultures and ways. Differences of cultures can sometimes divide, but diversity of cultures may also strengthen and bind growing nations, and our country, notwithstanding its many problems, is growing up and becoming part of the wider world. This is why we welcome the publication of the draft gender policy and the invitation by the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Youth Affairs to discussion of its proposals.

There is a worldwide movement toward the codification of human rights and the protection of these rights. Some may see this as a secularisation movement to be resisted at all costs and urge a return to "moral" values. The problem with this is that most modern societies invariably comprise diverse groups, each with their own mores, elements of which may be objectionable to other groups.

On one hand it is comparatively easy on purely rational and philosophical arguments to determine what is right or wrong and there are a few behaviours than can be placed in such categories. On the other hand what may be considered right in one culture may be wrong in another. Codification of basic human rights and a country's laws therefore seek to protect all in society from the imposition of perceptions of right and wrong by one group on another or on any individual. The alternative to this option is continued division.

Serious clashes between the mores of different groups are rarely discussed in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. There are probably reasons for this, not the least of which is the risk of offending the electorate. But the reality is that many in our society are disadvantaged, or discriminated against, for no more than the fact that they are perceived to be on the other side of what is right or wrong. Yes, we agree that there must be majority legislation in our secular world, but it must never be at the cost of denial of basic rights of the individual.

See: TT Humanist Statement on the Draft National Gender Policy and Action Plan

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