Where’s the Gender Policy?
Wasn’t it two months ago today that Min. Marlene McDonald announced Government’s acceptance of a Draft National Gender Policy and Action Plan “not dealing with any issues related to…same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation”?
The Gender Policy was announced on June 24, in time for Trinidad & Tobago’s hosting of ECLAC’s 43rd Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (a backward sense of priorities that gspottt took note of in an earlier post)—but on July 17, three weeks later, Government missed its own schedule for laying the mystery policy in Parliament, which now stands adjourned till next week. When gspottt requested a copy of the document, we were told it would be released to citizens or stakeholder groups only after it’s laid in Parliament.
So when does the public get to see what’s actually in this much-debated Policy? It’s been five years since a draft with 218 recommendations (developed in an extensive consultation process from 2002 to 2004 that involved several community meetings and scholars at UWI’s gender and development studies unit) was circulated widely for stakeholder input. The Government claims to have spent the past five years having the 2004 document undergo “tweaking” by a Technical Review Committee and “further review and editing” by the Gender Affairs Division. But National Network of NGOs coordinator Hazel Brown says Government “is playing hide and seek with their sanitised version” of the Policy, which “cannot…be hidden from the public view any more. No one knows what was removed or added in…secret. We want to see it. Why are they hiding it?” The Network has called for a user friendly version of the Draft Policy to be published in the papers.
We can’t tell you what’s in the new, “not dealing with” version of the Policy, but we can offer gspottt readers a special preview of all the really scary stuff on homosexuality that’s caused the Policy to turn into such a national mess in the first place.
When the Policy was first released in draft form for public comment in 2004, anti-abortion Christian groups Lawyers for Jesus and Emmanuel Community and the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ), raised a vociferous alarm. One of their key concerns was that the Policy would ease access to abortion as a reproductive choice for pregnant women. Same-sex marriage, something that was mentioned nowhere in the policy, mysteriously became a second lightning rod. Using tactics borrowed from the US Christian Right, the Policy was cast broadly as promoting “new standards that have been set by international bodies insensitive to, and at odds with our varied local cultures, and religious and moral beliefs”, which it was “glaringly evident” would compromise our laws, “Catholic News” wrote.
But what was the language about homosexuality in that 2004 draft that was so frightening or revolutionary as to provoke such sustained controversy? Where are the recommendations with which the document was supposed to be “littered…, many of which are driven by an international agenda, which are not in keeping with the religious doctrine of many of our people in TT”?
They were totally made up! The following five passages are the only ones that CCSJ, by its own admission, has been representing as “an underlying theme running through the draft policy that TT society should legitimise same sex unions/relationships between persons with alternative sexualities”.
Click and read the actual language for yourself! Continue reading “Where’s the Gender Policy? And the really scary stuff on homosexuality?”