In what could be seen as a symbolic move, Canada today raised the rainbow flag over its high commission here, placing it between the Barbadian and Canadian flags. The rainbow flag, commonly referred to as the gay pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride.
The raising of the flag was part of the high commission’s programme in observance of International Day Against Homophobia, the first time the High Commission was celebrating the day here.
During today’s ceremony at Bishop Court Hill, Canada’s High Commissioner to Barbados Marie Legault did not shy away from the controversial issue of same sex unions, which was again thrust into the limelight on Sunday when Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe led a nasty attack on “certain quarters [who want] to advance a legislative call for same-sex marriage” and childless women.
In fact, Legault made reference to Lowe’s comment and a sharp rebuke from his Cabinet colleague Donville Inniss in expressing her disappointment that buggery remains on the law books here, even as she admitted that the LGBT rights issue was a polarizing one.
“Over the last few days we have seen in the press that the Government of Barbados is also divided in its views, with Minister Inniss urging Barbadians to improve their level of tolerance regarding the personal choices made by others, and to respect people’s rights, including the right to fall in love with who you want, in opposition to a declaration against same-sex marriage from Minister Denis Lowe a few days ago.
“Although I have been told, including by the Attorney General [Adriel Brathwaite] that in Barbados the anti-buggery law is not enforced, the fact remains that it is a criminal offence, and as such it is often used to blackmail or extort money from members of the LGBT community. Discrimination can take the form of violence, threats, bullying, denial of employment and access to services,” the Canadian diplomat said.
Barbados is one of 74 countries that still criminalize same-sex relations, which can be punishable by life imprisonment or even death in some countries, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the world federation of national and local organisations that seeks to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community.
Inniss, the minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, yesterday slammed Lowe for the remarks, saying his colleague ought to have better things to do than to play the homosexual card.
In fact, the controversial Inniss warned about opening the proverbial can of worms, stating the Freundel Stuart-led Democratic Labour Party was made up of gays and
Today, Legault told a small gathering that included President of the Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD) Donnya Piggott, that advocating for human rights of all kinds had never been easy, and required “courageous action from individuals to lead the way for change and bring acceptance of difference”.
“In our society being different is never comfortable,” she said.
“I believe the world can be a better place if we embrace our diversity rather than if we let fear of this diversity overcome us and drive our actions,” she said, adding that it was her hope that same-sex marriage would become a non-issue within the next ten years.
Noting that countries were at different stages of acceptance and engagement on the issue, the Canadian diplomat said it was Ottawa’s view that, at the very minimum, all countries should commit to decriminalizing same-sex conduct, and combatting violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, queer, questioning and allies.
“May 17 is a day we can all come together. I am very proud that the Canadian High Commission in Bridgetown is joining a vast number of other missions around the world today to commemorate that day,” she said.
Today’s events did not go down well with the head of the Roman Catholic Church here Bishop Jason Gordon, who saw it as an attempt by foreign states to impose their forms of gender and family values on Barbados and the rest of the region.
The cleric made it clear the Church was opposed to discrimination against people based on labels placed on them, and that everyone was a child of God and should be treated with respect and dignity, no matter their orientation.
However, he said the line had to be drawn when it came to acts which went contrary to traditional values of family and marriage.
“We have a push, as we have had in the Caribbean, to accept values that are not our values, to accept values about equality of two men or two women being married and talking about that as a right. We would have a problem with that as a Roman Catholic Church and within Barbadian society,” the church leader told Barbados TODAY.
“Any form that is called marriage must be a man and a woman for unification and procreation . . . and if it can’t live up to that, it doesn’t live up to what we understand as marriage,” Bishop Gordon emphasized.