What is the EOC? Access to very few international human rights mechanisms is available to individual Trinbagonians bringing complaints and it’s quite costly to seek redress from our local courts. One exception to this for the past decade has been the Equal Opportunity Commission and Tribunal, which together safeguard rights by receiving, conciliating and adjudicating complaints of discrimination in accommodation, service provision, education and employment, on specific grounds. There’s no cost or lawyer needed to file an EOC complaint. However, under the Act, the EOC can only receive complaints related to sex, race/ethnicity, disability, origin, religion and marital status, and no new statuses have ever been added.
So how do we Add All Three? The EOC and the Office of the Attorney General have already drafted the legislative amendment to Add All Three. What’s needed is a cross-section and coalition of supportors to apply pressure on the AG to prioritise introducing this amendment.
What does a champion do?
- List your organization as a champion
- Mobilise support within your particular networks, and recruiting other champions
- Promote the campaign on social media, e.g. by recording challenge videos
- Voice one of the slots in our proposed radio ad campaign
- Get faith leaders on board
Who has supported adding all three?
Both the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T and the Amalgamated Workers Union have been leading champions of adding all three. A campaign which a group of NGOs—the Association of Civil Society Organisations of T&T, the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, the CEDAW Committee of T&T, the Family Planning Association, the Living Water Community, Mental Health Matters, Squeaky Wheels and the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development, and others— have engaged in around the UN Universal Periodic Review included adding all three.
Radio Ads and Animation
Spokespeople from the Amalgamated Workers Union and Coalition on Domestic Violence, a community leader living with HIV and a young filmmaker are raising their voices on radio and social media calling on Parliament to amend the Equal Opportunity Act of 2000 to add three groups of people left out of the law’s protections against discrimination.
Public service advertisements saying “Add All Three” aired across more radio stations in March, November and December 2020. These same ads were launched across social media through an animation in April 2020 that shares these same messages and champion voices.
In these messages, four “champions,” Shinelle Ambris, Roberta Clarke, Conrad Mitchell and Steve Theodore, voice the call of a broad coalition to add discrimination based on age, health conditions and LGBTI status to the 20-year-old law. These messages have been shared across social media along with an animation that shares these champion voices.
Adding all three has been a recommendation of human rights bodies at every human rights review T&T has undergone at the UN or OAS since 2000.
Since 2011, the Equal Opportunity Commission, which is charged by law with recommending updates to the Equal Opportunity Act, has made similar recommendations. Expanding the law’s protections to include overlooked groups has also been a recommendation of every major international human rights review that Trinidad & Tobago has undergone since 2000.
Over 25 diverse domestic and regional groups have championed these legislative amendments in various ways over recent years. They include the Amalgamated Workers Union, American Chamber of Commerce Trinidad and Tobago, Association of Civil Society Organisations, CAISO: Sex & Gender Justice, Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, Caribbean Kids & Family Therapy Association, CEDAW Committee, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Cropper Foundation, Family Planning Association, Friends for Life, I Am Movement, I Am One, Live Up, UWI’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies, ILAS – Institute of Law and Academic Studies, Living Water Community, Mental Health Matters, MindWise Project, Patient Advocate Mission, Pride TT, Queer Corner, Silver Lining Foundation, Squeaky Wheels, Transgender Coalition, Wholeness and Wellness Counselling Services, Womantra, Women’s Caucus of Trindiad and Tobago, and Women’s Institute for Alternative Development.
Since 2008, those who work or seek work in a private business or the public sector, engage with a private landlord, hotel or public housing, try to access goods or services as a customer, or pursue an educational opportunity, can lodge a complaint and seek redress from the Equal Opportunity Commission and Tribunal if they believe they have been unfairly discriminated against. They do not need a lawyer to access those protections. But, despite past efforts to expand those eligible to use these unique national human rights institutions, Equal Opportunity protections have remained limited to discrimination based on marital status, disability, sex, religion, race, ethnicity, or origin. Those facing unfair discrimination because of age, because of a health condition (e.g. someone living with cancer, diabetes, facing a complicated pregnancy, or recovered from COVID-19), or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or heterosexual, cannot use the system.
“These glaring exclusions from state protection,” says student Shinelle Ambris, who created the ads, “are what give people licence to prey on others.”
The Add All Three campaign is being coordinated by the Alliance for Justice & Diversity, a coalition of social justice organisations that includes CAISO: Sex & Gender Juice, Friends For Life, I Am One, Silver Lining Foundation, T&T Transgender Coalition, WOMANTRA and Women’s Caucus of T&T.