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Dear Editor: Those pesky human rights; gov’t must review treatment of refugees and LGBTQI

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GTT) behaves as if human rights are an annoyance. Two clear examples are the issue of rights of refugees and the LGBT community’s right to be treated equally under the Equal Opportunity Act 2000 (EOA).

Oh, lest I forget, the EOA’s section 3 (interpretation) specifically rules out ‘sexual preference or orientation’. In other words, the EOA clearly breaches sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution, but no one seems to care.

Photo: The LGBTQI community holds its gay pride parade in Woodbrook.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

Now that activist Jason Jones has taken up the matter, it remains for the Privy Council (PC) to explain yet again, that GTT cannot discriminate under grounds of sexual orientation—a question long settled in the UK with Dudgeon v UK (1981). Similarly, the PC had to clarify that the Trinity Cross discriminated against parts of the population regarding religion.

The GTT, along with the more religiously-minded (those less prone to critical thinking and fair-play), subscribes to the point of view that human rights are okay to apply selectively; ‘we vs them’, as it were.

The Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT) is chaired by an almost militant Roman Catholic (RC) who regularly pushes the RC agenda in public, through newspaper articles and otherwise. I often ask myself, how unbiased can such a person be? I leave you to look at the evidence.

Marginalising parts of the population is okay, as long as it is not ‘we’. Once we can identify traits that point to ‘them’, it’s okay to stigmatise, beat down, deny, insult… well, you get the picture. Never mind the Constitution, the GTT says it’s okay so the population is happy. Fifth happiest on earth, right?

But is it really okay to apply human rights selectively?

History answers that pretty well, don’t you think? One only has to look at the American south and South Africa and their treatment of blacks, the treatment of Jews by Nazi Germany, etc.

Ah, says the critics, we won’t/can’t become like them. We’re a democracy. The answer to that is a two-word question. Are you? Are you truly a democracy if you deny parts of your population equal rights same as the other parts?

Photo: Venezuelans pore over the Colombia border in search of refuge.
(Copyright The Star)

For human rights to make sense, they must be applied to all equally. Without favouritism. Once a part of the population is treated differently, then it’s a slippery slope to anarchy. Watch what is happening around the world to countries like Zimbabwe, Venezuela etc. The rule of law is suddenly rule by law; but the law also becomes authoritarian and, in most cases, draconian.

It is the nature of governments to erode rights, at individual or national levels. It is the judiciary and watchdogs like Amnesty International that prevent the erosion and protect the rights we have or aspire to.

So, we have the GTT refusing to acknowledge the LBGT community as persons in their own country, and refugees as less than human in the foreign soil of T&T. This in the second decade—soon to be third—of the 21st Century.

Human tribal reasoning hasn’t progressed much, has it?

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a law student and a student of human nature and culture, who prefers cool logic to emotional ranting. A Trinidadian living in England, he observes the world through two lenses—and strives to share both views in his writing.

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