Caribbean Gays Going to Inter American Commission on Human Rights

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Gays and lesbians across the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom( on Friday began preparing the ground-work to file complaints of discrimination to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Co-chair of Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Joel Simpson told a Caribbean workshop on human rights in the Western Hemisphere that now that the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) has been passing resolutions against violence and discrimination of persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Caribbean was preparing to gather evidence to file complainst with the IACHR.

“It’s more important to have those resolutions implemented so that it can improve the situations on the ground so that it can have a meaningful impact on peoples’ lives,” said Simpson.

He said the Argentina-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s Latin America and Caribbean and the Washington DC-based Global Rights is assisting to broaden the network of Caribbean organisations and document instances of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transgender persons.

They plan to apply to the IACHR to hold a special hearing on the situation in the Carbbean in October, 2010.

Stefano Fabeni noted that the issue of gay and lesbian rights was a politically charged issue in the Caribbean but some countrues are gradually shifting their positions.

He noted that while the Caribbean was gradually taking a more enlightened position on some issues at the OAS, the 12 former British colonies in Caricom were yet to scrap laws outlawing homosexuality and cross-dressing.

“It has been very hard to move the Caricom bloc as the 13 countries position themselves within the OAS to make sure that their positions shift,” he said.

The IACHR does not consider domestic laws on human rights but makes rulings based on the conventions to which countries are signatories. If they fail to abide by the rulings of the commission, the case could be taken to the Inter American Court of Human Rights whose judgements are ruling.

SASOD has already filed a High Court action, challenging the constitutionality of cross-dressing laws as it relates to the expression of one’s identity and freedom of expression. That legal move had followed the arrest and charging of several men who were dressed as women.