Trinidad government sued by AIDS group for ‘prohibiting entry of homosexuals’

NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday October 22, 2013, CMC – As UNAIDS and the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) prepare to sponsor a book launch in Trinidad and Tobago, an AIDS group here says it has filed a lawsuit against the Government for “prohibiting the entry of homosexuals” to the twin-island republic.

AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization, said on Tuesday that “the immigration law of Trinidad and Tobago explicitly prohibits the entry of homosexuals.

“So offensive is the law that AIDS-Free World has filed suit in the Caribbean Court of Justice against the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, demanding that the discriminatory provision be expunged,” said the statement, adding that UNAIDS is “well aware of the lawsuit.”

AIDS-Free World said its lawsuit is founded on three principles: the indisputable principle of human rights, the principle of prevention of HIV/AIDS and the principle of freedom of movement.

On the indisputable principle of human rights, the group said it is “indefensible to have people barred on the basis of sexual orientation.”

On the principle of prevention of HIV/AIDS, AIDS-Free World said it is “well-established that laws which stigmatize and vilify homosexuals create a culture that drives men who have sex with men underground, away from testing, prevention, treatment and care.”

On the principle of freedom of movement, AIDS-Free World said “it is a matter of law that every citizen of the Caribbean should have free access to any other country in the Caribbean.”

“We would argue that the government of Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” the statement said.

It, therefore, asks: “Why, then, would UNAIDS sponsor a book launch in Port-of-Spain (the Trinidad and Tobago capital)?”

But AIDS-Free World said it “gets more problematic and more embarrassing,” noting that the UNAIDS publication, “The Status of HIV in the Caribbean” states that “leadership is needed to remove punitive laws and diminish stigma and discrimination. Laws that perpetuate stigma and discrimination … and fuel the spread of HIV are not in the national interest.”

In addition, the group pointed out that the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan, 2013-2018 of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago states: “Some of the existing laws of Trinidad and Tobago discriminate against MSM (Men Having Sex with Men) …”

The book to be launched on Tuesday, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain, is titled “Legal and Policy Perspectives on HIV and Human Rights in the Caribbean.”

“Everyone associated with the book launch will surely feel some discomfort,” said AIDS-Free World, stating that the co-editors are Sir George Alleyne and Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine.

“ Holding the book launch in a country that bars entry to homosexuals is a direct contradiction of the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law (that UNAIDS co-sponsored), and an equally direct contradiction of the executive director of UNAIDS, who has said time and again that UNAIDS has zero tolerance for discriminatory laws,” AIDS-Free World said.

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