Treatment of gays, gay lifestyle, support groups; whether sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act and paragraph 8(1)(e) of the Immigration Act are enforced (January 2003-November 2005) [TTO100707.E]

According to the chancellor of the University of West Indies, "[h]omophobia is so rampant in the Caribbean (that) it almost boggles any logical, any rational discussion. If you start to speak about it you get divided in two groups" (Trinidad and Tobago Express 1 Nov. 2005). Because of the way society views homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago, gays and lesbians often hide their homosexuality or live in the "closet" (The Trinidad Guardian 7 June 2003; Gay Times 22 July 2005).

These opinions were corroborated by the regional director of social sector programs and policy of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs in a telephone interview (Trinidad and Tobago 24 Nov. 2005b). He stated that because of the stigma attached to homosexuality, gay people do not openly identify themselves as such. Homosexuals hide their sexual orientation even from friends and family and, in Trinidad and Tobago, it is "still a closet population of homosexuals" (ibid.). He stated that there were no homosexual support groups in Tobago and was not aware if any existed in Trinidad (ibid.). He indicated that since individuals do not want to identify themselves as homosexuals, it is almost impossible to set up programs in the social sector to support homosexuals, and he questioned whether anyone would attend since they would then be identified as a homosexual (ibid.). The regional director was not aware of any physical attacks against gay individuals; however, he stated that homosexuals do face discrimination (ibid.). No other information about the existence of homosexual support groups could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Homosexuality is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago (Sodomy Laws 5 Dec. 2004; ILGA n.d.; Gay Times 22 July 2005; ILO July 2004; Washington Blade 16 Jan. 2004). Specifically, Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1986 provides that buggery is an offence; buggery is defined as "sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person" (Trinidad and Tobago 11 Nov. 1986, Sec. 13(2)). Section 16 provides that serious indecency is an offence; it is defined as "an act, other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire" (ibid., Sec. 16(3)). The act specifies that this provision does not apply to a husband and wife or a female and male both of whom are over 16 years of age (ibid., Sec. 16(2)).

Gay Times indicates that "the laws are not enforced and no prosecutions have been made for many years" (22 July 2005). In a telephone interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, a representative stated that police did not arrest individuals for being gay (23 Nov. 2005).

The Immigration Act of Trinidad and Tobago includes a provision that prohibits homosexuals from entering the country (1995, Sec. 8). Subsection 8(1) specifically states that

[e]xcept as provided in subsection (2), entry into Trinidad and Tobago of the persons described in this subsection, other than citizens and, subject to section 7(2), residents, is prohibited, namely
[...]
(e) prostitutes, homosexuals or persons living on the earnings of prostitutes or homosexuals, or persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes;
(f) persons who are reasonably suspected of attempting to bring into Trinidad and Tobago or of procuring prostitutes or other persons for the purpose of prostitution or homosexual or other immoral purposes;

Homosexuals are not only prohibited from entering the country, but can be deported as well if they are determined to be persons who "practise ..., assist ... in the practice of or share ... in the avails of prostitution or homosexualism" (Trinidad and Tobago 1995, Sec. 9(4)(a)).

In a telephone interview with the Consulate General Office of Trinidad and Tobago, a counsel immigration stated that Section 8(1)(e) had never been repealed so that it was still in effect and could be enforced (24 Nov. 2005a). He indicated that over the years there had been incidents where this section was used, however, he was not aware if it was still currently being enforced (Trinidad and Tobago 24 Nov. 2005a).

A newspaper article in Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday reported that the House of Commons of Trinidad and Tobago passed a bill to amend the Extradition Act "to prevent an accused person's return to a declared Commonwealth territory or a declared foreign territory if it is determined that the request for his return is based on his sex, gender or sexual preference" (11 Jan. 2004). More current information or corroborating information regarding the status of this bill could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to the Planning and Development Minister, in June 2004 the government was not considering decriminalizing homosexuality (Trinidad and Tobago Express 15 June 2004). Justice Gregory Smith, who declared the Equal Opportunities Act unconstitutional in 2004, was quoted as saying "Legislative intent and policy in Trinidad and Tobago, unlike in Canada and in the UK [United Kingdom], is to continue to treat homosexuality as a very serious criminal offence and it would be contrary to public policy to vest rights in individuals which stem from their condonation and practice of what the legislature has deemed to be serious criminal offences" (Trinidad and Tobago Express 11 May 2004).

No information could be found on whether any legislation exists in Trinidad and Tobago to address discrimination based on sexual orientation. An attempt in 2000 by the government to implement such legislation, called The Equal Opportunities Act, did not include sexual orientation as a basis of discrimination (ILO July 2004; The Trinidad Guardian 30 May 2004; Trinidad and Tobago Express 31 Oct. 2004; Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday 28 March 2005) and was, in May 2004, judged to be unconstitutional by the judiciary (ILO July 2004). In spite of the finding of unconstitutionality, in his judgment, Justice Smith ruled that it was legal not to include protection for homosexuals under the Act (Trinidad and Tobago Express, 11 May 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Gay Times. 22 July 2005. "Lesbian and Gay Trinidad and Tobago." http://www.gaytimes.co.uk/gt/default.asp?topic=country&country=952 [Accessed 21 Nov. 2005]

International Labour Organization (ILO). July 2004. "National Labour Law Profile: Trinidad and Tobago." http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/ifpdial/ll/observatory/profiles/tt.htm [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). N.d. "World Legal Survey." http://www.ilga.info/Information/Legal_survey/americas/trinidad_and_tobago.htm [Accessed 21 Nov. 2005]

Sodomy Laws. N.d. "Trinidad and Tobago." http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/trinidad/trinidad.htm [Accessed 22 Nov. 2005]

Trinidad and Tobago. 24 November 2005a. Consulate General of Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto. Telephone interview with Counsel Immigration.

_____. 24 November 2005b. Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. Telephone interview with Regional Coordinator of Social Sector Programs/Policy.

_____. 23 November 2005. Police Service. Telephone interview with police officer.

_____. 25 September 2000. Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2000. http://www.ttparliament.org/bills/acts/2000/a2000-31.pdf [Accessed 21 Nov. 2005]

_____. 1995. Immigration Act. http://www.immigration.gov.tt/documentlibrary/downloads/13/Imm%20Act%20&%20Regs.pdf [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

_____. 11 November 1986. Sexual Offences Act, 1986. Accessed by correspondence through a Senior Librarian of Parliament on 10 November 2005.

Trinidad and Tobago Express [Port of Spain]. 1 November 2005. Richard Lord. "Concern over Homophobia in Caribbean." http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article?id=112581942 [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

_____. 31 October 2004. Andy Johnson. "Embrace Gays, Lesbians ... Call for Action on Equality Law." http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/print?id=44375644 [Accessed 21 Nov. 2005]

_____. 15 June 2004. Richard Lord. "Aids Threatening National Workforce." http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article?id=26444377 [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

_____. 11 May 2004. Imran Ali. "Equal Opportunities Act Illegal, Judge Rules." http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article?id=22962489 [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday [Port of Spain]. 28 March 2005. "Rights of Homosexuals." http://www.newsday.co.tt/stories.php?article_id=25380 [Accessed 22 Nov. 2005]

_____. 11 January 2004. Sean Douglas. "Gays in TT get Legal Protection." http://www.newsday.co.tt/stories.php?article_id=12593 [Accessed 23 Nov. 2005]

The Trinidad Guardian [Port of Spain]. 30 May 2004. Judy Raymond. "Some Are More Equal Than Others." http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2004-05-30/presstable.html [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

_____. 7 June 2003. Denzil Mohammed. "Wed to Pride and Shame." http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2003-06-07/denzil.html [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

_____. 2 June 2003. Kim Johnson. "Hell on Wheels." http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2003-06-02/featurestory1.html [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

Washington Blade. 16 January 2004. "Gays in Trinidad, Tobago Granted Some Legal Rights." http://www.washblade.com/2004/1-16/news/worldnews/wibs.cfm [Accessed 5 Dec. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted


Attemps to contact two oral sources were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Caribbean Net News, Freedom House, GayGuide.net, GayJourney.com, Gaytnt.com, Gay Today, Gay Trinidad, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), U.S. Committee for Refugees, United States Department of State.