Activists fight to end Caribbean gay travel ban


Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago

Many will be surprised to learn that gay people are specifically banned from entering the Caribbean nations of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago.

Now, an LGBT activist, Maurice Tomlinson, and the group AIDS-Free World are challenging these discriminatory immigration laws.

On Wednesday and Thursday, a five judge panel of the Caribbean Court of Justice, sitting in Trinidad, heard arguments to strike down the legislation.

The activists believe that the anti-gay provisions are in direct contravention of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which, among other things, gives nationals of the Caribbean community the right to move freely between these countries and not be discriminated against.

The countries acknowledge that the policies are in conflict with the treaty, but argue that they are not enforcing the laws. They have instead implemented informal, unwritten administrative measures to ensure that homosexuals are not stopped from entering their borders.

AIDS-Free World countered that, “these unwritten policies do not have the force of law, could easily be reversed by a different immigration department, and are not known publicly.”

In an affidavit, Tomlinson wrote: “I am aware that…the act provides that the Minister may exempt any person. I am not prepared to apply for an exemption. If I applied for and was granted an exemption, I would be acquiescing in this unjust and discriminatory law.

“It would be offensive to me to be subject to questioning by State officials about the details of my sexual orientation and private life simply for purposes of determining whether I should be permitted to enter the country. I do not wish to visit Belize until all persons cast as ‘prohibited’ by reason of their sexual orientation are free to visit the country,” he said.

AIDS-Free World commented that, “If successful in this case, we will have made inroads in eliminating laws and practices in the Caribbean that perpetuate the spread of HIV.”

It said that it also embarked on the legal challenge to ensure that, “persons who are homosexual are able to attend meetings regarding HIV and AIDS in Belize and in Trinidad and Tobago.”

A decision from the court is expected within three months.

Same-sex sex is illegal in both Trinidad and Tobago and Belize.

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