The island’s largest religious denomination has responded to Government’s proposed gender policy, which does not address same sex unions.
Government legislator and women’s activist Irene Sandiford-Garner told the press launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 Champion today that she expects such a move to generate “heated” debate.
Sandiford-Garner, who is the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport reiterated that a draft of the policy had been completed and was going through the process before being taken to Parliament for discussion.
“We did not have a gender policy and it is something that has been long awaiting. It is going to be tackling so very many areas. There are some which are still in contention.
“The areas I could easily identify with would be the areas where we have the LGBT [lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders] movement not being happy with some of the specific clauses which do not speak to same sex relationships,” she said.
However, Anglican Bishop of Barbados Dr John Holder said tonight while the Church in Barbados and in the province of the West Indies did not, and would not support discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation, at this stage, it preferred to hold on to the principles of marriage between a man and a woman.
“We treat each person as a human being in this world, as a child of God. We accept the fact that there are different sexual orientations among human beings and that has been there from the dawn of time . . . we accept that. But we hold on still, in this part of the world, in this province of the West Indies, . . . we hold on to marriage as that between a man and woman,” the church leader told Barbados TODAY.
“So we have not gone to the stage where we are treating marriage as a same gender marriage. We are not there yet. We are still holding on to the traditional marriage between man and woman, but we do not, and will not discriminate against people with different sexual orientations.
“We have never done that and we will not do that. We are all children of God. We would not do that.”
At the same time, the Anglican Bishop did not rule out the society getting to the stage where it, or the Church accepted same sex marriages.
“You know in this world, you can’t say ‘no’, because time is like a sliding scale and what we said ‘no’ to a hundred years ago, we are saying ‘yes’ to a hundred years later. So we don’t know, we don’t know,” he stressed.
Bishop Holder believes the new gender policy reflects the notion that the Barbadian society was not yet ready for same sex relationships as an institution.
“They haven’t gone over to deal with the same sex issue. [This] suggests that the society itself may not be at that stage where they will respond to that legislation. I am just guessing. I always think that we move along at a pace and stages where we think the society is able to deal with the changes comfortably,” the church leader contended.
“So at this stage,” he added, “if they are saying that they are not going in that direction, I assume that research would suggest, that that may not be at this stage the most comfortable place to travel.”
In the meantime, Sandiford-Garner, who is an outspoken feminist and member of the cabinet committee on governance said Barbadians, particularly women activists, have been waiting on the new gender policy for a very long time, as it will give women an equal voice across various sectors and legislation.
The institutional framework will initiate and coordinate efforts to strengthen relations between the sexes, seeking to address six major issues, including power and decision-making, health and education, employment, poverty and housing, family and sexuality, culture language and spirituality and violence and crime.