Saturday 21st July, 2007

 

Victim of ‘public ridicule’ speaks out

‘Give gays equal rights’

 
 
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Kennty Mitchell

BY SASCHA WILSON

At 29 YEARS, Kennty Mitchell seems to have everything going for him.

He is a striving entrepreneur, a community activist and is involved in a nine-year “common-law” relationship.

Yet, he is put down by society and verbally and physically abused by many, including the police.

Why? He is homosexual.

Mitchell, however, is determined to keep his head up and refuses to be forced into living his life in secrecy and shame.

He has always been open about his sexuality, and now he has decided to speak out publicly.

Mitchell was recently victorious in the High Court where he was awarded damages for being ridiculed by officers at the Princes Town Police Station.

He was stripped naked, laughed at and left in a filthy cell for over three hours.

Mitchell says he’s fed up with being ridiculed and discriminated against, and is calling on the Government to ensure gay people have equal rights.

“Gay people are people too, they are citizens of T&T and they make a valuable contribution to the country...They should not be treated as though they don’t belong or have no rights,” he argued.

Mitchell, of Ritchie Street, Ste Madeleine, owns a DVD club. He is also a maxi taxi driver, a pawnbroker and a moneylender.

His significant other (as he describes him) is a registered teacher, but does not work at any school.

Mitchell says being gay is not a choice people make.

“Somebody doesn’t just wake up one day and decide they want to be gay. There are over 300,000 gay people in T&T. But, they are afraid to come out. A lot of them are in influential positions in society,” he said.

Many homosexual people, he added, come together at gay parties in various clubs.

“There are gay people working in government buildings, Parliament, hospitals, hotels, schools...you can find them anywhere but they are in hiding,” he said.

In his way of marking Gay Pride month (July), Mitchell said he was speaking out for all the gay people without a voice.

“What we find disturbing is that in this country human rights are not properly observed,” he said.

“The vagrant on the streets is protected from discrimination, the HIV-infected person in protected, but people based on their sexual orientation have no rights.”

Referring to the Equal Opportunity Act of 2000, he said the law had been passed to protect people from discrimination but it allows people to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

He said the Immigration Act bans gay men and women from entering the country.

“When (British singer) Elton John came here, he had to get a special licence,” he said.

“The Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International appealed to Government to amend the laws to include protection for homosexuals and lesbians in this country, but they have refused.

“Some people are afraid that if they have rights then every male person might become a homosexual but that is not true.”

Calling for the Act to be amended to include rights for gay people, he said: “The hate for gay people is worsening and if something is not done soon to protect gay persons, they will soon be denied basic things such as healthcare, employment and entry into certain places.”

Mitchell said they had taken a decision to vote only for a political party that would revise the bill and give gay people rights.

“We might not be able to tip the scale in the next election because we are a minority,” he said.

“But we belong to a family, we have friends and they all support us so it will be more than just the gay votes,” he said.

Thanking attorney Haresh Ramnath and Kevin Ratiram for his court victory, he said while he was pleased that he won he intends to appeal the $28,400 he was awarded.

“That only compensated me for being locked up but not for the humiliation that I went through,” he said. He added that he went through six months of therapy to help him get over that terrifying and embarrassing ordeal.

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