by Shawn Cumberbatch
Barbados has officially rejected new efforts by some of the world’s most powerful countries to get it to legally approve same sex relations, abandon the death penalty completely, and ban corporal punishment.
And the Freundel Stuart Administration, which two weeks ago said no to 46 of 115 recommendations made by countries participating in a United Nations review of the island’s human rights record, has also told the international community that it generally cannot commit to signing or ratifying new treaties “at this time”.
Barbados TODAY confirmed that while Barbados’ Universal Periodic Review took place between January 25 and 29, the island officially responded to the recommendations received through written responses and a statement made by the island’s Permanent Representative to Geneva, Dr. Marion Williams on June 6.
The countries which officially communicated in writing that they wanted Barbados to approve same sex relations were the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Norway, Ireland, and Uruguay.
Those recommending an abandonment of the death penalty included Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Argentina, Norway, Namibia, Chile, Slovakia, Spain. Additionally, Norway, Italy, Slovenia, France, Germany, and Uruguay advised Barbados to ban all corporal punishment. Sovenia and Brazil also wanted the island to introduce measures and promote tolerance and non discrimination of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
In response, however, Government said while it would continue to generally protect the rights of all citizens it would not accept these controversial recommendations because Barbadians were against it.
“Barbados is unable, at this time, to repeal legislation that criminalises buggery. However, we wish to reiterate that it is not the policy or the practice of the Government to prosecute persons who engage in anal sex regardless of their sexual orientation,” local officials said in their written response.
As for the death penalty, they said Barbados is unable to accept the recommendation for a de jure moratorium on the death penalty” and that authorities could not to repeal the death penalty “until there is public support for the abolition of the death penalty”.
Williams also no in her statement, noting that “opinion polls and surveys carried out in the country show that public sentiment strong favours retention of the death penalty and as such, it remains a sentencing option under the laws of Barbados”.
“However, the government is open to facilitating and supporting public and open debates on the death penalty. Furthermore, the Cabinet of Barbados has recently agreed to the abolition of the mandatory application of the death penalty and is in the process of finalizing amendments to the relevant legislation in order to reflect this,” she added. Barbados’ prepared response document also rejected the idea of banning corporal punishment.
“The Government is unable to accept this recommendation at this time, but is committed to pursuing alternative methods of discipline such as the Schools Positive Behaviour Management Programme,” it said.
Despite its non acceptance of many of the recommendations, Barbados’ responses and its overall stance was adopted by the UPR council this month.