New publication addresses human rights challenges in the Caribbean

23 October 2013

Co-editors Sir George Alleyne and Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine at the launch of the publication in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 22 October 2013. Credit: UNAIDS

A book exploring the challenges and legal stumbling blocks to overcoming stigma and discrimination in the Caribbean was launched on 22 October in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. Legal and Policy Perspectives on HIV and Human Rights in the Caribbean was co-edited by former United Nations Special Envoy on HIV for the Caribbean, Sir George Alleyne and law professor, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. The publication includes contributions from a range of experts who participated in a high-level symposium convened by UNAIDS, the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2010.

The book highlights issues surrounding discriminatory laws and policies in the region. It also provides academics and policy-makers with options for removing laws that limit people’s right to health, freedom of movement and equal access to housing, education and work.

Sir George stressed one of the key recommendations of the book—challenging discriminatory laws in courts—could be an effective process for their removal.  “The only countries in the Western Hemisphere that have laws criminalizing homosexual sex in private are in the Caribbean,” he said. “The possibility of changing that by appealing to the constitution is virtually zero. It has to be done through litigation.”

In 2013, one of the irrationalities we are living with is stigma based on HIV status, sexual behaviour and sexual orientation.

UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Ernest Massiah

Sir George also applauded the UWI Rights Advocacy Project which aims to promote human rights, equality and social justice in the Caribbean by participating in human rights litigation.

Current UN Special Envoy on HIV and AIDS for the Caribbean, Edward Greene called the book “a launch pad—which will help the region’s progress toward ensuring equal rights and protection for all its people.”

UNAIDS provides technical support to the Caribbean Coalition for Social Justice (CCSJ), which provides legal counsel and financial aid to people who have experienced discrimination. UNAIDS is also working with countries to address stigma issues associated with sexual orientation and sexuality. It is developing a database on changes in public attitudes and its effect on electoral politics. Within the justice system it supports sensitivity training for court officers and police officers. UNAIDS will shortly release the findings of a new survey, the Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey (CARIMIS), which surveyed more than 3500 men who have sex with men in the Caribbean. 

UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Ernest Massiah attended the book launch and welcomed its publication. “In 2013, one of the irrationalities we are living with is stigma based on HIV status, sexual behaviour and sexual orientation,” he said.