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The EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2017 has been adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 28 May 2018. This report provides an overview of EU activities to promote and protect human rights and democracy across the globe.
Trinidad and Tobago
In 2017, the overall human rights situation in Trinidad and Tobago was marked by continued important challenges including on women and children rights, LGBTI, prison conditions, and death penalty, but also by some progress, especially with regards to children's rights, women's rights and gender equality. On the legislative level, in June 2017 the Marriage Act was amended, raising the legal age for marriage to 18 for all girls regardless of their religion. On the institutional level, this progress was expressed by the active presence of the Children's Authority and increased advocacy efforts from non-state actors. However, the numbers show that protection of children and gender-based violence need further attention, both on the government and on the community level. Prisoner's rights and LGBTI rights, as well as the abolition of the death penalty, remain pressing issues.
The EU prioritises the following five areas of human rights, as the most challenging for the Country: promoting women’s rights and tackling gender-based violence (GBV); safeguarding children’s rights; the abolition of the death penalty; improving prison conditions and respect for prisoners’ rights; combatting discrimination against LGBTI persons.
The EU Delegation pursued those priorities through different means.
The EU Delegation engaged in the promotion of women's rights and the end of GBV through its Let's Talk TT campaign, which was launched jointly with the British High Commission in March 2017. The campaign included the Head of Delegation's participation in a panel discussion in the Morning Brew, a well-known morning show, to promote the campaign; an interactive panel discussion on GBV in Trinidad and Tobago, broadcast via Facebook Live; and an event featuring a spoken word performance by the youth-led organisation The 2 Cents Movement followed by an interactive discussion on how to tackle GBV, also broadcast via Facebook Live. The two latter events brought together state actors, civil society actors, representatives from international organisations and the diplomatic community and received the attention of the media.
Additionally, a number of demarches delivered throughout the year permitted the EU to address certain issues connected to human rights, namely a local demarche promoting the abolition of the death penalty as well as a demarche encouraging Trinidad and Tobago to vote on a number of resolutions dealing with human rights presented before the 72nd General Assembly of the UN.
The Political Dialogue (Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement), held on 8th November 2017, presented another opportunity to directly engage with the government on the topic of human rights. The EU enquired about the status of the draft National Gender Policy, encouraged the government to ratify the Convention against Torture and the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to review legislation discriminating against the LGBTI community; and commended the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the adoption of the Trafficking in Persons Act and the adoption of Children's Act.
The EU continued its dialogue with key stakeholders on human rights issues throughout the year.
The EU continued to support Trinidad & Tobago's Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) through the 11th EDF National Indicative Programme and thematic budget allocations (CSO/Local Authorities, and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights). The EIDHR has notably financed a project promoting the respect of human rights in accordance to international standards, undertaken by the University of the West Indies (UWI), expected to result in the publication of a book on the death penalty, as well as a project to support single fathers struggling to maintain care and contact with their children due to perceived inequalities in the court system. The latter has now caught the attention of Parliament, under the form of an Examination of the Inequality Faced by Single Fathers in Trinidad and Tobago with Specific Focus on Custody Matters, Policies and Access to Programmes and Services to be held on 5th January 2018.
Apart from these two ongoing projects initiated in 2016, two new projects were launched in 2017 to support civil society in their efforts to promote human rights and gender equality: a collaboration led by UWI and other CSOs seeking to mitigate violence, legal discrimination, bullying and homelessness related to sexual orientation; and a project with focus on promoting cultural changes in society and enhancing the capacity of CSOs with regards to GBV and LGBTI discrimination. Additionally, the EUD is planning on addressing the issue of prisoner's rights through an upcoming small project for 2018.
In addition, a gender analysis was carried out for the EU Delegation in 2017, to pinpoint inequalities and thus to improve EU efforts to tackle these inequalities, although its potential is limited by the lack of gender-disaggregated data.
Trinidad and Tobago has continued the implementation of the recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review in 2016. The focus of these recommendations lies on women's rights and Gender Based Violence (GBV), repealing the laws discriminating against LGBTI persons; abolishing the death penalty; reinforcing the combat against trafficking in persons regarding prevention, protection and prosecution; signing and/or ratifying various international conventions including the Convention Against Torture and the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the problematic prison conditions. With regards to the protection of children against abuse and mistreatment, the Office of the Prime Minister announced in May 2017 a number of initiatives, notably the development of a National Child Policy, the establishment of a National Child Registry, and engaging the community in various ways.
In close cooperation with the EU Heads of Missions, the EU Delegation will continue its efforts to promote human rights in Trinidad and Tobago, notably through dialogue with public authorities, with key stakeholders and through continued public diplomacy activities.
The next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Trinidad and Tobago is scheduled in April-May 2021.