Hosted by Student Society of Truman Bodden Law School
The Student Society of the Truman Bodden Law School will launch a three-part public lecture series this month on the topic of “Misogyny and homophobia: What is the Cayman Islands doing to promote gender and LGBT equality?”
LGBT is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
Law School Student Society President Olivia Connolly said part of the intention of the lecture series, which has been branded “Legal matters that matter to all,” is to raise public awareness of the law school, but that the students also wanted “to create more links to the community” by engaging them through a lecture series on topics that matter to everyone.
In addition, the lectures will serve as a way for the students to give back part of the knowledge and understanding they have learned at the Law School.
Ms. Connolly said the students have been actively working on organizing the lecture series since last September. On Dec. 4, the students hosted a fundraiser dinner called “Law and Equality in the Modern Day” to support the lecture series, and a number of Cayman’s major law firms bought tables at the event.
The students took their idea for the series to Dr. Leonardo Raznovich, a lecturer at the Law School, who welcomed their choice of topic.
“I thought this… was an area that requires a lot of attention in the Cayman Islands,” he said.
The lecture series is organized completely by the Student Society, however it does have the support of the Law School, Ms. Connolly said.
The series will consist of three lectures, the first of which takes place on Jan. 15 in the Grand Court building. That lecture will be delivered by Professor Robert Wintemute of King’s College London and will focus on an overview of the European Convention on Human Rights and gay rights, and where the U.K. and the Cayman Islands stand now in relation to those conventions.
A second lecture, scheduled for Jan. 22, will be delivered by Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick – Ms. Connolly’s mother – and will provide an overview of the laws of the Cayman Islands in relation to gender and LGBT equality.
The final lecture of the series, delivered by Dr. Raznovich on Jan. 29, will explore the historical similarities of homophobia to misogyny and racism in the Western Hemisphere.
“The underlying rationale for all discrimination is the same,” he said, noting that the homophobia issues that have occurred in the past here are not peculiar to the Cayman Islands, but very common, and that they need to be understood in order to be addressed.
“There is a pattern [of discrimination] one can find in the western world in general.”
Although Dr. Raznovich sees that Cayman has progressed in terms of gender equality, he said, “we still have a long way to go” in terms of LGTB equality.
In the past, the Cayman Islands has made international news with anti-homosexual incidents. In 1998, the Cayman Islands government refused to let passengers on an all-gay cruise come ashore, causing the U.K. to step in and force the country to accept gay cruise passengers.
In 2000, a U.K. Order in Council decriminalized all private sexual acts between consenting adults in the Overseas Territories. Prior to that, sodomy was a criminal act in Cayman.
In 2008, Aaron Chandler, a 23-year-old visitor from Massachusetts, was detained by the Royal Cayman Islands Police for publicly kissing his male partner on the dance floor at Royal Palms.
Although Mr. Chandler was not charged with a crime, and the police maintained that he was only detained and not arrested, the incident was widely covered internationally. Gay Hollywood gossip blogger Perez Hilton posted on his blog: “Warning. Do not go on vacation to the Cayman Islands. They do stupid sh#% like THIS there!” with a hyperlink to the caycompass.com website on the word THIS. The volume of web traffic following the link caused the newspaper’s website to crash for almost 12 hours.
Governor Kilpatrick, Cayman’s first female governor, congratulated the Law School’s Student Society for organizing the lecture series.
“I am particularly pleased that the first lectures cover gender and LGBT equality, issues which are relevant not just to these particular groups, but to all the people of the Cayman Islands,” she said. “When I arrived as governor, I said in my first speech that I would naturally be taking a particular interest in gender equality issues.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is an alumnus of the Law School, said he was delighted to support the student’s initiative to launch the public lecture series.
“This lecture series will enable members of our community to have the opportunity to listen to distinguished legal speakers’ views on current issues that affect all of our lives,” he said. “I urge all of those who are interested to attend the lectures to gain a wider knowledge and understanding of important legal matters.”
Ms. Connolly said that based on feedback from students and members of the law firms who attended the December fundraiser, the lectures will likely be well attended. She added that the lectures are free of charge and that seating will be on a first come, first served basis.
Although the venue for the second and third lectures has not been confirmed, Ms. Connolly said she hopes all three can take place at Grand Court.