Barbados is losing out on billions of dollars in foreign exchange and an influx of tourists from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community by maintaining “archaic and draconian buggery laws which only serve to repel today’s liberal traveler”, says Donnya Piggott, director of the Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD). Piggott, who returned from an international LGBT conference in West Sussex last week, told Barbados TODAY this fast, growing market could reignite the struggling tourism industry.
“Perhaps the gain and the revival our tourism industry can be one more incentive to do away with these irrelevant and outdated laws which only exaggerate negative views of the Barbados we know,” she said.
Pointing to the World Tourism Market LGBT2020 study, Piggott said it was estimated that “the known gay community would have cumulatively paid a hefty US$200 billion on travel”.
“It’s in the billions because the LGBT community has much more disposable income than the average heterosexual or even the heterosexual couple. Most of the time because you have less children especially in those liberal countries you have more time to focus on careers and in most cases they tend to be better off,” Piggott argued.
Piggott, who disclosed that she met with the Foreign Minister of Canada and other representatives from European countries at the conference, said officials “were really saying that Barbados is losing out tremendously”.
She acknowledged that while the island “doesn’t have heavy discrimination” it is perceived as being homophobic because it is often grouped with countries like Jamaica where discrimination against gays is reportedly high.
“So it’s because of these preconceived notions as well as doing their own research they find that the Caribbean is one of the most homophobic places . . . and seeing laws as harsh as our buggery law, most of them are not going to worry about coming and that’s usually the case. Two consenting adults, in the privacy of their home – or hotel – could face life imprisonment under our buggery law, found in Section 9 of our Sexual Offences Act. Section 12 of the Act also includes a law against serious indecency which, although ambiguous, had been condemned by regional activists for apparently criminalising all forms of same-gender intimacy, including lesbian love,” she argued.
“These penalties infringe upon basic human rights to privacy and a life free from discrimination. Both our own local LGBTQ population and visitors alike are born with these rights and the Caribbean can only stand to benefit if they decide to holistically embrace all people including the LGBTQ community.”
Piggott stressed, however, that there was high interest in Barbados among delegates at the conference. She said apart from gay cruises and the possible hosting of PRIDE events, the island could also reap the dividends from same-sex marriages once it makes an effort to understand the concerns of the LGBTQ community.
The B-GLAD director said: “Especially in European countries, people just want to travel and get married on a tropical island but they have to think about if my wedding is going to be tormented because of a homophobic country. Yes it is going to be nice on the beach, but do I have to contend with homophobic guests, homophobic staff or a homophobic hotel?”