Published On: Wed, Oct 23rd, 2013

Special envoy for HIV and aids pleads for the removal of discriminatory laws

Dr. GreenCARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana - UN Secretary-General Envoy for HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean, Dr. Edward Greene, pleaded for the removal of discriminatory immigration laws in Trinidad and Tobago that prohibit the entry of homosexuals. This plea was made in a congratulatory message read on the occasion of the launch of the book: HIV and Human Rights: Legal and Policy Perspectives on HIV and Human Rights in the Caribbean, edited by Sir George Alleyne and Prof. Rose-Marie Bell Antoine, on 22 October 2013, in Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Greene noted that the book offered an appropriate launching pad for taking forward a constructive agenda on human rights, for which the PANCAP Justice for All Programme would be a major beneficiary.

CARICOM Secretariat Assistant Secretary-General for Human and Social Development Dr. Douglas Slater, delivered the feature address.  Dr. Slater noted that the  launch of the publication  was a momentous one in” the Caribbean’s continuing struggle to address the issues of human rights for its people  and one which  was “stimulating a movement from ideas to action”. “The ideas and recommendations [in the book] contain the  policy guidance and direction for the political decision makers and … create awareness and understanding of the critical issues required for the change that this Region needs, for the sake of humanity”, Dr. Douglas said.

In her response co-editor, Prof. Antoine,   Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of the West Indies, paid tribute to Sir George for his leadership in convening the 2010 symposium, from which the book is an outcome.  “This was  true dialogue,  which will make a valuable contribution to policy”, she   said.  She also paid tribute to the late Robert Carr and noted that “his compelling voice lived through the text”.

Co-editor, Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor  and Professor Emeritus, University of the West Indies, in his response drew  attention to the rhetoric of  Caribbean  constitutions stating, “if rights  were to be abrogated this should be possible through constitutional change”. He noted “the only countries in the Western Hemisphere which criminalise homosexual sex in private  are in the  Caribbean … and the only way of changing, it seems,  is through litigation”.  Sir George pointed out that the book indicates  the  additional  work to be done and  would be of optimal utility,  “if it cedes in the mind of the young that stigma and discrimination is not in the best interest of the Caribbean”.

The Hon. Justice Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice who was presented with a copy of the book by Sir George,  in brief remarks  called for judicial officers to be exposed and sensitized  to these issues. He noted that the expansion of human rights throughout the Caribbean  was on the agenda of the  Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers.

In his closing remarks, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team in the Caribbean, Dr. Ernest Massiah referred to the independence address by Dr. Eric Williams, the late Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, on the issue of democracy vis a vis  intolerance to others. The intolerance referred to then was due to considerations of race, colour, creed, national origin, previous conditions of servitude or other irrationality, he stated. “In 2013, those irrationalities are the stigma of HIV and the  issue of sexuality” and  “the challenge is how to change that  irrationality,” Dr Massiah said. For him, the book puts out very clearly the route/rules to undertake this change. The Director said that UNAIDS had commenced plans to move the narrative of the book beyond this audience and would create some short you tube videos, in the first instance.

The  book launch was chaired by PANCAP Director, Mr. Dereck Springer, who in his brief welcome remarks said  that the publication “ helps us to understand the journey we have taken over the past 20 years… and was a  launching pad for taking forward the human rights issues”.

The launch was part of a three-day  PANCAP Meeting  of National AIDS  Programme Managers and Key Partners to strengthen and further harmonise the Caribbean AIDS Response.

PANCAP is a regional partnership established by CARICOM Heads of Government in 2001 to respond to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean

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