Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) conducts human rights Consultation.
"Migrant sex workers experience abuse and several types of discrimination. Their rights are violated and ignored. For us this is yet another example of gender based discrimination and violence. Something has to be done" emphatically stated Miss. Samantha Marshall, Antiguan-based Attorney at law.
Samantha Marshall, Attorney-at-Law making a presentation at the CVC Human Rights meeting.
The occasion was an intensive two day consultation conducted by CVC at the UNAIDS Port of Spain Office. This consultation brought together both members of civil society and members of the legal fraternity from all across the region for the specific purpose of enlisting support and advocating for human rights at local and regional levels.
In addressing the gathering the Acting Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, Mr Arkadiusz (Arek) Majszyk, underscored the need to be consistent with the inclusion of a human rights approach to HIV programming and congratulated CVC for its work in this regard. He pointed to the world trend of a multi sectoral approach and insisted that no effort be spared to broaden the response to include other partners in the human rights strategy.
"As much as possible UNAIDS will be supporting this type of movement and work in the region", the UNAIDS Regional Director said, "because this is our mandate. You can therefore count on UNAIDS for our involvement in and support for this kind of work."
Ms Veronica Cenac (left) the CVC board member with lead responsibility for Human Rights stated that this consultation was meant for "us to understand what is happening, and be strategic and consistent in our responses." She remarked that while human rights work has been primarily focused on people living with HIV, there were huge gaps in addressing human rights issues for vulnerable communities which include sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender and migrants". She also noted that in some instances in the region, we were actually moving backward where a rights-based approach to HIV programming is concerned.
Throughout the two day consultation, participants shared their country's experiences and best practices and developed a strategic one year work plan that ensures that the human rights agenda is pushed in the right direction. "We cannot just sit back and allow persons to be criminalized for HIV transmission" said Ethel Pengel of Suriname. "Ultimately, it is women living with HIV like myself who bear the brunt of such a law", she stated.
Ethel Pengel (right) of Suriname engages Human Rights Lawyer Milton Castelen on the legal issues facing persons living with HIV in her country.
At the end of the consultation, participants expressed their belief that this meeting was not just a "talk shop" and they were satisfied that they had established some concrete ideas and realistic time frames that ensures greater collaboration and support at a regional level which strengthens the work they do in their various countries.
Lawyers Lisa Shorman of Belize and Arif Bulkan of the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill) Law Faculty review constitutional matters.