Becoming In-visible

injustice inhabits history

and is signposted

backwards and forwards

in skewed time

emblazoned on your forehead and in your hand

yet

politics is not a luxury

that can be ignored

when it is a daily personal issue

of life and death

for

when hearts fray

and

the resilience of new bodies

is worn down

 

every day and every action is political

 

with each fresh sunrise

the blanched experience of life

plays out on both sides of the tracks

where wonderland and wasteland

meet and part

simultaneously

 

while some souls live with their heads in the clouds

their neighbours

claw and scratch through each minute with the desperation of a drowning child

 

when it is morning

in wonderland

you may easily wash away the unsettling bad dreams

with fresh milk and honey,

and glide through to sundown

when you soulfully breathe out the worries of your day on the cool porch

without

a passing thought

for the neighbour – the one who constantly falters

because halfway through breathing

their emotions ricochet

between the impossible choices of

either screaming with rage

or sobbing uncontrollably

 

for

each lurch into their new old days requires

fresh salve for seen and unseen

scars that are the patchwork history

of stumbled steps and missed heartbeats

that repeat

same same

same same pain

 

same same

 

wonder-full life flows smoothly

adjacent

yet oblivious and

ignorant

of the weight

lifted each day

a mere side-step away

 

the in-visibility of brave warriors

dressed in humanity

are whispers of mystery

to cloud-filled ears

 

yet

 

if mirrored secrets were known

you would all

entwine limbs like children

and hold each other with tender kindness

immediately forgetting that

you were ever fractured strangers

 

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

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Review: Bob The Russian at Unity Theatre

Review: Bob The Russian at Unity Theatre

Words by Marjorie H Morgan © 2018

BTRussian

 

Thursday 28 June 2018, opening night of Bob The Russian at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool – the stage was set as the audience filed in: loud music blared, five silhouetted figures were seen on the semi-darkened stage – three of them looking extra menacing wearing helmets. Smoke billowed around them and the interrogation of Bob The Russian started. From the first tense moment to the closing seconds the large cast  from the Naughty Corner Production team had the audience enthralled.

This production of Bob The Russian, directed by Mike Dickinson, is a prime example of realism in theatre. This show exhibited the reasons why Naughty Corner are multi-award winners in theatre.

They filled the stage with believable everyday characters in this skilfully portrayed story of the heist of the century using the 2018 World Cup in Russia as a backdrop. From the gold chain, Adidas-wearing Demon to the Ian McKellan-loving Russian Mafia kingpin the cast captured the complete attention of the audience. This black comedy was drenched with fast moving sharply observed dialogue (with only a handful of first night hesitations in the whole performance of over 80 minutes).

This was a beautifully choreographed piece of theatre depicting the mayhem of hooligans and police in conflict, whilst also revealing the vulnerabilities and tenderness of many characters as they live their dreams.

The comedy and multi-dimensional aspects of the realist characters, as well as the generous sprinkling of anti-type characters, were cleverly portrayed when a Mafia henchman minces off the stage after cleaning up the blood of a recently murdered person; and then, as the Mafia boss (‘Friend Zarin’ portrayed by Thomas Galashan) delivers his energetic and dramatic monologue, one of the bank robbers decides that it is the perfect time to partake of a delicious, aromatic snack. This was one of many points where the audience laughed heartily – the portrayal of humour started in the first scene and continued to the very end of the performance.

The portrayal of the fight sequences are movement perfect and reminiscent of the finest ballet and gymnastic combined, with the delicate touch of mime included. With comedic genius the cast performs potentially terrifying real-life incidents like a fracas between English and Russian football supporters, while the larger than life character of Lyles Laru – failed magician and bank robber – casually strolls in the midst of them strumming his guitar like the rock god he believes himself to be.

Throughout this production all the scene changes were seamless and it felt like a rollercoaster of closely associated events. One thing to note – don’t forget to breath! It’s easily forgotten when taken up in the drama unfolding on the stage and in the auditorium.

The characterisations of the five main members of the heist team were robust from the titular Bob The Russian (Adam Leyland), with his perfect depiction of a Russian accent; Demon (Liam Powell-Berry), the brash and lairy stereotypical football supporter; Inhaler (Callum Forbes), the posh-lad lock-breaker; Child (Daniel Hubbard) – who could be any one of us, and Lyles with his larger than life personality, to Rita (Laura Connolly) with her black belt in … I’ll let you find that out for yourself; but the rest of this large cast should not be overlooked – without them this performance would not be the brilliant spectacle it is.

A lively soundtrack, including ‘I’m so in Love With You’ accompanies the height of the actions where Demon correctly state, “agility is key”. The show ends on the track ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ by the Verve – perfectly summarising this performance: a symphony of drama, dialogue, direction. There is so much going on in this show, all of it relevant and necessary to the story.

Bob The Russian is outstanding theatre deserves at least two viewings. Maybe more.

Showing at Unity Theatre, Liverpool until Saturday 30 June 2018.

Vegan Medication Matters

is-medication-vegan

Vegans are part of one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in Britain, they are people who follow a plant based diet and avoid consuming animal products including meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and honey. Many people choose the vegan lifestyle because of health implications related to the consumption of meat and dairy products. The World Health Organisation (2015) stated that processed meats were classified as having the same carcinogenic harm to humans as asbestos and tobacco, and increased your risk of colon or rectal cancer by 18%.

There are 3.5 million vegans in the UK according to a recent survey (2018), this represents a rapid increase since 2016 when the figures gathered by Ipsos Mori for The Vegan Society were 542,000  (Great Britain only): this is a rise from 1% to 7% of the UK population.

The survey in 2016 also showed that there were almost twice as many female vegans as male vegans.

Research, supported by Professor Carolyn Roberts of Gresham College, London suggests that many people have embraced the vegan lifestyle because of environmental concerns and in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

Supermarkets have responded to the rise in demand for vegan foods and most of them have a large range of dairy-free milks, yoghurts and many more vegan-friendly produce readily available on their shelves.

Being a vegan is said to be good for personal health and for the environment, but what happens when vegans do become ill because of any number of reasons including inherited health conditions? Most prescription medications are not vegan or have been tested on animals – this is a pre-licensing requirement of both national and international regulations; the UK requires and regulates experiments on animals.

Can you take prescription medications and still call yourself a vegan?

I have had personal experience of the difficulty that arises when trying to get vegan-friendly medication from healthcare practitioners beginning with the doctor to the point of delivery from the pharmacist I have encountered resistance to my requests for lactose and gelatine free medication. I have been vocal about my dietary requirements, and as a result I have been told, and shown, in the BNF, that most medications prescribed in primary care contain animal derived products. I was additionally informed that labelling of animal content in medication is generally poor and overlooked, and is variable on the institution creating the medication.

These experiences have caused me to wonder what happens to those who have similar requests for other health or religious reasons.

Rastafarians, Jewish and Muslim people are some of the groups that avoid pork and its derivatives in all forms. Yet in 2015 it was reported that many medications, including the influenza vaccine, had pork derived ingredients in them; since that time some Jewish and the Muslim religious leaders have offered guidance on using vaccines with porcine ingredients (2018). Rastafarians have historically embraced a vegan, also known as ital, lifestyle with one of the beliefs of Rastafari being that a plant based diet is medicine for the body.

Jewish people have a list of medications with a kosher certificate, and guidelines to categories of illness to determine whether a non-kosher product can be taken. There are also lists of halal and haram medicines available for followers of the Muslim faith – medications must also be closely monitored during Ramadan when fasting can cause the medication to have unusual effects on the body. Vegan Muslims are not as scarce as they may once have been; there is a dedicated website for the growing vegan Muslim community here. Several studies have been undertaken into the effects of the mainly plant-based and the predominately vegetarian Seventh-day Adventist diet on health; studies of the residents of the Loma Linda area of California show that people following this diet live a longer and healthier life and therefore have less requirements for prescription medications.

Will the strength of the green pound across this rapidly growing British demographic have an effect on the pharmaceutical giants or will changes only occur to the medications available when a wealthy vegan celebrity gets ill? The pharmaceutical industry may not be interested in manufacturing vegan medications because of the cost of finding less expensive ways of testing products. Vegans may continually be faced with the question ‘Is my medication vegan?’ when they see their doctors and pharmacists. I believe that disclosure of animal content in medications is important to enable patients to make informed personal choices.

Maybe the Government should introduce legislation to make adequate healthcare provisions for this growing section of society. It is worth serious consideration because vegan diets make economic sense in both land use and the reduction of CO2 emissions each year. Additionally, consistent healthy eating practices reduce the expenditure on medication, medical visits and hospital interventions.

The NHS has already conducted studies into the health benefits of being a vegan therefore when there is a subsequent need for vegans to access health care I believe that the financial savings that have been made in longer term healthcare needs could be redirected to the provision of appropriate vegan prescription medications.

Is there is any real medical choice for vegans who become ill? This thought led me to the following question: Why can’t all medication be vegan or vegetarian?

Without substantial changes to the manufacture of prescription medication vegans who become ill – like the majority animal-eating sections of society – will have to make additional ethical choices on whether to take medication that has been produced with animal connections or remain ill.

Is this fair?

(929 words)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

‘Casual’ racism is not entertainment

 

 

20180510_232656 Casual Racism.jpg‘Casual’ racism is not entertainment

After a long day I decided to relax in the late evening with film, something light and entertaining, maybe even a comedy or a drama. So I flicked through the menu of films on offer and read the accompanying descriptions of new films from my streaming provider. My attention was arrested when I saw one film described thus: a young boy “gets lessons in the American way … However, with a disapproving father and casual racism, it’s tough to make it in the Land of the Free.” Hold up. There’s so much wrong with this description but I’ll start here: “Casual racism”?

When is racism ever casual?

Isn’t racism just racism? Like the behaviour of the KKK and white supremacists? Overt, obvious, plain for all to see.

Apparently, it has become trendy to refer to racist microaggressions as casual racism or everyday racism. They are used as humorous interactions and in familiar settings. However, I repeat, there is nothing casual about racism.

Here’s a handy guide to microaggressions that are accepted in some places as ‘just a joke’ or normal behaviour:

You didn’t sound Black / you speak so well / you have great diction.

No matter how you form this, it is not a compliment.

Where do you really come from?

Translation: you’re not white so you don’t belong here. Another option would be to ask the question you really want to know: “What is your cultural heritage or background?”.

Oh, you have a chip on your shoulder.

Because you express your dissatisfaction at racism and unfair treatment you may be pathologised as ‘the angry Black person’.

But, I don’t see colour, I see … you.

Theoretically wanting to see only the humanity in a person is wonderful, but not realistic or practical. Not seeing colour is only possible if you are colour blind.

It’s a joke! Don’t get offended.

I can’t say your name, it’s too … difficult.

You mean like Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, Rachmanioff, Puccini, Mendelssohn, Salieri, and Bach?

I have Black, Asian friends, I’m not racist.

I’m not racist but … (then the racist statement)

People like you

What? What aspect of my personality are you referring to?

I’d rather not live / sit / travel near a Muslim / Hindu / Rastafarian

You’re really pretty … for a Black / Chinese (insert colour or nationality here) person

You’re so … exotic!

I’ve had ex-partners refer to me as exotic. As yet all my research skills have failed to find anything exotic about life in the county of Wiltshire. Maybe it was just their white privilege showing …

That’s reverse racism!

This statement is often used by people who are reluctant to acknowledge racism to minority groups, yet as soon as policies are introduced to reduce the inequality in society this trump card is pulled out as white people (generally) get affronted and defensive.

This type of discrimination aka ‘casual racism’ normalises racial stereotypes and emboldens bullies by offering them everyday validation of their views, this in turn perpetuates societal discrimination. Presenting people of colour as different (code word for inferior in this context) entrenches the problem – even amongst people who consider themselves enlightened and liberal.

Language is filled with antiquated references to ethnicities and race: e.g. the phrase “Indian giver” that is used to denote a person who gives and then takes back a gift, whilst in fact the saying arose because gift giving between Native Americans and European colonisers of the Americas was based on cultural misunderstandings. It is time to question the use of these phrases and to refuse to use them or accept them in conversations.

‘But I don’t mean any harm’ and ‘I haven’t got a racist bone in my body’ are regular responses that I have heard when I question people on their phraseology. The comeback is usually ‘I didn’t intend to offend’ – but you did. What you said and did was offensive. What are you going to do about it now?

Not many people react well to being called a racist, because a racist is someone who belongs to a far right group like the KKK, Britain First, or the National Front, aren’t they? Someone being overtly violent and discriminatory, surely? They’re not a regular person having a laugh and joke with words and common phrases, are they?

How did those phrases become common? They are part of the systemic and often institutional forms of oppression that are the backbone of many societies. They need to be questioned. For example, the ONS census data categories for ethnic group and nationality still does not have a category for Black English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish, whereas you can be white and English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Irish, Gypsy, Irish Traveller, any other white background.

I’ve always wondered if ‘Black’ is also a nationality as well as a political term.

It is systems like this that portray white as right, as standard, that are the root of the problem. ‘White is right’ is the concept that white English / European / American culture is always right, pre-eminent, ‘normal’ and the standard by which the ‘other’ is judged: this is an Eurocentric world view. This is where racist terminology has its roots.

Just a final note to the unwitting performer of ‘casual’ racism – racism is never casual to the person you are discriminating against. Never. The racist words and behaviour has a direct impact on people’s lives every day. Racism is not a joke.

Neither is sexism, or homophobia.

Mostly people do not like to be identified a racist. The usually react with either guilt or anger. Professor Robin DiAngelo said, “If you call me a murderer, I’ll just laugh, because I’m not a murderer. But if you call me a racist, I’ll lose my s***. … ‘It’s like the N-word for white people.” Really? Why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism? A case of white fragility or white privilege? It appears that most conversations about racism are started by POC. This needs to change.

Here is a Harvard test to check implicit bias. Just in case you’re not sure where you stand. We need to call out ‘casual racism’.

All I wanted to do was watch a film.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Kanye West, Performance and Controversy

Kanye West MAGA hat

 

Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. He calls himself a genius. Causing public outcries appears to be part of his toolkit of skills – unless you buy into the idea that he is a hair’s breadth away from insanity: but isn’t that where genius resides?

In an interview on TMZ Live, on 2 May 2018, the discussion subject was free thinking and Kanye West used the opportunity to throw hot oil, disguised as words, onto a burning fire when he contended that enduring 400 years of slavery could be seen as a choice by people from the African diaspora. The comment has had its desired effect. Social media immediately went into a meltdown, and after the initial outrage people started using the clapback hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice to show what an incredulous reception that statement received.

Kanye West is a public figure, he is an artist, he is a performer. What he is not is the spokesman for the whole of the African American people in the world, or those of the wider African diaspora. His comments are his opinion, he is one man in a world of 7.6 billion people; many of whom are scholars of the history of the world and have facts to confirm their assertions.

The TMZ interview was a peak moment in West’s strategy that could have been taken from his personal playbook I believe is called ‘The Art of Performance’. I believe that West’s history shows that controversy is a part of his normal currency – this interview was, in my opinion, a carefully calculated performance in the carnivalesque style of destabilising or reversing power structures, or it could be true that Kanye West is continually experiencing an existential and mental health crisis in the public arena. It could be either of those situations or it could be the fact that he is due to release an album soon.

When Kanye West to comments that, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” it is obvious that responses to this assertion will be met with anger.  West contends his main belief is in the mental slavery of the present and not the historical past, however his comments intentionally created a strong emotional response from supporters and detractors alike.

Van Lathan, a TMZ employee, confronted West about his on screen comments stating, “I am unbelievable hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something to me, that’s not real.” West apologised for using his words to hurt Lathan and explained that his strategy – his performance with meeting President Trump and also wearing the MAGA hat – is to get close to people in power to alter outcomes by using the mode of love instead of hatred. West explained that using the media is his artist’s way of opening up a conversation by creating images with a “paintbrush and [a] canvas”.

To prove his mental stability West quoted Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” So, is Kanye actually a genius? He says he is because he learns from his mistakes. Is his bromance part of a bigger plan to destabilise the fragile sensibilities of the 45th President of the United States – who courts publicity and fame in the same way that some musicians do? It appears to be working as Trump noted an increase in his African American approval rating following West’s photo of his signed MAGA hat.

West also spoke to the whole of the studio floor of TMZ employees and suggested that his dream is to encourage people to be free thinkers instead of people who chose to live in the stimulation, the forced reality – like the Matrix? Kanye West insists that he will not be minimised to mere memes of a hip-hop artist, or a Black man in a Black community; he insists that he represents the world and speaks for everybody’s right to think freely and choose alliances freely. Should he be restricted by his musical history, his community history or his social history?

Kanye West is one person who chooses not to be corralled in behaviour or thought – apart from if people think he’s overweight, then he’ll have liposuction and take opioids. That’s his right he says. Who am I to disagree with someone who says in the same interview, “White supremacy is a redundant statement in America – whites are supreme, that’s what we’re taught”?

Kanye West is a performance maestro. He knows his craft and completes his acts well. Every time.

©Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Why the Windrush scandal is a portend for Brexit under the leadership of Theresa May.

2000-t-may-downing

Amber Rudd, has resigned following the Windrush scandal in the UK, although her resignation letter states her reason for stepping down is because she ‘inadvertently mislead Parliament’. Rudd was Home Secretary from 13 July 2016 until 29 April 2018. Her predecessor in the Home Office is Theresa May, the current Prime Minister. May was Home Secretary from12 May 2010 until her appointment as Prime Minister in 2016.

It was Theresa May who, during her six years as Home Secretary, introduced and designed the ‘hostile environment’ that became Amber Rudd’s legacy. Theresa May has yet to take responsibility for her design and creation of this system that has, seemingly intentionally and systematically targeted and harassed British citizens who originally migrated to the UK from parts of the Commonwealth.

Immigration control is essential to any nation, however the central concern in Britain is how the Home Office implements its immigration policy. The Windrush generation, who have been incorrectly and cruelly targeted by Home Office officials, have had the misfortune to be victims of a system that has failed to protect them as British Citizens. Specific legal protection for the Windrush generation was removed from the statute books in the 2014 Immigration Act when the specific clause was omitted without consultation or debate.

Amber Rudd can be viewed as a sacrificial lamb for Theresa May; Rudd now has to consider her options as a Conservative backbencher, where before the Windrush Scandal the main option she was considering was when would she become Prime Minister – as happened to the two previous incumbents of the post of Home Secretary: David Cameron and Theresa May.

Theresa May was the longest serving Home Secretary since WWII (James Chuter Ede, (Labour) was the longest serving Home Secretary of the 20th century, he served from 03 Aug 1945 – 26 Oct 1951); in modern political history May is the single person who has had the longest period of time in post to make her policy’s political mark on a department.

May’s approach to immigration is well documented, in 2016 she noted that her preference was to lock people up, not let them out. Also, her approach to civil liberties was noted as ‘careless’. One of May’s initial steps in office as Home Secretary was to torpedo the national identity scheme proposed by the previous Labour government, her statement in 2010 was “first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people”. A Windrush debacle question is whether the implementation of that scheme would have saved the distress caused to thousands of Windrush generation British subjects. We will never know, but we can speculate that having a national identity card would have prevented predominately Caribbean elders being incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants – despite Government held data that proved their status as British citizens.

May, as Home Secretary, frequently conceived strategies and policies to cut net migration figures – that reached a high of 330,000 in June 2015 – including splitting up families, enforcing English language use requirements, and removing overseas students from the figure

George Osborne, the then Chancellor of the Executor, said of Theresa May’s migration reduction plans, “They’re not government proposals. I’m not aware that there has been any agreement in the government or any hard and fast proposals that have been discussed. As I say, these are not government policy; we are not advancing them.” In 2015 it was reported that Osborne had plans to increase net immigration to achieve a budget surplus at the end of the parliament. These plans were in opposition to the policies and proposals of Home Secretary Theresa May – who was determined to fulfil the Conservative party pledge to reduce net immigration figures to tens of thousands.

The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto (2017) reaffirmed Theresa May’s commitment to the ‘strong and stable leadership’ set out at the previous election’s manifesto (2015)  – May confirmed that she would “stick to the plan that has delivered stability and certainty”, “reduce and control immigration” from the annual net migration figures of around 273,000 to “annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades. We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union.

This coded statement is, I believe, the root of the issues that focused on people who were not seen as white British. In 2015 the Tory Government promised to extend their ‘deport first, appeal later’ rule – that was initially applied solely to foreign national offenders – to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews. These are the promises that were the foundation stones for discriminatory practices against British citizens, mainly elderly people of colour, who were former Commonwealth citizens. David Cameron, as Home Secretary, then Theresa May, constructed and built this system and ignored the diversity of the British population as implemented laws that directly opposed their promise to “build a[n immigration] system that truly puts you, your family and the British people first.” All I can deduce from the treatment of the Caribbean elders is that they Conservative Government did not view this cohort as British. Ignoring and erasing Black British communities is an act of representational violence when there should be representational equity in contemporary British society.

At the beginning of the media outcry of the Windrush scandal, the Home Office issued a statement confirming that the Government continues to implement its ‘compliant environment’ whilst making “no apologies for our commitment to build an immigration system which works in the best interest of the country and prevents vulnerable people from finding themselves at risk of exploitation.” (12 April 2018)

If Britain can treat its legal, law abiding citizens in this inhumane, horrendous and cruel manner, then I wonder if there is any hope for humane treatment of fellow European citizens, especially as the Conservative’s manifesto (2017) gleefully states that leaving “the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too.” This far-right rhetoric was also used by UKIP in the successful effort to persuade the general British public that immigration was the cause of all the country’s problems. Theresa May, has also stated that the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) “can bind the hands of parliament [and] … makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals,” like retired Caribbean elders? The actions and records of all the Tory Home Secretaries needs to be examined in detail, from David Cameron through to Amber Rudd, and also the newly appointed replacement.

The appointment of Sajid Javid as the new Home Secretary (30 Apr 2018) is, in my opinion, an attempt to stave off the cries of colour discrimination policies against the majority white Conservative party. What needs to be remembered is that class is as great a division in British society as culture. Managing directors of investment banks do not get treated in the same way as NHS employees – no matter what their colour.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

The Commonwealth, Colonialism and the Legacy of Homophobia

How are these three disparate entities connected? The answer is – very closely.

When is an appropriate time to review this subject? Any time is, but especially now as the UK hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) between 16 – 20 April 2018 in London and surrounding locations.

 

2.35490582 anti lgbti laws

The Commonwealth consists of 53 member states  and 80 organisations that exist in locations around the globe and work together to promote democracy and peace. Over 40% of the world’s young people (640 million out of 1.8 billion) are members of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth countries include 19 in the African continent, 7 in Asia, 3 in Europe, and 11 in the Pacific: these are all locations where the footprint of colonialism has been stamped, and where the legacy of the imperialist laws relating to same-sex relations, are still being experienced. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge, comments that colonialism is not historical, it is contemporary: the effects are present everyday. 

Of the 72 countries in the world where same-sex intimacy is categorised as a criminal offence, 36 of them are member states of the Commonwealth, and 9 of these have life imprisonment as a penalty, whilst in two there is risk of execution. The colonial legal legacy from the British Empire in 1860 criminalised ‘unnatural carnal desires’ under section 377 of many country’s penal systems. This conservative Victorian edict has remained entrenched in the legal structures of 36 Commonwealth member states.

In March 2018 there were 37 member states against equality for same-sex Commonwealth citizens. However, a recent challenge to these homophobic colonial laws, which deny a legal right to privacy, was made in 2017 in the High Courts of Trinidad and Tobago by the UK based LGBT activist Jason Jones. The pronouncement, on 12 April 2018, has become a landmark ruling as homosexuality has been decriminalised in Trinidad and Tobago. Justice Devindra Rampersad, delivering his ruling from the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago agreed that Section 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalise anal sex, were unconstitutional and violate Jones’ right to privacy, liberty and freedom of expression – the colonial sodomy laws are an inbuilt Imperial homophobic threat carved into the common law of many countries.

The colonial ‘saving clause’ dictated that laws could not be changed after independence, yet the Government of Trinidad and Tobago have twice amended the Sexual Offences Act since the country’s independence from Britain in 1962: in 1986 the Trinidad and Tobago parliament increased the maximum sentence for sodomy to 10 years imprisonment, and in 2000 the penalty for ‘the offence of buggery’ was again increased to 25 years. The government changes to the law enabled Jason Jones to bring his case to the courts as the Government’s 1986 and 2000 Sexual Offences Act changes nullified the ‘saving clause’.

Following the April 2018 ruling, the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, Faris al-Rawi, said “Our society has changed significantly in its view on tolerating homosexuality, and radically so within the last generation,” yet Stuart Young from the Ministry of the Attorney General, confirmed that the State will appeal Justice Rampersad’s decision.

The week of the CHOGM has seen protests outside of Commonwealth House in London, where activist groups such as African Equality Foundation, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, along with members of the public have been lobbying the Commonwealth Heads of Government to discuss LGBT issues at the meeting. This proposal has not been accepted in over 6 decades of meetings, with any discussions on LGBT matters being sidelined to NGOs.

There are some Commonwealth leaders who are supporters of equality, however these people, for example Desmond Tutu, Christopher Senyonjo, Festus Mogae, and Joaquin Chissano have historically not been given a voice in the global Commonwealth forum. A petition, by Edwin Sesange, of the African Equality Foundation, calling for an end to LGBT+ persecution in the Commonwealth, was delivered to the Commonwealth headquarters  with over 104,000 signatures the week before the summit began.  This petition appealed for all Commonwealth countries to:

  • Decriminalise same-sex relations
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity
  • Enforce laws against & violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crime
  • Consult and dialogue with LGBTI organisation

At the start of the CHOGM Peter Tatchell, who has been campaigning against anti-gay laws for over 30 years, wrote a letter to Theresa May, as the British Head of State hosting the Commonwealth summit, asking her to apologise for imposing anti-gay laws – the full apology did not happen, although in a NGO Commonwealth Forum, that ran concurrently with the Heads of States meetings, the UK Prime Minister did express ‘deep regrets’ for Britain’s historical legacy of homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

The criminalisation of LGBT+ people is a clear breach of the human rights of the Commonwealth citizens and goes against the Section II on Human Rights as written in the Commonwealth Charter that starts with the words:

“We the people of the Commonwealth …”

We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments. We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies. We note that these rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively. We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds. (Section II on Human Rights)

The last sentence of this Human Rights section confirms that the member states of the Commonwealth are opposed “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Unfortunately, by their continual refusal to openly discuss the matter of colonialism and the legacy of homophobia on the formal agenda, the Commonwealth Heads of Government are denying their commitment to equality and protection of civil, social, social and economic rights of the citizens of their individual nations.

The CHOGM sessions have concluded without LGBT+ rights being included on the agenda.

However, following the victory in the Trinidad and Tobago courts on 12 April 2018, Jason Jones said, “This victory is much more than just the legal challenge and constitutional reforms. It is a rallying cry for the LGBT community and our allies to stand up and be counted! This represents the first moment in the history of the English speaking Caribbean that we have become truly visible and in a populist and meaningful manner. Yes, there was pushback but we are pushing forward in ways never seen before. This is the Rosa Parks moment for LGBT people of the Caribbean and we shall NEVER sit in the back of the bus again.”

In Britain, UK Black Pride – led by Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – and the African Equality Foundation, continue to work alongside other LGBTI activists to campaign for full equality for all within the UK and the Commonwealth.

Opoku-Gyimah was widely reported for turning down a MBE in 2016, some of her reasons were relating to the toxic legacy of colonialism on LGBT+ people, she stated: “I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI [lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.

As the CHOGM 2018 closed in London on the 20 April 2018, the resistance that Opoku-Gyimah expressed in 2016 must be continued by all equality activists until there are full human rights for all Commonwealth citizens regardless of nationality or sexuality.

Marjorie H Morgan © 2018