Caiso creates programme to address LGBTQI-rights violations

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Caiso director Dr Angelique Nixon. –

Over 65 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex (LGBTQI+) community were assisted by Caiso: Sex and Gender Justice’s Wholeness and Justice programme in the first seven months of its operation. The initiative was started owing to the lack of protections for LGBTQI+ people in TT.

In a release on Sunday, Caiso said there were few avenues for accessible and meaningful redress for the community and called on the government to meet its human-rights obligations to be as inclusive as possible and protect all people from harm and discrimination.

It said the organisation created the programme to respond to violations such as breaches of human rights, infringements on safety, and impeded access to public services experienced by LGBTQI+ communities.

Caiso director Elron Elahie said the provision of legal services, supported by psycho-social intervention, is critical for LGBTQI+ communities in TT.

“The compounded effect of often intimidating and unfriendly judicial and public services, the lack of codified protections on the basis on sexual orientation and gender identity, and continued social discrimination, makes justice-seeking very difficult for many LGBTQI+ people – particularly for people who are working-class and have limited access to networks and connections.”

The release said the programme places an emphasis on transgender, non-binary, gender-non-conforming, and intersex people.

The services provided are free to clients and include legal support for clients who experience violations, acts of discrimination, or abuse; clinical and psychosocial support those who may experience traumatic events, require mental support while accessing other services, or need help with managing day-to-day challenges; and wholeness development through guidance and support in managing day-to-day life challenges, including financial planning, exercise and activity routines, connecting with service providers, and navigating different agencies.

The programme is also committed to engaging community development initiatives and working to build capacity among service providers accessed by LGBTQI+ people. The initiative has hosted two capacity building webinars for mental health practitioners and developed LGBTQI+ sensitivity workshops for sign interpreters, social workers, and healthcare providers.

On May 17, Caiso will be sharing its Wholeness and Justice Insights Report from the first full year of providing services to LGBTQI+ communities, from December 2020 – December 2021. In 2021, the Wholeness and Justice programme enlisted 32 clients with just over 50 per cent requiring clinical (psycho-social) support, and 30 per cent requiring a combination of legal and clinical support.

The report will be launched on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) on the Caiso website (www.caisott.org) after the virtual media conference at 10 am.

Caiso director Dr Angelique Nixon said IDAHOBIT’s 2022 global theme “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights” resonates deeply for the work of Caiso’s Wholeness and Justice programme. Key insights reveal the everyday institutional and social discrimination and lack of access to freedoms and protections which LGBTQI+ people experience.

“Caiso started this work because of the lack of protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the glaring gaps in legislation, policies, and social services. Hence, our continued call for amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act.”

The release said the challenges of access to safe and affordable housing and employment opportunities were exacerbated by the pandemic, with a significant number of the people who approached the programme being affected. It said the continued existence of institutional and social discrimination against LGBTQI+ people consolidate experiences of minority stress and endurance trauma.

It said there is a continued need for substantive and procedural legal support for LGBTQI+ people as many may not know they have been violated or that redress may be available.

“Many who come to the programme have shared general anxieties surrounding engaging legal processes, with some opting to not pursue legal redress due to the fear for their safety (or that of persons acting on their behalf), and retaliation from their perpetrators.”

People who want to access the services offered by the programme can contact 868-28-CAISO (282-2476) on Monday to Saturday between 8 am and 600 pm or via email at [email protected]