Want to spend a year working and living on a Caribbean island? Barbados is calling. Though, there is cause for concern.
More specifically, Prime Minister Mia Mottley encouraged LGBTQ couples to apply to work and stay in Barbados for 12 months, according to Loop News Barbados. The island nation is currently in talks about its Welcome Stamp Visa program, which allows foreigners to live and work on the island for 12 months. With the visa being a hot topic, there were questions online about whether same-sex married couples could apply as a family under the Welcome Stamp program. Part of the concern is due to Barbados, and the Caribbean islands in general, having a history of anti-gay discrimination and homophobia.
Then during a two-hour address in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, July 21, the Prime Minister expressed her intent to welcome anyone, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
“I want to say that as long as I am prime minister of this nation, we welcome all. Everyone,” Mottley stated. “At this country that has been forged regrettably in the bowels of discrimination cannot want to discriminate against anybody for any reason, all must breathe in this world, all must breathe in this country.”
In response to a post on the Living Out Loud 2.0 website, I addressed this matter in Parliament earlier today. You may watch my statement on this matter via the following link: https://t.co/rlZQsJNTmR
— Mia Amor Mottley (@miaamormottley) July 21, 2020
When the topic of Barbados’ homophobic past came up, Mottley responded by saying the island will not be “put in a box.”
“The people that want to put us in a box that will allow people to be discriminated against for any reason, that is not who we are. We are not that person and we have never been,” said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Mottley then expressed, again, her desire to welcome all people and explained that Barbados recognizes unions outside of marriage.
“This country has welcomed people for decades and centuries without being that person. This country has made people feel comfortable and I am not going to be a part of any communication that suggest that Barbados is trying to be half of who or what it is and we are sponsoring discrimination or phobias of any type. . . . The laws of the land must not act as a scourge on the lives of human beings. The laws of this land must not act as an inhibitor to opportunity for our citizens”.
Despite her words of love and acceptance, there is still a reasonable concern for any LGTBQ people and couples considering the application. In terms of Barbados’ stance on LGBTQ rights, the country undoubtedly has a problematic past. Currently, gay sex is illegal within the island (regardless of whether it is consensual or done in private). Those who are put on trial for having gay sex are in danger of receiving a life sentence. Thankfully, the law is rarely enforced, but it is still in effect.
In terms of Barbados’ general attitudes towards LGBTQ people, the country is evolving. Not only has the Prime Minister expressed LGBTQ acceptance, but other officials have expressed similar thoughts. According to a 2016 article by local newspaper Barbados Today, Attorney General Adriel Bathwaite expressed his desire that gay people be “left alone” and protected by the law.
“As a lawmaker, if Jane decides she wants to live with Janice, that is their business as far I am concerned,” Brathwaite said, according to Pink News.
In addition, the Belize Supreme Court ruled that the Caribbean country’s sodomy ban was unconstitutional. Since Belize and Barbados, as member states of the Caribbean Community or CARICOM, share an identical legal system, Barbados’ gay sex ban should also be seen as unconstitutional. Conservative pushback, however, clung to the constitution’s “savings clause,” which protects laws inherited by the former British Empire from constitutional review.
Despite that, LGBTQ visibility is on the rise in Barbados. The island country held its first Pride Week in 2018, and the general populace is slowly beginning to accept LGBTQ life.
But, is that enough to field off fears from LGBTQ couples considering a move to Barbados? That’s a personal question for each couple to decide. But no matter what you think, know that Barbados is calling.