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TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER’S SAFETY, LGBTQI NGOs URGE COMMUNITY,
LAUNCHING FIRST PHASE OF CAMPAIGN

23 March 2017

T&T’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community groups, who all work together as the Alliance for Justice and Diversity, are calling on members of their communities to hold each other tighter and ensure each other’s safety. They are asking the media to help.

Responding to reported murders of three gay men—all Caribbean migrants—in a monthlong period earlier this year, and rumours swirling about other violence, the groups met together and swiftly developed a safety awareness campaign. They piloted the messages in toilets at LGBTQI parties over the Carnival weekend.

Today, in response to new concerns circulating on social media about the safety of gay men, they formally launched the first wave of a larger campaign, funded by an award to CAISO: Sex & Gender Justice from the Canadian High Commission

Watch • Send • Stop offer simple messages: Be aware. Watch out for each other. Help find solutions.

“It’s an empowerment message,” said Colin Robinson, director of CAISO. “Our LGBTQI communities here are resilient and have a long history of collaboration and of solution-seeking. Instead of panic, fear and victimhood, we are calling for people to increase our responsibility and vigilance, to take more loving care of each other, and to ensure each other’s protection.”

Additional campaign items will follow, including dating safety reminders, and a module specifically targeting women, trans people and gender-based violence.

The groups, which include Womantra, Friends for Life, the Silver Lining Foundation, I Am One and the Women’s Caucus of T&T, have also reached out to police leadership to offer partnership and pressure in investigating the three murders, to find ways to encourage LGBTQI people who refuse to report crimes because of negative experiences with police, and to ensure accurate information about the number and nature of violent crimes against LGBTQI communities is disseminated.

The flyers include an email address justicediversitytt@gmail.com where the groups encourage crime victims to contact them for support and advocacy. They can also reach a Friends for Life social worker at 681-4150.

“We are also asking the media to help,” said Terry Ann Roy of I Am One, “through responsible, non-sensational reporting, and by ramping up investigative journalism, so we get to the bottom of why people are being killed.”

Supported by a TT$1.3m award from the European Union, the Alliance for Justice and Diversity, Say Something and the University of the West Indies are also about to embark on a three-year project that includes family groups, strengthening policing, school safety, learning about LGBTQI lives and legislative change.

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police sunday articleeditorial 2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | 11 April 2017
Contact: 322-7373 | justicediversitytt@gmail.com

LGBTQI GROUPS SIT DOWN, MAKE PLANS WITH POLICE LEADERS;
URGE COMMUNITY TO SHARE FACTS, NOT RUMOURS

As a second phase of the community safety campaign they launched on March 23, the Alliance for Justice & Diversity (a coalition of LGBTQI and feminist NGOs) met last week with Deputy Police Commissioner Harold Phillip, along with the Police Academy provost and other senior TTPS officials, in a historic session aimed at cooperation in strengthening policing.

Womantra co-director Khadija Sinanan, one of four advocates attending, summed up the April 5 meeting as “a very promising engagement with receptive leaders of the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service. The goal on both sides was to improve how TTPS can serve, protect and restore the confidence of members of LGBTQI communities.” The groups’ engagement with police was the fruit of a multi-year process the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) has led at strengthening relationships between police leadership and NGOs through a series of quarterly meetings. The LGBTQI groups used that channel to reach out to Acting Commissioner Williams, who assigned DCP Phillip to build a TTPS liaison with them, respond to their concerns, and develop action steps.

“The primary thrust was to help us understand how the Service works, how it deals with policing issues that affect us, and who we can engage to ensure good policing or address bad policing,” said Colin Robinson, director of Alliance member CAISO: Sex & Gender Justice, which recently shortened its name. “We asked police to provide us with a trustworthy and stigma-free channel to report crimes.”

Additional areas in which police committed to work with LGBTQI communities were on:

  • further meetings and linkages with key police personnel;
  • feasible changes to existing policing procedures that would strengthen how TTPS understands and investigates gender-based, sexual and hate violence—including the possible creation of a broad special victims unit;
  • a future review of five recent murder cases to ensure LGBTQI communities have responsible and accurate public information about any patterns or threats of violence, and to enable community members’ contributions to the solution of cases still open;
  • inclusion of LGBTQI communities in criminology research; and
  • participation in how the Police Academy assesses and continuously improves its existing training on sexuality and gender.

This last initiative is a key component of the Alliance’s safety campaign. The groups, working with the Equal Opportunity Commission and the University of the West Indies, and with the support of the European Union, hope to partner with the Academy and TTPS human resources managers to strengthen how the Service prepares officers to police domestic and bias violence.

“We’re working to improve policing, to make people safe” said law student Terry-Ann Roy, “not make them scared.” Roy, 25, is one of several young people leading Trinidad & Tobago’s youngest LGBTQI NGO, I Am One. She facilitated a Saturday April 8 forum, in which the Alliance talked with community members about their meeting with police. She’s not fond of the sensationalism around crime and violence affecting community members. “What we owe each other are facts, change, and leadership that makes us safe. And a lot less drama.”

The groups also responded to a gay police corporal’s recent testimony to news media about rising, unsolved murders and attacks targeting gay men, and officers who shame LGBTQI crime victims and fail to take or investigate reports. They pleaded with the officer and all others to share concrete, specific details of all such issues with them at justicediversitytt@gmail.com. “It’s critical that the media and whistleblowers hold police accountable,” Robinson said, “but much of what we hear is lots and lots of rumours and allegations, and very few facts or firsthand accounts. Our forum Saturday showed how much the mistrust our communities have of policing makes us vulnerable—not to criminals, but to fear and rumour. We’ve reached out to gay officers in recent weeks without success. We ought to be all working together to fix this.”

“It was a really different response from 2007 when we were sending police phone numbers, addresses and descriptions of criminals who were using shame to assault, rob and blackmail people too scared to go to the police, and nothing was happening,” said Luke Sinnette, who attended the two-hour meeting at Police Administration Bldg. A social worker with the 20-year-old group Friends for Life. Sinnette has urged LGBTQI people who have been victims of crime to seek support and counselling by calling the organization at 681-4150, to confidentially report their experiences of crime and violence, and to name the perpetrators in order to protect others.

The Alliance groups, which include the Silver Lining Foundation and the Women’s Caucus of T&T, saluted the lessons they were taught by non-LGBTQI allies about how to achieve better policing. “The TTPS faces enormous challenges across the board in delivering good policing. The people in it, we discovered, are surprisingly human. Our goal is to help them protect and serve everybody.”

END

The 6 Issues & 12 Action Steps

friends for life idahotI. REPRESENTATION • LEADERSHIP • STATE CAPACITY
initiatives for the President, Leader of the
Opposition, Prime Minister, Cabinet, All State Entities

1. Appoint Senators to the 11th Parliament capable of representing the needs and experiences of LGBTI members of the national community

2. All national officials vocally support inclusion and dignity for all, including LGBTI members of the national community, and denounce discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender

3. Strengthen how all arms of the State understand and are tooled to address the needs of LGBTI members of the national community in policy and programmes • Convene a forum for the new Government and other arms of the state to listen to LGBTI community concerns

II. HOMELESSNESS
initiatives for the Housing & Development
Corporation, Ministers responsible for Housing,
Training, Social Welfare, Youth/Children, Chambers of Commerce

4. Allocate up to four multi-bedroom HDC dwellings as emergency LGBTI housing • Pilot a public-private, multi-ministry transitional and life skills programme for LGBTI young people made homeless by discrimination

5. Lower to 16 the direct eligibility age for social welfare for young people abused by their families

III. GENDER IDENTITY • GENITAL MUTILATION
initiatives for Regional Health Authorities, the
Registrar General, the Children’s Authority, the University of
the West Indies, Ministers responsible for Health, Youth/Children

6. Implement international protocols for clinical care and counselling for intersex children and their families that delay gender assignment, foster autonomy of gender identity, protect rights and dignity, and permit legal adjustment of sex on national identity documents

IV. TOLERANCE, SAFETY & ACHIEVEMENT IN SCHOOLS
initiatives for the Law Reform Commission,
School Leaders, Parent Associations, Education Sector
Unions, Ministers responsible for Education, Youth/Children

7. Implement school-based initiatives and policy nationally that foster a nation tolerant of its diversity; prevent and protect young people from violence and bullying in educational settings; and reverse the impact of homophobia and gender stereotyping on male underachievement

V. LEGISLATION • EQUAL PROTECTION
initiatives for Parliament, the Attorney General,
Ministers responsible for Labour, the Elderly, Youth/Children

8. Repeal paragraphs 20(1)(c), 20(2)(c), and 20(3)(c) of the Children Act of 2012, which came into force on 18 May 2015 and specifically target young people of the same sex for criminalization and life imprisonment for sexual exploration with each other • Treat non-coercive sexual exploration by young people close in age equally whether children are of the same or opposite sexes

9. “Add All 3”: Amend the Equal Opportunity Act of 2000 to extend its protections against discrimination in employment, education and provision of accommodation, goods and services to age, HIV status, and sexual orientation, as recommended by the Equal Opportunity Commission • Strengthen the independence and machinery of the Equal Opportunity Commission and Tribunal to conform to the Paris Principles for national human rights institutions

VI. CRIMINAL JUSTICE & POLICE PROTECTION
initiatives for the Director of Public Prosecutions,
Commissioner of  Police, Police Complaints Authority, Chief
Justice, Commissioner of Prisons, Chief Immigration Officer

10. Declare a formal moratorium on prosecution of private, consensual sexual activity between adults

11. Train and identify community officers in CID, other centralized units and 80% of police stations as point-persons sensitized to needs of LGBTI members of the national community • Equip and charge the Victim & Witness Support Unit to support LGBTI complainants of domestic and bias violence

12. Implement criminal justice system-wide policies and directives that protect LGBTI members of the national community from stigma, victimisation or violence when seeking justice or in detention

I. REPRESENTATION • LEADERSHIP • STATE CAPACITY

1. Representation

Why? A pillar of democracy is representation. But in first-past-the-post winner-take-all Westminster democracy, all minority groups face high hurdles to attain office or inclusion in national policy, and depend on goodwill of political leaders. Extrapolating from polling by Gallup in the US and in T&T by Barbados firm CADRES, we estimate very conservatively at least 37,000 LGBTI registered voters in T&T—larger than several ethnic and religious minorities, Chinese, Syrian/Lebanese, Methodists, Orisas, to name a few—and 1.4 times larger than the electorate in any one constituency. So if the national community were proportionally represented in a national legislature, LGBTI communities would hold one (and perhaps two) of 41 seats. As of June 2015, the LGBT Representation & Rights Initiative of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill estimates 38 countries—in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Oceania—have had LGBT representatives in their national legislatures, and 41 such persons have served as national ministers in 23 countries—sitting prime ministers of Belgium & Iceland, South Africa’s public enterprises minister, New Zealand’s attorney general Ecuador’s public health minister, Colombia’s education minister and two former Netherlands finance ministers. The current United Kingdom Parliament has 32 open gay/lesbian/bisexual MPs.

Our constitutional framework uses appointment of Senators, particularly to the Independent bench, to expand representation of national diversity and “social or community organizations” in legislative decisionmaking. Presidents have used this to ensure representation of important aspects of national life and groups left underrepresented by the political process, e.g. women, Tobagonians, persons with disabilities, minority faiths.

We pledge: to increase the vigilance with which we meet and advocate with all benches and both houses of our national Parliament • to be available to Parliamentary members and staff for non-partisan briefing, research and consultation on national and sectoral issues and legislation • to recommend persons and to serve when appointed to committees and other functions.

We urge:

  • the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to include in their appointments of Senators to the 11th Parliament a qualified person capable of credibly representing the needs and experiences of LGBTI members of the national community

2. Leadership

Why? The most transformative tool of governance is leadership. Leadership builds a culture of national values and visionary aspirations. In plural nations, leadership can ensure non-discrimination, human dignity and diversity are respected, even where laws do not. Leadership has little economic cost and pays a huge dividend.

We pledge: to ensure there is visible, accountable, accessible leadership in representing and advocating strategically for the interests of the diverse LGBTI community nationally • to work together with others to build a nation we all share, and to fight for the rights and needs of others, not just our own

We urge:

  • all national officials, and notably the political leaders of all parties, to vocally defend the dignity of all members of the national community, including LGBTI persons, to ensure their full inclusion in all aspects of national life, and to denounce humiliation and discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender

3. State Capacity

Why? In a similar fashion to how we treat with elderly persons, youth and persons with disabilities, the state needs to systematically seek to understand the needs of LGBTI members of the national community, and to address them with policy and programmatic initiatives.

We pledge: to continue to partner with all arms of the state to deepen and sharpen their understanding of the lived local realities of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersexuality, including through information-sharing, consultation, training and research

We urge:

  • the new Government to convene within its first 100 days in office a national forum to enable all arms of the state to listen to LGBTI community concerns
  • all relevant arms of the state to continuously develop their capacity to understand the needs of LGBTI members of the national community, to develop sectoral policies, systems and programmes that respond to these needs, and to skill decisionmakers and service providers to do both

II. HOMELESSNESS

4. Emergency Housing & Transitional Supports

Why? Over the past ten months, T&T’s joint LGBTI community casework initiative has received requests every month for emergency housing. It is one of the most urgent and unmet needs facing LGBTI members of the national community, especially those who are young. Homelessness is catastrophic, can be life-threatening, and affects every other aspect of life functioning. It increases risks for violence and substance abuse, and robs people of the ability to fulfill their potential.

LGBTI people (particularly in low income, larger households) get put out of family homes because of their sexuality or gender expression. Sometimes this follows domestic violence. Poverty among young LGBTI persons is also fuelled by low school achievement due to bullying, unaddressed workplace harassment that drives them out of employment, and challenges being hired, with no recourse to the law if denied a job or fired because of their gender expression or sexual orientation. Defensive coping mechanisms young people use to deal with persistent abuse also leave them even less market-ready.

Low-income LGBTI persons have few housing options of any nature. Public shelters are dangerous for gay men and trans persons, who avoid them. Domestic violence shelters have refused to accept lesbian and bisexual victims of family violence, or subjected them to harassment and religious proselytizing. Landlords are unwilling to rent to LGBTI people, either out of personal prejudice or pressure from tenants, and are legally able to refuse to do so or to evict tenants on that ground when they discover their sexual orientation or gender identity. Young people especially end up in housing where they are sexually vulnerable, or engage in transactional sex for shelter, heightening their risk for HIV. Some turn to street sex work. Others find affordable housing only in neighbourhoods where crime, violence and homophobia are high and become opportunistic targets for criminals. Even in “safer” neighbourhoods, the threat of bias violence and low-level bullying and harassment by neighbours and on the street endure, and they fear reporting it either because the cost of the related stigma outweighs any justice, or because police dismiss or ridicule them.

Young LGBTI people end up on the street where trans young people in particular are then targeted for police harassment and arrest using colonial vagrancy laws (Section 45(c) of the Summary Offences Act criminalizes being in a public place and being unable to give a good account of oneself). In several cases of these arrests, media are alerted to the appearance of trans women and cross-dressing men, who are paraded through the courthouse and their pictures, names, addresses and clothing details salaciously published. Serial arrests and poor representation help criminalise young people and make it harder for them to transition to sustainable living.

We pledge: to enter the LGBTI inter-organizational initiative Wholeness & Justice into a public-private partnership that manages a programme of transitional housing and life skills development for young people made homeless by discrimination, to restore their dignity, provide safety and a bridge to self-sufficiency, and address their wellness and justice needs from years of neglect, abuse and marginalization

We urge:

  • the Housing Development Corporation to allocate for management by the partnership up to four multi-bedroom dwellings in safer, more cosmopolitan neighbourhoods accessible by public transportation, one each in Northwest, East, Southwest and Central Trinidad, as transitional homes for homeless LGBTI members of the national community
  • Businesses and ministries responsible for supportive housing, social welfare, youth, gender and training to partner together to develop, fund and deliver the transitional services and evaluate the programme

5. Youth Eligibility for Social Welfare

Why? Adolescents forced out of families and into independence by violence and homophobia, and too old for children’s homes, may not be eligible to directly benefit from a number of existing social welfare benefits, including public assistance, house rent, household items and clothing grants, temporary food cards, or the micro enterprise grant, which could ensure their subsistence and help them transition to independent living.

We pledge: to work to educate social welfare workers and administrators about LGBTI homelessness and LGBTI youth culture so their interventions are appropriate, effective and do no harm • to engage traditional shelters so they deepen their understanding of how LGBTI persons experience domestic violence, and reassess admission polices and provider attitudes • to facilitate all providers engaged in serving LGBTI homeless people in an inter-agency support network, in recognition of the multi-sectoral nature of the response needed

We urge:

  • the ministers responsible for social welfare and youth and the Public Assistance Boards to work together urgently to make young people 16 and 17 years old who have been rejected or are fleeing abuse by their families eligible without red tape to directly receive social welfare benefits, including effecting any necessary amendments to the Public Assistance Regulations

III. GENDER IDENTITY & GENITAL MUTILATION

6. Gender Identity & Genital Mutilation

Why? Intersex adults (persons born with genitals or genetic characteristics that do not make them readily classifiable as either male or female) report having little or no role in the irreversible surgical assignment of a sex to them. Trinidad & Tobago’s legal framework also provides no opportunity for them to adjust their identification documents when the gender identity into which they grow as adults does not match the one doctors and families assigned them at birth. No reliable national data were available for births of sexually ambiguous children, but 300 annually may be the upper limit. A March 2013 hearing by the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights documented across the Americas a pattern of repeated human rights violations of the childhood bodies and lifelong dignity of intersex persons through unnecessary and involuntary cosmetic surgeries that mutilate their birth genitals to make them conform cosmetically to a social gender binary. They describe these procedures as ill-trained physicians playing God, and physical and psychological torture that causes them chronic side-effects and deprives them of the capacity for reproduction and sexual pleasure as adults. Many intersex people and their parents are misinformed about their condition or have it concealed, are denied access to their medical histories and records. No clear clinical standards or training appear to be in place locally to guide treatment, care and support of intersex neonates, youngsters, adults and their families.

We pledge: to link intersex adults and the families of children to counselling and advocacy to safeguard their health, autonomy and rights • to ensure public and professional education nationally about bodily sexual diversity

We urge:

  • the Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer to mandate a policy delaying irreversible genital mutilation to assign a sex to intersex neonates, and requiring family counselling and the child’s guided participation in gender assignment
  • all Regional Health Authorities to ensure trained neonatologists and pediatricians attend the delivery and postnatal care of intersex newborns, and physicians, social workers and psychiatrists involved in perinatal and pediatric care are trained in international human rights and medical standards that guide the treatment and gender assignment of intersex persons
  • the Ministry of Health, University of the West Indies Faculty of Medicine & School of Nursing and Trinidad & Tobago Health Training Institute to strengthen clinical training programmes that address bodily diversity
  • the Children’s Authority to promulgate guidelines on the rights and welfare of intersex children
  • the Registrar General (in consultation with the Ministers responsible for health, immigration and licensing and the Elections & Boundaries Commission) to develop a protocol to accommodate adult requests for reassignment of legally recognized sex

IV. TOLERANCE, SAFETY & ACHIEVEMENT IN SCHOOLS

7. Tolerance, Safety & Achievement in Schools

Why? Violence, fear and intimidation have no place in an educational setting. On the other hand, schools in plural nations offer key sites for fostering tolerance and respect for diversity, and developing a national culture of human rights. Yet, bullying and related violence remain a prevalent part of the culture of our nation’s schools. David Plummer and other scholars have also shown links between homophobia, gender stereotypes and educational underachievement among males in general in Trinidad & Tobago.

UN Secretary General Ban has deemed homophobic bullying “a moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis”, and underscored “it is also, for States, a matter of legal obligation…under international human rights law”. The 2006 World Report on Violence Against Children emphasizes that bullying is not a cultural rite of passage. It underscores that while bullying targets children with a range of identities and orientations, “almost all bullying is sexual or gender-based”. Engaging with gender and homophobia must therefore be at the centre of solutions.

Media reports highlight school bullying as an urgent problem. Legislation and policy, promised repeatedly over the past five years, is yet to be formalized, and ought to be driven by global and local evidence. But education officials have resisted implementation of a survey to quantify the local nature and scope of bullying, and indicate where homophobia is involved. The International Development Bank has called for such data. UNESCO notes that “Studies repeatedly confirm links between homophobic bullying and bias—including lack of access to accurate information regarding health, sexuality and other aspects of the curriculum—and negative social, educational and health outcomes, including increased vulnerability to HIV, mental health consequences and suicide.”

Local LGBTI groups told the Law Reform Commission, in an April 2013 submission on homophobic bullying it invited, that solutions must include national human rights and anti-discrimination commitments, legislation, as well as education sector-wide policy and resources, school-level initiatives, teacher preparation and support, classroom and community education initiatives, and individual counseling.

We pledge: to continue to partner with all stakeholders in youth policy and the educational system to strengthen schools as safe and nurturing places for development of the nation’s future population • to provide the input and experiences of such NGOs as the Silver Lining Foundation into development of anti-bullying and anti-violence programmes across the sexual diversity of youth

We urge:

  • the Minister responsible for primary and secondary education to implement the National School Climate Survey in a statistical sample of schools
  • the Ministry of Education, principals and school leadership teams, education sector unions and parents associations to support bullying prevention training for all educators, and involvement of students, parents, and student support personnel in implementation of school-based anti-bullying, diversity and tolerance classroom, public education and counseling programmes that address race/ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation
  • the Law Reform Commission to complete a draft of legislation within six months of documentation of bullying patterns locally, which mandates national policy and other measures to foster diversity, safety and tolerance in educational settings and prevent and address bullying, stereotyping, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation
  • the Cabinet to adopt such policy and establish an accountable framework that empowers targets of bullying and compels schools to take action

V. LEGISLATION • EQUAL PROTECTION

8. Equal Protection for
Juvenile Sexual Experimentation

Why? In March of 2012, much-heralded omnibus children’s protection legislation enacted by the Parliament repealed the buggery and serious indecency provisions of the Sexual Offences Act that refer to minors as offenders and victims. The Children Act replaced these with a substantially revised new regime of sexual offences against persons under 18 with generally stiffer penalties, and simultaneously exempted young persons 12 to 20 years old from criminalization when non-coercive sexual touching or penetration occurs with someone within two or three years of their age. Except if they are of the same sex. Same-sex sexuality between young people is explicitly removed from the Romeo clauses in paragraphs (20)(1)(c), 20(2)(c) and 20(3)(c) of the Act and instead made subject to the new, enhanced penalty of life imprisonment for genital touching of a young person under 16, or penetration of a person under 18. Every member of the Independent Senate bench opposed the provision, and abstained in the vote to pass the bill. During the Senate’s mark up of the legislation, the Attorney General suggested readiness to revisit the provision, but “not without the Opposition’s support”, which Sen. Fitzgerald Hinds declined. Other technical errors exist in the drafting of related sections of the law, leaving 16- and 17-year-olds not liable for penetration of some 13- and 14-year-olds, respectively, but liable to life imprisonment for touching their genitals. Notwithstanding, Government had the relevant sections of the Act proclaimed in May 2015, but has conducted no public education informing the nation that the age at which a young person is capable of consenting to sex with someone 21 years or older has effectively increased to 18.

We pledge: to mobilize a constitutional challenge by young people to the disparate criminalization provisions of the Children Act, and a related public awareness and shaming campaign, if they remain un-repealed or amended by Parliament into 2016

We urge:

  • the Cabinet and Attorney General to introduce, and the 11th Parliament to pass during its first session an amendment to the Children Act of 2012 repealing sections (20)(1)(c), 20(2)(c) and 20(3)(c) and adding a reference to section 19 to the Romeo exemption provided by section 20

9. “Adding All 3” EOC Recommendations
for Updating the Equal Opportunity Act

Why? The Equal Opportunity Act of 2000 is a landmark piece of Caribbean legislation because it expands protections against discrimination enshrined in the Constitution to create a legally enforceable right to freedom from discrimination and equality of treatment in the private as well as public sphere, machinery for conciliation and adjudication of related claims and enforcement of such rights, and access to these mechanisms without the requirement and expense of legal counsel. Its principal aim is to prohibit discrimination in employment, education and the provision of accommodation, goods and services and the victimization of persons alleging such complaints. The law also prohibits public behavior that is offensive or incites hatred on specific grounds.

It created and charged an Equal Opportunity Commission with a function, among others, “to keep under review the working of this Act and any relevant law and, when so required by the Minister, or otherwise thinks it necessary, draw up and submit to the Minister proposals for amending them”. The Commission has, in 2011 publicly recommended age and HIV/AIDS be added to statuses protected from discrimination; and in 2014 sexual orientation. These three statuses have also been recommended for addition to the Act in the concluding observations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2000 and those of the UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights in 2002, and sexual orientation by expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2001. None of these recommendations has yet been enacted by Parliamentary passage of legislation. And, as it currently stands, the statute explicitly excludes sexual orientation claims from being alleged as sex discrimination, although case law suggests its provisions against public insults, humiliation and intimidation inciting hatred based on gender do include sexual orientation.

We pledge: to advocate and partner to strengthen the infrastructure, accessibility, independence and effectiveness, public awareness and use of the Equal Opportunity institutions, and their eventual compliance and functioning as an internationally compliant national human rights institution

We urge:

  • the Cabinet and Attorney General to introduce, and the first session of the 11th Parliament to pass, amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act similar to those in Bills 21 and 30 of 2011, along with the addition of sexual orientation as a status and implementation of measures to strengthen the machinery of the Commission and Tribunal and transition the Equal Opportunity institutions to Paris Principles-compliance