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News > Sport

Trinidad and Tobago: Citizens Rally Behind Sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye After 'Homophobic Swear' Campaign

  • Michelle-Lee Ahye celebrates her gold medal victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

    Michelle-Lee Ahye celebrates her gold medal victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. | Photo: EFE

Published 17 April 2018

"Do something good for the country.. and they still find a way to be negative smh Trinidad,” Michelle-Lee Ahye wrote on her Twitter account.

Michelle-Lee Ahye, who made history as the first female athlete from Trinidad and Tobago to win gold in an individual track and field event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games last week, has received widespread support after an attempt was made to ridicule her for allegedly being a member of the LGBT community on social media.

Trinidad & Tobago Court Declares Sodomy Laws Unconstitutional

Members of the public in Trinidad and Tobago have also roundly condemned Guardian, a local newspaper, for featuring the details of Ahye's personal life on its front page Tuesday.

The article, published just days after Trinidad & Tobago's High Court has ruled the country's sodomy laws were homophobic and unconstitutional. Last Thursday, Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled in favor of LGBT activist Jason Jones and against the country’s Sexual Offences Act, stating “The court declares that sections 13 and 16 of the [Sexual Offences Act] are unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults."

“Do something good for the country.. and they still find a way to be negative smh Trinidad,” Ahye wrote on her official Twitter account.

Ahye's manager, Afeisha Wright, said: “Michelle has always had her accounts Facebook, Instagram, she has never kept anything from the public, so it is only now that people who are now getting to know the household name Michelle-Lee Ahye are seeing who she is."

When asked if the photos were posted maliciously, days after the High Court ruling against the sodomy laws imposed during British rule; Wright said Ahye has always been a private person adding: “The minute you put things out in the media it is left for their (the public’s) interpretation, so that is why I know in this particular matter she prefers not to have any say or should not be targeted in that regard where that is concerned.”

Brian Lewis, the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, has also condemned the media report and the attempt by some to belittle Ahye's achievement because of her sexuality. 

In a press statement published Tuesday, he said: "I understand that the media has its job to do and now we have to take into account that it's not just traditional media, there's also social media. Nevertheless, you must decide whether you want to get involved and fuel the drama or not." 

"Speaking on behalf of the TTOC and the Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association, inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination are all key parts of who we are."

He added: "I have tremendous respect for Michelle-Lee Ahye as I do all our athletes. She's a sincere and genuine person, and she has been open about parts of her life, and that has to be respected. She's tremendously talented, she's worked extremely hard, and her feats at the 2018 Commonwealth Games are a testament to that."

Lewis said the two-time Olympic finalist and Commonwealth champion is "she's a role model for the modern athlete and a modern sports personality of the 21st century." 

Derek Daniel, a local communication specialist, tweeted: “I am proud of your accomplishment and for what you have done for our country on the track FULL STOP.”

Fellow athlete, Machel Cedenio, tweeted support for Ahye: “Believe in yourself...Stay focused... To thine own self be true. Dream big. Achieve big!”

On Tuesday, over 150 people led a protest in front of parliament in Port of Spain under the banner 'Equality, Diversity, and Love.'

After the ruling, Jones said: "What I think the judge pointed out was 'here every creed and race find an equal place' and I think we must all come together now and embrace each other in true love and respect.

"This is not about LGBT; this is about the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, and I hope that everyone walks away from this calmly and collectively."

After Trinidad and Tobago declared itself independent from British colonial rule in 1962, a new constitution was written – including a law penalizing sodomy with five years imprisonment.

In 1986, parliament doubled the penalty to 10 years, and the most recent change was made in 2000 when parliament again raised the penalty to 25 years.

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