Barbados will hold a nationwide vote on legally recognizing same-sex civil unions! But wait, isn’t it still illegal to have gay sex there?
According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, Governor General Sandra Mason announced, through a speech to the island nation’s parliament this Wednesday, that the public will hold a public referendum on allowing same-sex unions. Mason also demanded that the nation have a “frank discussion” and “end discrimination in all forms.”
“My government will do the right thing, understanding that this too will attract controversy,” Mason said. “Barbados has always been in the vanguard of pioneering social justice, the protection of civil rights and the battle to ensure dignity to the poor, marginalized, vulnerable and dispossessed.”
After hearing Mason’s speech, transgender activist Alexa Hoffman spoke to Reuters and stated that she was left “unimpressed” with Mason using “smoke and mirrors, tiptoeing around and the use of buzz words.”
She added, “A nod is being given to civil unions but yet anything that relates to the LGBT community physically being able to practice that relationship is still criminalized and completely forbidden.”
Both Mason and Hoffman’s words touch on the larger issue of Barbados still having a homophobic culture and law. Specifically, Barbados still has British colonial-era “buggery” and indecency laws. While they are rarely enforced, they could lead to life imprisonment for same-sex couples. In addition, the Catholic and Evangelical Churches have a heavy influence on the nation’s culture. This has caused a stall in the progress of LGBTQ rights and anti-LGBTQ discrimination within Barbados.
But one possible major factor in Mason’s push for LGBTQ rights is the nation’s economy. In her speech to the parliament, Mason stated how Barbados, which is a tourism-dependent country, has been deemed by its international peers as a homophobic nation.
“The legal systems of modern societies recognize many different forms of human relationships,” Mason said. “Barbados is now increasingly finding itself on international lists, including within the multilateral system, which identify us as having a poor human rights record.”
Mason isn’t the only government official who has expressed interest in fighting discrimination and providing space for same-sex couples (and specifically tourists) on Barbados. Back in July, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that same-sex couples would be permitted to take part in the Welcome Stamp program which allows foreigners to live and work on the island.
“I want to say that as long as I am prime minister of this nation, we welcome all. Everyone,” Mottley said at the time. “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
Then according to a 2016 article by local newspaper Barbados Today, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite stated that gay people should 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 argued.
But if Barbados were to have a public vote, would the general public agree with their politicians. Will the everyday citizen see the benefit to the island’s tourism and general economy, or would he vote in favor of the established homophobic atmosphere? In Hoffman’s opinion, the results will most likely be the latter.
“My bet would be that any public vote comes back as a no,” Hoffmann said.