Sunday, September 29, 2013

Positive statements from Religious Leaders

PEOPLE & THINGS: Message to ‘those Christians’

By Peter Wickham | Sun, September 29, 2013 - 12:00 AM

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? . . . . If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem . . . . They’re our brothers. – Pope Francis, July 2013.
A case in point is the energy and time we are spending on homosexuality . . . . Regrettably, when the problem is discussed, it is not to promote justice for people, but rather to victimize, oppress, ridicule and discriminate against persons whose lifestyles differ from others and this is contrary to the gospel message of inclusion of all people in God’s Kingdom. – Canon Wayne Isaacs, September 22, 2013.
Several years ago, popular Christian calypsonian Ronnie Clarke penned a tune entitled TC, or Those Christians, which launched a scathing attack on people he argued professed Christianity but were not “true Christians”. Ronnie has always been the type of Christian who could be characterized as “fundamentalist” and such people believe they can best serve the Lord by arguing for a literal interpretation of the Holy Bible.
My challenge with such thinking is well known. I believe that such thinking sacrifices the intellectual constituent that should be central to religious (or indeed any) expression. I have consistently argued that “fundamentalists” and “literalists” seemed locked into an understanding of the role of religion that should have been made redundant by the teachings of Jesus Christ from the New Testament (properly contextualized). Although not a Christian myself, I do think that there is considerably greater value to the “progressive” school of Christianity than the “literalist” school which has little relevance in an era when we have the capacity to think independently.
Barbados always seems to be such a lonely place for progressive thinkers and as such, two sets of recent remarks by religious leaders provide hope that local and international Christianity might finally be moving towards modernity and narrowly escaping irrelevance. The first of these statements came from no less a person that the leader of the worldwide Christian community, Pope Francis, who has already distinguished himself as a “people’s pope” – which is ironically uncharacteristic of any previous pontiff.
In a recent interview, he uttered the words reproduced above which essentially represent a radical departure from established Catholic teaching. His comments were made in an interview that was wide-ranging and spoke to many controversial issues but across all of these, there was one central theme that seems to be an enlightened reflection of the mission of Jesus Christ, which was to promote love and not hate.
Leading local cleric Canon Wayne Isaacs made similar statements that are also quoted. Both comments speak to the issue of homosexuality. However, both leaders’ comments can be applied to wider social issues.
In the case of Canon Isaacs, it was fortuitous that he elaborated on the broader social implications of this perspective. He suggested that while “our” community appears to be more concerned about whether or not we have been divorced or had a child out of wedlock, God is more likely to ask us questions that “relate to issues of human need, justice and mercy”.
This perspective appears consistent with my limited understanding of the philosophy of Jesus Christ, upon whose life Christianity is based. It is therefore unfortunate that religious zealots, fundamentalists and literalists prefer to see religion as a baton with which they should bludgeon someone into submission instead of a tool that can encourage us to develop a better society. It is also important to note that this type of comment had previously come from other clerics within the established Christian church in Barbados, who have received less coverage but are no less sincere.
These types of statements have generally been associated with older traditions such as Anglicanism, Methodism and Catholicism, while the newer churches here appear to prefer “hellfire and brimstone”. This latter approach might appear exciting because of the associated antics, but this is probably also responsible for the large numbers of people who have become “fed up” with this brand of Christianity that appears to insult our intelligence and ignore a unique opportunity to build a more “just” society.
The decision of the Pope to move the Catholic Church in a direction that will make Christianity more relevant is perhaps belated but no less commendable. Leaders like Pope Francis and Canon Isaacs are ultimately part of a movement that will save Christianity from obsolescence and this can only make for better societies in the future.
• Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).
source:http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/people-things-message-to-those-christians/?fb_action_ids=10153285166450302&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%2210153285166450302%22%3A338233832980228}&action_type_map={%2210153285166450302%22%3A%22og.recommends%22}&action_ref_map=[]

Friday, September 27, 2013

Minsterial Declaration on Ending Violence and Discrimination based on SOGI

Reposted 27th, September, 2013

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 26, 2013


The following is a declaration issued by members of the LGBT Core Group at the United Nations following their meeting.
Begin Text:
1. We, ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and United States, and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – members of the LGBT Core Group at the United Nations – hereby declare our strong and determined commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
2. In so doing, we reaffirm our conviction that human rights are the birthright of every human being. Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) must enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.
3. We welcome the many positive steps taken in recent decades to protect LGBT individuals from human rights violations and abuses. Since 1990, some 40 countries have abolished discriminatory criminal sanctions used to punish individuals for consensual, adult same-sex conduct. In many countries, hate crime laws and other measures have been introduced to combat homophobic violence, and anti-discrimination laws have been strengthened to provide effective legal protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace and other spheres, both public and private.
4. We also recognize that countering discrimination involves challenging popular prejudices, and we welcome efforts by Governments, national human rights institutions and civil society to counter homophobic and transphobic attitudes in society at large, including through concerted public education campaigns.
5. We assert our support for, and pay tribute to, LGBT human rights defenders and others advocating for the human rights of LGBT persons. Their work, often carried out at considerable personal risk, plays a critical role in documenting human rights violations, providing support to victims, and sensitizing Governments and public opinion.
6. We commend the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of resolution 17/19 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and we welcome the efforts of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to raise global awareness of human rights challenges facing LGBT individuals, and to mobilize support for measures to counter violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
7. Nevertheless, we remain gravely concerned that LGBT persons in all regions of the world continue to be victims of serious and widespread human rights violations and abuses.
8. A landmark 2011 study by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which drew on almost two decades worth of work by United Nations human rights mechanisms, found a deeply disturbing pattern of violence and discriminatory laws and practices affecting individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
9. It is a tragedy that, in this second decade of the 21st century, consensual, adult, same-sex relations remain criminalized in far too many countries – exposing millions of people to the risk of arrest and imprisonment and, in some countries, the death penalty. These laws are inconsistent with States’ human rights obligations and commitments, including with respect to privacy and freedom from discrimination. In addition, they may lead to violations of the prohibitions against arbitrary arrest or detention and torture, and in some cases the right to life.
10. In all parts of the world – including in our own – LGBT individuals are subjected to intimidation, physical assault, and sexual violence, and even murder. Discriminatory treatment is also widely reported, inhibiting the enjoyment of a range of human rights – including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and work, education and enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.
11. We are fully committed to tackling these violations and abuses – both at the domestic level, including through continued attention to the impact of current policies, and at the global level, including through concerted action at the United Nations.
12. We recognize the importance of continued dialogue between and within countries concerning how best to protect the human rights of LGBT persons, taking into account regional initiatives. In this context, we welcome the outcome of a series of recent regional consultations on the topic of human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity that took place in March and April 2013, and encourage the holding of further such meetings at regional and national levels.
13. Key to protecting the human rights of LGBT individuals is the full and effective implementation of applicable international human rights law. Existing international human rights treaties provide legally binding guarantees of human rights for all – LGBT people included. But for these guarantees to have meaning they must be respected by Governments, with whom legal responsibility for the protection of human rights lies.
14. Cognizant of the urgent need to take action, we therefore call on all United Nations Member States to repeal discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and ensure adequate and appropriate legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
15. We strongly encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue its efforts to increase understanding of the human rights challenges facing LGBT people, advocate for legal and policy measures to meet these challenges, and assist the United Nations human rights mechanisms in this regard.
16. We agree with the United Nations Secretary-General’s assessment that combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes “one of the great, neglected human rights challenges of our time”. We hereby commit ourselves to working together with other States and civil society to make the world safer, freer and fairer for LGBT people everywhere.

PRN: 2013/1291

Source: http://m.state.gov/md214803.htm

The constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law

in the diaspora 

Just a little over two weeks ago, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang delivered his decision on a motion that had been filed in Guyana’s high court in 2010, and which challenged a law under which seven persons were arrested and charged with dressing in female attire for an improper purpose under Section 153 (1) (XLVII) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02. Four of the seven arrested persons and the Society for Sexual Orientation Discrimination, represented by a group of lawyers under the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) and Gino Persaud who served as instructing counsel, challenged the law as violating several fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Guyana constitution. In his judgment, Justice Chang upheld the law in its entirety, rejecting all arguments about its unconstitutionality. At the same time, he emphasized that there is nothing to prohibit “a person wearing an ‘attire’ for the purpose of expressing or accentuating his or her personal sexual orientation in public.”

Reposted 27th, September, 2013
 
Alissa Trotz is editor of the In the Diaspora Column
This column is dedicated to the memory of Dwayne Jones, murdered in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in July of this year. Jones had been attacked and beaten to death by a crowd after attending a party dressed in female attire.
There is guarded optimism in some quarters that Justice Chang’s ruling that there is nothing improper per se about cross-dressing goes some way to recognizing LGBT rights. I am a layperson when it comes to the law, but for me the ruling clarified that we have a long way to go to combat homophobia and transphobia, as well as to unequivocally uphold the Guyana Constitution, and the fundamental rights provisions it enshrines, as the supreme law of the land.
Several dimensions of the ruling are deeply concerning. At the time of the criminal trial, Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson reportedly instructed the defendants that they were “confused” and should “go to church and give their lives to Christ.” The applicants to the High Court sought a declaration that such statements from the bench disregarded their rights to freedom of thought and religion and violated the constitutional declaration that Guyana is a secular state. Justice Chang’s response that the Chief Magistrate was merely proselytizing like any religious leader, and that her exhortations could therefore not be considered a constitutional infringement, seems strange. Article 149 (1) of the constitution tells us that “no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.” Is a magistrate not appointed to perform the functions of a public office? And what does it mean that in executing such duties, the chief magistrate should tell defendants that they should become Christians (presumably to clear up any confusion about their gender and sexual identity)? This position cannot be compared to that of a religious leader, not least because none of the seven defendants brought before the court chose to be there and to receive the ‘advice’ handed down to them. It is extremely difficult to see how a direct rebuke and instruction, made by a magistrate in the middle of a hearing over which she is presiding and over which she has ultimate authority and sentencing power, could be construed as harmless proselytising.
The applicants also sought a declaration that the law discriminates against persons on the basis of sex and gender, contrary to article 149 of the constitution. In rejecting this argument, the Chief Justice opined that the law could not be considered to be discriminatory since it applied equally to men (dressing in female attire) and women (dressing in male attire). Justice Chang’s decision that fairness has to do with the equal application of the law to men and women rules out careful attention to the content of the law itself. We could come up with other examples to show how this thinking is deeply flawed and short-sighted, say a ruling that upholds a racist law that criminalizes inter-racial marriages between Indians and Chinese, arguing that since both Indians and Chinese are equally liable to face charges and go to jail if they intermarry, then the law is not racially discriminatory. In short, what this judgment says is that the law is not discriminatory because men and women are equally vulnerable to its discriminatory provisions. It not only forecloses consideration of how the discrimination at work here turns on penalizing people for not conforming to stereotypes based on ideas of masculine and feminine gender roles, but by adhering to the law’s binary notion of women and men in Article 153, it reinforces the marginalization of transgendered persons.
In his ruling, Justice Chang stated that cross-dressing by itself is not a criminal offence; it only becomes one when done for an improper purpose. Improper here seems to be akin to illegal, but what exactly constitutes an improper purpose has been left completely undefined. Is a purpose the same as an act, or does it refer simply to an intention to do something (in which case can you be charged for having an improper
intention?). And if improper purpose refers to illegal acts like robbery, fraud, surely those are already covered by existing legislation? What this law effectively does is punish people for cross-dressing, thus bringing us full circle to its discriminatory intent. If a friend and I are charged with loitering and I am seen as a biological woman wearing men’s clothes, then I face additional charges under Section 153 (1). It is my clothing that singles me out as liable in a way that my friend is not. Let us not even get into the question of what is men’s and women’s clothing. One clue is supplied in the judgment, when in a truly torturous section discussing attire which is seen as covered by the law, and accoutrements which are not, earrings are referred to as women’s and finger rings as men’s. Really?
In his decision, Justice Chang rightly awarded damages to the four litigants on the basis of the police officers’ failure to inform them of the reasons for the arrests, violating their constitutional rights to due process. But leaving the law as it stands reinforces the LGBT community’s vulnerability. As Gulliver, one of the applicants and director of Guyana Trans United (GTU), stated, “…the law really stifles us, because what could be an improper purpose? The trans community is very worried, and still fearful of arrests, in light of this decision.” The imprecision attached to ‘improper purpose’ gives wide discretionary powers to the police and the justice system in a context where the cards are heavily stacked against LGBT persons. In a 2012 report, author Christopher Carrico noted that persons interviewed spoke of regular police harassment, arbitrary arrest, abuse and prosecution. What is to stop the police from threatening people who cross-dress, or holding them on suspicion of having an improper purpose? Nothing in this judgment prevents such an arbitrary application of the law because we are no clearer on what ‘improper purpose’ means. In the face of seven transgendered persons who went to prison, the learned Chief Justice could not give us any answer.
This brings us to a final point, Justice Chang’s refusal to accept that the law was unconstitutional, ruling that it had been in existence since 1893 and was therefore protected from challenge under Article 152 (1) of the constitution (the savings law clauses, which essentially preserved pre-existing laws at the time of independence from constitutional scrutiny).
Diana Paton, Reader in Caribbean History at Newcastle University, points out that “the vagrancy laws in the Caribbean, including those included in the Guyanese Summary Jurisdiction Act, date from a period shortly after slavery when the colonial authorities were looking for new ways to control the population. Part of this drive was focused on ensuring that people took on wage labour, but vagrancy legislation was also used to enforce specific norms of behaviour that were mostly derived from Victorian ideas of respectability and proper behaviour.” In addition to cross-dressing, some of the other ridiculous offences that remain on the lawbooks as part of Section 153 (1) penalize anyone who:
(xi) in any public way or public place in any town, beats or shakes any mat between seven in the morning and six  in the afternoon;
(xxix) in any public way flies any kite or plays at any game;
Having a sense of the context that produced Section 153 (1) underlines how an independent country continues to breathe life into colonial laws designed to keep the majority of Caribbean peoples in a state of bondage. Arif Bulkan, one of the lawyers representing the applicants, identifies the irreconcilable tension between “the restrictive savings law clauses in the constitution that limit challenges to repressive colonial laws and the new provisions in the Guyana constitution dealing with equality and non-discrimination.” Justice Chang took a decidedly conservative approach, ruling that this was a matter that required legislative not judicial action, missing a golden opportunity, as SASOD member Zenita Nicholson put it, to give life to the constitution. Some may not find this altogether surprising, in light of his past judgments on indigenous rights and sexual offences/women’s rights.

In the former, Justice Chang has ruled in the first case ever decided in Guyana regarding an indigenous land title claim on the basis of a doctrine long overturned around the Commonwealth, including in Belize. In that case, Chang CJ said in his judgment that if mining operations were affecting the claimant community, they would have retreated to other areas! In relation to sexual offences/women’s rights, in the Greene case last year the acting CJ quashed a rape charge against the former police commissioner after embarking on a lengthy dissection of the complainant’s evidence. Some might say that this is ordinarily the function of the jury, but aside from those procedural questions the decision underlined how modern legislation is often underused in this country (in this case the much-touted Sexual Offences Act), and it also highlighted the CJ’s conservatism in relation to rights’ issues – in this case those being the rights of victims.

But Justice Chang’s ruling comes as a timely reminder that our efforts to ensure that the constitution is not a hollow instrument should also be directed beyond the courts. The role of parliamentarians rightly deserves scrutiny. In 1997, instead of updating and harmonizing the laws, the government simply increased penalties for all offences across the board (begging the question as to whether these changes nullify the immunity of Section 153 (1) from constitutional challenge). What does it mean that those persons elected to represent all Guyanese, and who have overseen important constitutional reforms that are completely at odds with many of these laws, have never bothered to address whether the offences should be kept in the first place? Remember too that parliament capitulated to objections emanating mainly from some religious quarters, sidelining the sexual orientation bill in the constitutional reform process so that it is not included as a basis for discrimination in the Guyana Constitution.

The constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law in Guyana holds crucial lessons for the Caribbean, and we should pay close attention to the case as it makes its way through the appeals process. It brings us face to face with the violent and exclusionary legacies of our colonial past that haunt our laws and lives today, marking some as more deserving and equal than others. It reminds us that laws can be selectively applied to uphold a status quo that protects the few, where those without the so-called respectability of money and power can be regularly and readily targeted for persecution. Those who have brought the case and the organizations they have formed like Guyana Trans United and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, are keeping a necessary spotlight on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their advocacy asks us to consider whether the freedoms that some of us enjoy in the Caribbean are based on the unfreedom of others. Surely this is not the lesson to be learned from the struggles of our ancestors.
This struggle, at a fundamental level a struggle for psychic decolonization, is captured by Bob Marley’s summons to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. What futures are we constrained to imagine if we tether ourselves to the worst dimensions of our pasts? If we are to see ourselves as one people (Guyana), one people out of many (Jamaica), a space where every creed and race find an equal place (Trinidad & Tobago), then let us work together for a more generous and compassionate notion of freedom that can truly include all of us and all of ourselves.
Source:  http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/features/in-the-diaspora/09/23/the-constitutional-challenge-to-the-cross-dressing-law/



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Belize PM Independence Speech Supports Equality for "all" citizens

22nd September, 2013



 Belize became an independent nation in 1981, but it was in 2013 that she finally matured in a way that was inclusive, principled, rational and constructive. I am sure the Belize Evangelical Association dropped off their seats when Belize's Prime Minister Dean Barrow spoke so eloquently about the achievement of the state, but more precisely, his belief in what is the role of the state when he stated,"
Government will therefore fully respect the right of the churches to propagate their understanding of the morality, or immorality, of homosexuality.What government cannot do is to shirk its duty to ensure that all citizens, without exception, enjoy the full protection of the law."  Furthermore, he reminded his audience that while the constitution speaks to the Supremacy of God, it does speak about to rights and dignity of the individual.

He reminded his audience that we have always been a culture of diversity, but expressed concern about the current divisions and its related dangers. He said,  "A version of the culture wars has come to our country and it is souring the harmony and disrupting the rhythm of Belizean life. The golden knot that ties us all together, is in danger of coming loose..." Said in a back drop of marches and rallies against the gender policy and section 53, the public statement has never, been said from any Caribbean leader in CARICOM and marks a mile stone in the public discourse.


 











With the decision in the Crossing dressing case in Guyana made, and no less than two cases in Jamaica and the pending decision for section 53. PM Barrow statement offers all side an opportunity for constructive, rational and responsible dialogue. The comment, " we cannot afford for Government and the Churches to be at odds. The filigreed chain that links the two is a proud part of the national ornamentation, and it cannot be allowed to break." Highlights a message of balance and fairness. Time will tell, if his independence statement will be given concrete life or a broader discussion about rights enforcement and protection of all citizens.  In the meantime, one of our opponents on the far right, Patrick Andrews said in a facebook comment the following:


Seems we have along way to go in our desire for constructive, rational and responsible dialogue. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Legal analysis of cross-dressing case in Guyana

 Reposted 21st, September, 2013

Criminalising Cross-Dressing in Guyana: Quincy McEwan et al vs. Attorney General of Guyana

2013 has been a busy year for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (LGBT) in the Commonwealth Caribbean. As noted in a previous post by activist and attorney-at-law Maurice Tomlinson, there is a series of cases in which laws that adversely affect the Caribbean LGBT are being challenged in the courts. In one of those cases, Quincy McEwan et al vs. Attorney General of Guyana, a Guyanese law criminalising cross-dressing has been unsuccessfully challenged before the High Court of Guyana.
Se-Shauna Wheatle is a Lecturer in Law at Exeter College, University of Oxford.
Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:02 of the Laws of Guyana makes it a criminal offence for a man to wear ‘female attire’, and for a woman to ‘male attire’, in public, for an ‘improper purpose’. The applicants in McEwan v AG argued that the law violated several sections of the Constitution of Guyana, including the rights to equality and non-discrimination under Articles 149 and 149D. It was also argued that the law violated the rule of law, due to the uncertainty in its references to ‘female attire’, ‘male attire’, and ‘improper purpose’.
However, the applicants had to confront a savings law clause in the Constitution, which presented a serious hurdle to their submissions that the law violated the Constitution. This clause grants immunity from challenge on the ground of inconsistency with the provisions in articles 138 to 149 (inclusive) of the Constitution, to laws existing prior to the Constitution. The applicants confronted this hurdle by making several arguments about the scope of the savings law clause. One of these arguments was that section 153(1) had lost its ‘existing law’ status due to the amendment of the section in years subsequent to the Constitution. It was also submitted that the law not only violated sections of the Constitution, but also undermined the constitutional principle of the rule of law. It was maintained that the savings law clause does not protect laws from challenge under an implied constitutional principle.
The Acting Chief Justice, who presided over the case, rejected these arguments, holding that the cross-dressing law did not violate the Constitution. He found that there was a violation of the rights of the four litigants in the case because when they were arrested and the police failed to inform them as soon as reasonably practicable of the reasons for their arrests, as required by Article 139 (3) of the Constitution. However, the challenge to the cross-dressing law itself was rejected, in a judgment that only cursorily addressed the issues and arguments raised in the case.

Equality and Non-Discrimination

On the issue of equality, the judge held that since section 153 is directed against both men and women, there was no discrimination on the ground of gender. His reasoning omitted analysis of the prescription of gender roles to individuals according to their sex, and the resulting requirement that individuals dress according to those prescribed gender roles. There was consequently no discussion of the manner in which the law reflects this assignment of gender roles or the impact of this dynamic on transgender persons who do not identify with that binary representation of gender.

Savings Law Clause

The judge simply held that section 153(1) (xlvii) was immune as an existing law. The judge would have contributed to jurisprudence on the scope of the savings law clause by addressing the argument that the clause does not save laws that are inconsistent with the implied constitutional principle, the rule of law. There is support for the rule of law argument in a Privy Council decision DPP v Mollison, in which it was held that a Jamaican existing law was not saved by the savings law clause because the law violated the separation of powers, an implied constitutional principle. This case was not discussed in the judgment. The court also rejected the argument that the law was unenforceable for vagueness, but did not connect this holding to the submission that if the section was found to violate the rule of law due to vagueness, it could not be protected by the savings law clause.

The Future of the Case

The applicants have already indicated their intention to appeal the judgment of the High Court. Apart from the hope that an appeal would yield a victory for supporters of LGBT rights in the Caribbean, it is also hoped that an appellate judgment would deliver more forthright engagement with the issues surrounding the interpretation of the saving law clause and the scope of the equality provisions in the Constitution of Guyana.
Se-Shauna Wheatle is a Lecturer in Law at Exeter College, University of Oxford. She is also the Caribbean Regional Correspondent of the Oxford Human Rights Hub.


Source:http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=2894http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=2894

Adela Hernandez, 1st Transgender Woman Elected to Office in Cuba

Reposted: 21st, September 2013

Adela Hernandez, Transgender Woman, Wins Office In Cuba

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ 11/16/12 09:27 PM ET EST AP
Adela
 
Adela Hernandez, 48, center, poses for a photo neighbors in the village of Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Hernandez, a biologically male Cuban who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for "dangerousness" after her own family denounced her sexuality. This month she made history by becoming the first known transgender person to hold public office in Cuba, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central provin

HAVANA -- Adela Hernandez, a biologically male Cuban who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for "dangerousness" after her own family denounced her sexuality.
This month she made history by becoming the first known transgender person to hold public office in Cuba, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.
In a country where gays were persecuted for decades and sent to grueling work camps in the countryside, Hernandez, 48, hailed her election as yet another milestone in a gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.
"As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are the minority," Hernandez said by phone from her hometown.
Becoming a delegate "is a great triumph," she added.
Because she has not undergone sex-change surgery, Hernandez is legally still a man in the eyes of the Cuban state: Jose Agustin Hernandez, according to the civil registry. Hernandez, who switched back and forth between feminine and masculine pronouns when referring to herself during an interview, said she hasn't made a decision to seek an operation but doesn't rule it out either.
Hernandez won office in early November by taking a runoff vote 280-170. Her position is the equivalent of a city councilor, and her election makes her eligible to be selected as a representative to Parliament in early 2013.
For years after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, authorities hounded people of differing sexual orientation and others considered threatening, such as priests, long-haired youths and rock `n' roll enthusiasts. But there have been notable changes in attitudes toward sexuality.
"I would like to think that discrimination against homosexuals is a problem that is being overcome," Fidel Castro told an interviewer some years ago.
Since 2007 the island has been covering sex-change surgery under its free health care system. Last year a gay man and a transsexual woman whose operation was paid for by the state garnered headlines for their first-of-its kind wedding.
The country's most prominent gay rights activist is Mariela Castro, Fidel's niece and current President Raul Castro's daughter.
As director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, Mariela Castro has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community and lobbied parliament to legalize same-sex unions.
Born in a sugar town in central Cuba, Hernandez was disowned by her family and said it was her own father who reported her to authorities, leading to her imprisonment. She had to change towns and defend herself physically from attacks.
Over the decades she found work as a hospital janitor, then as a nurse and most recently as an electrocardiogram technician. She also established herself in the community and as a longtime member of her neighborhood watch committee, which helped her win acceptance and laid the groundwork for her election.
"My neighbors know me as Adela, the nurse," Hernandez said. "Sexual preference does not determine whether you are a revolutionary or not. That comes from within."
As an elected official she promised to advocate for her constituents' interests, but said she also wants to be a voice for gay rights.
"I represent a community but I will always keep in mind the defense of gays," Hernandez said.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/17/adela-hernandez-transgender-woman-cuba_n_2151168.html

Trinidadian Transgender Sues on Rights Violation

Reposted 21st, September, 2013

Courttv.com, May 14, 2001
In conservative Caribbean, transsexuals fight for rights



SAN FERNANDO, Trinidad (AP) � Inside Jowelle De Souza's small beauty shop, she's the master of color and cuts. Outside, she's hailed as a champion of transsexual rights in this socially conservative Caribbean country.
De Souza, who had a sex change operation when she was 19, was recently awarded $5,000 by a High Court judge in an out-of-court settlement to pay for charges of unlawful arrest and police harassment.
She is the first transsexual in Trinidad to sue the state for a violation of constitutional rights. Such suits are rare throughout the Caribbean where sexual minorities often stay silent about mistreatment for fear of reprisals.
"It's one of the biggest problems in our community. It primarily affects transsexual women � male to female," said Shannon Minter, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a U.S. organization that gives legal aid to gays, lesbians and transsexuals.
Fe Souza doesn't like to talk about the incident that propelled her to heroine status. Her lawsuit was settled after one of the policemen accused of harassing her, Eric George, killed himself and his wife before a trial could be held.
"Between you and me, it's over with now," said the 27-year-old woman, wearing a sparkly blue dress in her second-floor hair salon.
Police arrested De Souza and charged her with assault in March 1997 after she pushed a photographer. She said the photographer knew all about her past and was taking pictures of her without permission.
De Souza said that after officer George took her to the police station, he and other male officers taunted her for hours about her sexuality.
The men insisted on searching her, even though her identification and appearance indicated she was a woman. They eventually relented but insisted on having a female officer strip-search De Souza.
"There was no legal right to search," she said. "I pushed (the photographer). I didn't assault him with a deadly weapon."
Cases of violence and police harassment far more serious than De Souza's can be found everywhere in the Caribbean and Latin America, said attorney Minter.
Activists point to a record of indifference by the justice system toward violence against sexual minorities. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says the number of rights violations against transsexuals and transvestites in Latin America is staggering.
In Guatemala, gay rights activists have documented six to 10 murders of transvestites every year between 1997 and 1999. In El Salvador, seven similar killings were reported in 1999 and 12 in 1998. Activists say most of these cases were not seriously investigated and none was solved.
Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island nation off Venezuela, has very few transsexuals, De Souza said, and even fewer documented cases of abuse toward sexual minorities. That's in part because gays and transsexuals are afraid to speak up.
"There is no public voice in the community," said Colin Robinson, a Trinidadian member of Caribbean Pride, a New York-based gay rights group.
Robinson, who now lives in New York, said De Souza's case is significant not just legally but in terms of the public response.
He said he was astonished that some Trinidad media reported the case sympathetically.
"The challenge for sexual minorities in gaining equality in developing countries is not just around legal rights but it's fundamentally about shifting the kind of social spaces that people have to operate in," he said.
Robinson said one reason for De Souza's success was that unlike many transsexuals in developing countries who cannot afford good legal counsel, she was able to hire one of Trinidad's most prominent lawyers � the attorney general's wife, Lynette Maharaj.
De Souza said she is no longer afraid of being harassed by police and believes her case should end similar fears by gays and transsexuals.
"I know now that police officers are not going to take that chance again," she said.
Source:  http://www.courttv.com/archive/news/2001/0514/transsexual_ap.html

Courttv.com, May 14, 2001
In conservative Caribbean, transsexuals fight for rights
SAN FERNANDO, Trinidad (AP) � Inside Jowelle De Souza's small beauty shop, she's the master of color and cuts. Outside, she's hailed as a champion of transsexual rights in this socially conservative Caribbean country.
De Souza, who had a sex change operation when she was 19, was recently awarded $5,000 by a High Court judge in an out-of-court settlement to pay for charges of unlawful arrest and police harassment.
She is the first transsexual in Trinidad to sue the state for a violation of constitutional rights. Such suits are rare throughout the Caribbean where sexual minorities often stay silent about mistreatment for fear of reprisals.
"It's one of the biggest problems in our community. It primarily affects transsexual women � male to female," said Shannon Minter, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a U.S. organization that gives legal aid to gays, lesbians and transsexuals.
Fe Souza doesn't like to talk about the incident that propelled her to heroine status. Her lawsuit was settled after one of the policemen accused of harassing her, Eric George, killed himself and his wife before a trial could be held.
"Between you and me, it's over with now," said the 27-year-old woman, wearing a sparkly blue dress in her second-floor hair salon.
Police arrested De Souza and charged her with assault in March 1997 after she pushed a photographer. She said the photographer knew all about her past and was taking pictures of her without permission.
De Souza said that after officer George took her to the police station, he and other male officers taunted her for hours about her sexuality.
The men insisted on searching her, even though her identification and appearance indicated she was a woman. They eventually relented but insisted on having a female officer strip-search De Souza.
"There was no legal right to search," she said. "I pushed (the photographer). I didn't assault him with a deadly weapon."
Cases of violence and police harassment far more serious than De Souza's can be found everywhere in the Caribbean and Latin America, said attorney Minter.
Activists point to a record of indifference by the justice system toward violence against sexual minorities. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says the number of rights violations against transsexuals and transvestites in Latin America is staggering.
In Guatemala, gay rights activists have documented six to 10 murders of transvestites every year between 1997 and 1999. In El Salvador, seven similar killings were reported in 1999 and 12 in 1998. Activists say most of these cases were not seriously investigated and none was solved.
Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island nation off Venezuela, has very few transsexuals, De Souza said, and even fewer documented cases of abuse toward sexual minorities. That's in part because gays and transsexuals are afraid to speak up.
"There is no public voice in the community," said Colin Robinson, a Trinidadian member of Caribbean Pride, a New York-based gay rights group.
Robinson, who now lives in New York, said De Souza's case is significant not just legally but in terms of the public response.
He said he was astonished that some Trinidad media reported the case sympathetically.
"The challenge for sexual minorities in gaining equality in developing countries is not just around legal rights but it's fundamentally about shifting the kind of social spaces that people have to operate in," he said.
Robinson said one reason for De Souza's success was that unlike many transsexuals in developing countries who cannot afford good legal counsel, she was able to hire one of Trinidad's most prominent lawyers � the attorney general's wife, Lynette Maharaj.
De Souza said she is no longer afraid of being harassed by police and believes her case should end similar fears by gays and transsexuals.
"I know now that police officers are not going to take that chance again," she said.

Source:http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TSsuccesses/Jowelle/Jowelle.html

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Senator Arrested on False Accusation

Reposted: September 1st, 2013

Senator rearrested, slapped with 9 charges hours after court dismissed cases against her

Opposition senator, Vynnette Frederick, second from left, leaves the Central Police Station in Kingstown on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in the company of her lawyers and Vice-President of the New Democratic Party, St. Clair Leacock, left. (IWN photo)
Opposition senator, Vynnette Frederick, second from left, leaves the Central Police Station in Kingstown on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in the company of her lawyers and Vice-President of the New Democratic Party, St. Clair Leacock, left. (IWN photo)
Opposition Senator, Vynnette Frederick was, Thursday afternoon, slapped with nine charges hours after the court dismissed six charges against her.
Frederick was granted bail at the Central Police Station in Kingstown around 5 p.m. Thursday and is scheduled to appear in court Friday morning.
Trinidadian Keith Scotland, one of Frederick’s attorneys, said nine charges were proffered, but did not detail them.
“We wouldn’t want to speak too much about the charges because they are now before the court,” he told I-Witness News shortly after Frederick was released on Thursday.
Andrew Pilgrim, QC, a Barbadian, who is also a member of the defence team, however said, “We could say they are alarmingly similar to those that were before the court before.”
“And that is all we would say in respect of the charges at this point in time,” Scotland further stated, adding, “… we have reserved further comment because the matters are now before the court, sub judice as we say, and we have to be circumspect with what we say about these matters.”
I-Witness News understands that Frederick was charged with making false declarations, swearing falsely, and fabricating evidence.
The six charges dismissed on Thursday relate to evidence that Frederick submitted as part of private complaint against Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves after the December 2010 general elections.
Those matters were thrown out and in September 2012, Frederick was charged “that on
January 10, 2011, at Kingstown, she did make a false declaration before Sonya Young, a magistrate, a person authorised to take a declaration upon a matter of public concern, under circumstances that the false declaration, if committed in a judicial proceeding, would amount to perjury”.
Frederick, an attorney and former candidate for the NDP, was also charged with making false declarations on June 16, 2011 and May 23, 2012 before Faye James.
On Feb. 15, 2013, three counts of swearing falsely before Sonya Young and Faye James were brought against the senator.
But Magistrate Rickie Burnett, sitting at the Kingstown Magistrates’ Court, has upheld an April 2013 defence submission that the six charges against the senator lacked details and particulars.
He dismissed the matter and told Frederick she was free to go.
But police arrested the senator about three hours later in a restaurant in Kingstown, where she was having lunch with her attorneys, relatives, and members of the New Democratic Party (NDP), including party president, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.
Senator Vynnette Frederick, centre, with lawyers Keith Scotland, left, and Andrew Pilgrim after her release on Thursday, July 11, 2013. (IWN photo)
Senator Vynnette Frederick, centre, with lawyers Keith Scotland, left, and Andrew Pilgrim after her release on Thursday, July 11, 2013. (IWN photo)
Scotland, recounting the arrest of Frederick, said that while they were having lunch, a group of police officers, “came into the establishment and demanded that Frederick accompany them to the Central Police Station, without identifying themselves initially, without producing any warrant issued from the High Court for her arrest, or any document whatsoever from any court.
“Eventually, an inspector identified himself via his identification card, but the short of the long is they then forcibly took Miss Frederick down to the Central Police Station and nine charges were now proffered against her,” Scotland said.
Frederick, speaking during the same interview, said she did not have “any comment at this time” regarding the charges against her.
Asked about her encounter with the police, she said, “We live in a police state”.
She, however, did not elaborate on the reason for her comment.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament of Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, who is also a vice-president of the NDP, told I-Witness News in the same interview that he was “shocked by the events of today”.
He noted that during the trial there were hearings in Kingstown, Marriaqua, Biabou, Georgetown then Kingstown again.
“… So we have in fact completed the circle but I really didn’t understand that we were on the way to witnessing a circus,” he told I-Witness News.
“So I was elated when that matter was thrown out by the magistrate, having carefully studied the presentation of learned counsel. And when I heard later on that Miss Frederick was being pursued by the police and in fact had been arrested, I was not just surprised, but horrified,” Leacock said.
“There has been an on-going concern about the extent to which justice really prevails in St. Vincent and that explains why Senator Frederick is referring to us as perhaps being in a police state — rather strong language,” he further stated.
“But one gets the impression that she is being harassed and clearly there must have been a plan B with respect to today’s activities. That is, this matter is going to go before the court, we are not likely to be able to stand based on the evidence before the court, but Vynnette Frederick will not get away, we will add additional charges, amend those that were there before and we will have our day. I think that is the outcome,” Leacock said.
And, Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, speaking to I-Witness News separately, said six of the charges brought against Frederick “are the same charges — they changed a few words in them and three are new charges…
“I just get more of a feeling that this is a police state. The magistrate made his position very clear this morning,” Eustace said shortly after leaving the Central Police Station.
“I really don’t know. The magistrate was very clear. He said there was no justification; there were no particulars to justify the cases,” he said of the initial cases.
Meanwhile, Pilgrim told I-Witness News that the dismissal of the charges Thursday morning should be comforting to Vincentians.
“The people of St. Vincent should feel happy that their judiciary is not sleeping and that the decision, as given today by the senior magistrate, is extremely well reasoned and I was extremely impressed by his scholarship and his courage in giving that decision,” the Barbadian attorney said.

Source:http://www.iwnsvg.com/2013/07/11/senator-rearrested-slapped-with-9-charges-hours-after-court-dismissed-cases-against-her/