Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to life imprisonment. The government generally enforced the law, but the courts often imposed considerably shorter sentences in cases of spousal rape. The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides for protection orders separating perpetrators of domestic violence, including abusive spouses and common-law partners, from their victims. Victims reported incidents but often claimed police trivialized the matter. Courts may fine or imprison abusive spouses but rarely did so.
Rape and domestic violence were serious and pervasive problems. According to the UN Global Database on Violence against Women, 30 percent of women in the country experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 19 percent experienced sexual violence from a nonpartner.
Survivors of rape and domestic violence had access to national crisis hotlines and could access temporary shelter and psychosocial services through a law enforcement referral. The police’s Victim and Witness Support Unit encouraged reporting of rape and domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not criminalize sexual harassment.
In March, Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye stated that women continued to suffer indignities, physical and mental distress, financial loss, and hostile environments where they worked or studied because of a lack of appropriate legislation.
In March a Roman Catholic priest reportedly threatened a female security guard and later pressured to have her dismissed from her position after she rebuffed his advances. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese launched an investigation into the incident.
Despite the lack of specific sexual harassment legislation, citizens reported cases. The Equal Opportunity Commission can provide legal remedy. The commission has the power to receive, investigate, conciliate, and refer sexual harassment complaints to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other obstetric violence on the part of government authorities.
The government reported that through the Ministry of Health and its network of health facilities, survivors of sexual violence and rape had access to emergency care, HIV prophylaxis, and emergency contraception.
Abortion is only legal in cases where the pregnancy threatens the life, physical, or mental health of a woman. Unsafe abortions remained a leading cause of maternal morbidity. Sexual health education is not a part of the national school curriculum, and barriers to access to contraception included cost, availability, locality, and parental consent for minors younger than age 18. The law sets the age of sexual consent and marriage at 18 and carries mandatory reporting requirements for health-care providers and parents. These reporting requirements, intended to prevent abuse, had the unintended effect of dissuading minors from seeking (and health-care providers from facilitating) sexual and reproductive health-care services to minors.
The government provided prenatal health care to all pregnant women, including Venezuelan refugees, free of cost at public health facilities. There were, however, reports of limited access to these services for Venezuelan refugees.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, and the government enforced the law effectively. No law mandates equal pay for equal work between men and women. Married women are required to produce all marriage certificates to verify name changes, while married men are not required to do so. Additionally, men and women filing for divorce have different filing requirements by gender.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, marital status, or disability. There were no reports of ethnic violence or systemic discrimination between workers among these groups. The government investigated and addressed racial or ethnic discrimination practices.
The government supported principles of racial harmony, which were woven into the constitution, public discourse, education, and by the declaration of national holidays that hold religious or cultural significance for various ethnic groups. The government stated disparities in outcomes for ethnic groups were due to lingering effects of institutional racism inherited from slavery and colonial rule and described any racial tensions as secondary symptoms stemming from differing economic conditions or lack of economic opportunity.
The primary political parties tended to break along racial lines between the Afro-Trinbagonian-dominated People’s National Movement and the Indo-Trinbagonian-dominated United National Congress. Both dominant political parties used and defended racially charged language in recent elections.
Birth Registration: Every person born in the country is a citizen at birth, unless the parents are foreign envoys accredited to the country. A child born outside the country can become a citizen at birth if either parent is a citizen. The law requires every child be registered within 42 days of birth. Registration is required to access public services. There were reports that refugees and migrants had difficulties obtaining birth registrations when they could not present requisite identification documents to authorities.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits corporal punishment of children. According to reports from the Children’s Authority, however, abuse of children in their own homes or in institutional settings was a serious problem. Penalties for child abuse can include a moderate fine, two years’ imprisonment, or both.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children through selling or procuring children for prostitution, and for any practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law.
The age of sexual consent is 18. The age of consent for sexual touching is 16.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
There were fewer than 100 Jewish persons in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination based on disability but does not mandate equal access for persons with disabilities. The law does not require providing access to buildings and transportation to persons with disabilities, nor does it require that information and forms be available in accessible formats. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination, stigma, and denial of opportunities, including lack of access to employment, education, and civic participation.
Children with significant learning disabilities generally did not attend public or assisted schools because those schools did not have sufficient resources to support their needs and most families are not able to afford private schools. The Social Services and Public Administration Joint Select Committee chairman, Paul Richards, referred to the lack of government support for children with disabilities and special needs as “institutionalized marginalization.” The Joint Select Committee reported that the Student Support Services Division tasked with meeting the needs of 3,365 referred students had less than 20 percent of its required staffing, including administrators. National curriculum and state exams did not have accessibility provisions, and there were reports that students with disabilities and special needs were denied registration to the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam because schools were not able to accommodate them.
Persons who believe they were discriminated against may file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission for conciliation. Complaints that remain unresolved may be brought before the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, a superior court that has the power to impose fines, make orders for compensation, and grant injunctions. There was, however, a case of discrimination filed against the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.
In March, President Paula Mae-Weekes appointed Veera Bhajan, an attorney born without arms, to be a lay assessor on the Equal Opportunity Tribunal. The appointment was subsequently blocked by the tribunal’s chairman, Donna Powell-Raphael, who stated that Bhajan did not have adequate qualifications in law and social welfare, that the tribunal could not afford a second assessor or the logistical means to accommodate her disability, and that Bhajan would be perceived as being biased because of her disability. Bhajan filed a lawsuit against the tribunal and its chairman for discrimination. In November, High Court judge Avason Quinlan-Williams condemned the tribunal and its chairman’s shifting narrative blocking Bhajan from taking up her appointment. The judge ordered an injunction restraining the tribunal from preventing Bhajan from fulfilling her duties and ordered the tribunal to pay Bhajan the salary that had been withheld since her appointment, an additional 100,000 Trinidadian dollars ($14,700) for the emotional distress and embarrassment the incident caused Bhajan, and 250,000 Trinidadian dollars ($36,800) in vindicatory damages. Powell-Raphael and the tribunal planned to appeal the ruling.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV or AIDS faced persistent stigmatization, especially persons in high-risk groups. This created barriers to access and use of prevention and treatment services. The government’s HIV and AIDS Unit coordinated the national response to HIV and AIDS, and the government employed HIV and AIDS coordinators in all ministries as part of its multisectoral response.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, but the government did not enforce it.
The law decriminalizes sexual exploration between minors who are close in age. The law specifically retains language criminalizing the same activity between same-sex minors.
The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. There were reports of harassment and threats against LGBTQI+ persons, but victims tended to avoid media attention.