Maurice Tomlinson, an LGBT advocate is to challenge Trinidad and Tobago’s entry ban on gays in an international court.
Tomilnson, a Jamaican national and legal advisor for the NGO AIDS-Free World has been invited to give two presentations during the month of December.
One invitation is by the United Nations Population Fund to participate in a HIV workshop, and the other is to attend a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) conference on human rights.
However, section 8 of Trinidad’s Immigration Act prohibits entry to homosexuals, people with mental health issues and physical disabilities.
As Tomlinson has no intention of lying, he had to reject the invitations from the organizations.
The law, which is written in an archaic and offensive language, states that ‘entry into Trinidad and Tobago … is prohibited [to]:
‘(a) persons who are idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, persons suffering from dementia;
‘(c) persons who are dumb, blind or otherwise physically defective, or physically handicapped;
‘(d) people with criminal convictions;
‘(e) prostitutes, homosexuals or persons … suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes;
‘(f) persons who are reasonably suspected of attempting to bring into Trinidad and Tobago or of procuring prostitutes or other persons for the purpose of prostitution or homosexual or other immoral purposes;’
Unless Tomlinson knowingly withholds the truth, he cannot enter Trinidad and Tobago legally.
Tomilnson pointed out that the entry ban is not only wrong but contradicts the right to freedom of movement of persons within CARICOM.
He initiated a three stage process to challenge the legality of the law.
He informed the Jamaican government that his rights have been violated and asked it to bring the matter to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
If the Jamaican government decides not to proceed Tomilnson will petition the CCJ directly.
Alternately, the Jamaican government many not proceed but give permission to Tomlinson to pursue the case on his own behalf.
Tomilnson also pointed out that the law explicitly violates the United Nations’ human rights covenants.
He also stated that such laws lead to the spread of the AIDS virus by forcing gay men underground, denying them testing, prevention, treatment and care.
Although the government may be petitioned for ‘waivers’ for gay men, Tomlinson argues that it is wrong both morally as it leads to ‘favoritism’ as well contradicting the above international agreements.
Tomlinson told Gay Star News: ‘The true depths of the Immigration Act run even deeper than the ban on homosexuals.
‘The ugly heart of the statute is displayed in the atrocious language used to describe other prohibited groups.
‘Trinidad’s immigration statute is wrong in so many respects that I am determined to take the challenge to the highest court in the Caribbean.
‘Discrimination against one person offends all humankind.
‘AIDS-Free World is confident that by uniting, indigenous groups and international groups can overthrow this repugnant law and send a message that will be heard far beyond Trinidad and Tobago.’
In 2007 a highly vocal campaign opposed Elton John’s entry into the country on the grounds of his sexuality.
This was led by the local Anglican Church, in particular Archdeacon Philip Isaac. The celebrity was eventually allowed entry and the concert went ahead as planned in May 2007.