Today, as we stand in global solidarity to recognize the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT 2017), members of Toronto’s Trinidadian diaspora express its concern regarding the recent spate of murders of gay men in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) and are calling on its Minister of National Security to launch a thorough investigation into these murders and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. . Since January 2017, six gay men have been stabbed, strangled or beaten to death in their own homes in the country. To date, no arrests have been made.
A Trinidadian newspaper dated Sunday, April 9th noted, “One police officer, a corporal, who is also gay, expressed his suspicions that a person or people were targeting members of the LGBTQI community for robbery and murder. He stressed he had no proof of this, but believed that LGBTQI people should be alert.” Members of the Diaspora living in Toronto, some of whom have fled their home country because of discrimination, have stated that because there are no laws which guarantee the protection of LGBTQ citizens, there is little hope that these cases in T&T would be treated with any seriousness or regarded as hate crimes.
Some members of the diaspora have formed their own organization, T.O. Queers for T&T and are calling on the Canadian Government to use its diplomatic channels to persuade the T&T government to provide justice for this vulnerable group of citizens noting that many LGBTQ Canadians also reside in Trinidad and Tobago and face high risks of violence. Members were also deeply concerned by the lack of effective, timely police response and decided to reach out to T&T nationals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to form a group to speak for LGBTQ populations in T&T who have no voice and are not safe in their own homes. This group seeks to provide technological, judicial, financial and human resource support to LGBTQ communities in T&T to assist in the fight for their rights, give these groups visibility on the international stage through ground-level activism by GTA-based Diaspora members, and to apply international pressure on the T&T government to address the concerns of LGBTQ people at all levels of governance.
David DK Soomarie, one of the members of TO. Queers for T&T, notes, “These cases are simply the reports of which we know. Members of the LGBTQI community have been beaten, robbed, left for dead or killed in the past. As long as the anti-sodomy law exists, it contributes to a culture of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, making members of our community vulnerable, with little or no hope for justice.”
Members here in the GTA have also pledged their support for the repeal of the T&T anti-sodomy law but acknowledge that there is more work to be done that goes beyond this one law. Lindsay Karabanow, another member of TO.Queers for T&T says, “We also pledge solidarity with our LGBTQI family back home in Trinidad and Tobago who have lost their loved ones, partners and friends. We demand justice.”