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Trinidad and Tobago: Situation of homosexuals; state protection; whether Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act and Paragraph 8(1)(e) of the Immigration Act are enforced (January 2003 - July 2009)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 30 July 2009
Citation / Document Symbol TTO103215.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Trinidad and Tobago: Situation of homosexuals; state protection; whether Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act and Paragraph 8(1)(e) of the Immigration Act are enforced (January 2003 - July 2009), 30 July 2009, TTO103215.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b20f03423.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Societal attitudes

Gay Times refers to a "prevailing homophobic attitude in society," which leads many homosexuals to lead double lives (n.d.; see also Trinidad and Tobago Express 8 June 2009). Nevertheless, the magazine describes Trinidad and Tobago as the Caribbean jurisdiction with the biggest "gay scene" after Puerto Rico, with three gay bars or nightclubs and several mixed clubs in and around Port of Spain (Gay Times n.d.).

In a 2006 World Values Survey conducted by political scientists Ronald Ingelhart and Christian Welzel, respondents from Trinidad and Tobago, among other countries, were asked which type of person they would not like to have as a neighbour (Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday 17 Apr. 2009). While 2 percent of people from Trinidad and Tobago said they would not want to live beside someone of a different race, 66 percent said they would not want to live beside a homosexual (ibid.).

A December 2007 Gallup poll found Trinidad and Tobago to be among the countries with the least acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Americas; specifically, 17 percent of the country's respondents believed the area in which they lived was a good place for homosexuals, compared with a median of 24 percent across 113 countries worldwide and 75 percent in Canada (The Gallup Europe Journal Dec. 2007).

An 11 January 2008 article appearing in the Trinidad and Tobago Express quoted a spokesperson for the National AIDS Coordinating Committee as stating that "there has been growing acceptance for 'gays' in the country in recent years," though further or corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Legislation and judiciary

Homosexual activity is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago (Gay Times n.d.; ILGA May 2009; Sodomy Laws 9 Apr. 2009). Specifically, Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1986 declares 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 defines the offence of "serious indecency" 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)).

The Immigration Act of Trinidad and Tobago includes a provision that prohibits homosexuals from entering the country (1969, 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 1969, Sec. 9(4)(a)).

As of the spring of 2009, Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act and Paragraph 8(1)(e) of the Immigration Act remained in effect (ILGA May 2009; Sodomy Laws 9 Apr. 2009). According to the London-based Gay Times, these laws are not enforced, nor have they led to any prosecutions in recent years (n.d.); Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 indicates that "the government generally did not enforce [these laws]" (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Similarly, on 16 March 2007, The Independent reported that in spite of legislation barring homosexuals from entering the country, "no one has ever been turned away at immigration." This statement could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In June 2008, a court awarded damages totalling 125,750 Trinidad and Tobago dollars [or approximately 21,000 Canadian dollars (Canada 12 June 2008)] (Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday 13 June 2008) to a gay man who had complained of being detained and taunted by police officers because of his sexual orientation following his mistaken arrest (ibid.; The Trinidad Guardian 21 July 2007). The judge ordered the government to compensate the man for the unlawful three-day incarceration (Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday 13 June 2008).

The Data Protection Bill of 2009 prohibits public and private sector institutions from processing "sensitive personal information," which includes an individual's sexual orientation (ibid. 15 Feb. 2009). Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday reported that, while not explicitly stated by lawmakers, this bill "might be viewed as a back-door move to give gays some legal protection" (ibid.).

Government efforts

In both 2008 and 2009, Trinidad and Tobago signed resolutions of the Organization of American States (OAS) calling for the prohibition of violence motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity (IRN 29 June 2009; Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday 20 July 2009). However, in December 2008, the government was not among the 66 countries that signed a non-binding affirmative statement by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality (ibid. 28 Dec. 2008).

In an 8 June 2009 article appearing in the Trinidad and Tobago Express, Social Development Minister Amery Browne voiced his support for an ongoing initiative involving the government and the National AIDS Coordinating Committee to consider new legislation to protect homosexuals and persons living with HIV/AIDS from discrimination. This followed earlier statements made by Senator Dana Seetahal who in June 2008 called for the inclusion of homosexuals, among others, within the Equal Opportunity Act (Trinidad and Tobago Express 24 June 2008). Further or corroborating information on proposals for anti-discrimination legislation to protect homosexuals could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

On 25 June 2009, the Trinidadian cabinet reportedly approved a National Policy on Gender and Development of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which reaffirms the government's opposition to same-sex relationships and its refusal to consider same-sex marriage (Christian Telegraph 26 June 2009).

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Canada. 12 June 2008. Bank of Canada. "Currency Conversion Results." [Accessed 23 July 2009]

Christian Telegraph [Kiev]. 26 June 2009. "Trinidad and Tobago: No Homosexual 'Weddings,' No Abortion." [Accessed 20 July 2009]

The Gallup Europe Journal [Brussels]. December 2007. Nicole Naurath. "World Poll: Perceived Acceptance of Homosexuals Is Most Likely in the Americas Least Likely in Africa." 4th Issue. [Accessed 20 July 2009]

Gay Times [London]. N.d. "Gay Trinidad and Tobago." [Accessed 20 July 2009]

The Independent [London]. 16 March 2007. Geneviève Roberts. "Elton John Concert Will Corrupt Tobago, Archdeacon Claims." [Accessed 20 July 2009]

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). May 2009. "Trinidad and Tobago." State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Law Prohibiting Same-Sex Activity Between Consenting Adults. [Accessed 20 July 2009]

International Resource Network (IRN). 29 June 2009. "Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation." [Accessed 22 July 2009]

Sodomy Laws. 9 April 2009. "Trinidad and Tobago." [Accessed 21 July 2009]

Trinidad and Tobago. 1969 (amended 1995). Immigration Act. [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]. 8 June 2009. Rohandra John. "'New Laws Key to Fight Against AIDS'." [Accessed 20 July 2009]
_____. 24 June 2008. Ria Taitt. "Protect Gays, HIV/AIDS Victims and the Disabled." [Accessed 21 July 2009]
_____. 11 January 2008. Ariti Jankie. "Growing Acceptance for Gays in T&T." [Accessed 21 July 2009]

Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday [Port of Spain]. 20 July 2009. "Gender Policy Flawed, Change Needed." [Accessed 21 July 2009]
_____. 17 April 2009. Kevin Baldeosingh. "Trini Values." [Accessed 21 July 2009]
_____. 15 February 2009. Sean Douglas. "Gays May Get Privacy Protection." [Accessed 21 July 2009]
_____. 28 December 2008. "Homosexual Ban is Foolish." [Accessed 21 July 2009]
_____. 13 June 2008. "State to Pay Over $125,000." [Accessed 21 July 2009]

The Trinidad Guardian [Port of Spain]. 21 July 2007. Sascha Wilson. "Victim of 'Public Ridicule' Speaks Out." [Accessed 23 July 2009]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Trinidad and Tobago." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 21 July 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Caribbean Net News, The Economist [London], Freedom House, GayGuide.net, GayJourney.com, Gaytnt.com, Gay Today, Gay Trinidad, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHR), Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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