Panellists want laws in place to protect LGBT community

ST JOHN’S –– Local activists are calling for a revision of the country’s legal system to protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Tasheka Lavan
Tasheka Lavan

This after Antiguan-born media personality and former queen of carnival, Tasheka Lavan, said she was forced to migrate to Canada after several instances of discrimination and threats of violence against her based on her sexuality were ignored by law enforcement.

Lavann made headlines last week after her video blog Island Lez Talk debuted on YouTube, made the accusations on Sunday’s Big Issues.

Gender activist Aziza Lake, who was a guest on the programme, called situations like Lavann’s a failure of the local
justice system.

“The police are there to serve and protect, regardless of who is coming to you. Whether that person be a gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans person, you’re supposed to protect them. We have a failure not only on that end, but with our laws,” she said.

“There are no laws on our books, if I recall correctly, that protect the LGBT community. We do have laws in terms of harassment and sexual assault . . . but what we have to deal with on a holistic level is the issue of discrimination of LGBT persons and how do they feel safe in their own country.”

Women and children’s rights activist Zahra Airall, who also appeared on the panel, said cases like Lavann’s are all
too common.

“I know of experiences not only within the LGBT community, but with straight couples, with sexual harassment, with sexual assault, child molestation and a host of different situations for both straight men and straight women. So that to me is not surprising,” Airall said.

Meanwhile, Colin Robinson, of the Caribbean Forum For All-Sexuals And Gays (CARIFLAG) said changing the legislation might not be enough.

“Policies need teeth. Officers need to be trained so that they understand and they need sanctions. If there are no sanctions and the policy doesn’t include discipline, then abuses will happen and there will be nothing,” he said.

Robinson added that many Caribbean nationals who were part of the LGBT community left the region for First World countries like the United States and Canada because of the lack of acceptance here and what he described as “a pattern
of harassment”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Hughes has defended the police force, citing that any form of discrimination is against the department’s policy.

“We do not discriminate. That is the policy of the department that we do not discriminate against anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. A number of rights are enshrined in our constitution and the police department seeks to enforce those rights,” Hughes said.

He further noted that, given Lavann’s claims, it is likely that the force will undergo some sensitivity training in the near future.


Source: (Antigua Observer)

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