While pressure continues to mount on Government to repeal the buggery laws here, Britain’s top diplomat here is hanging on the fence on this issue.
High Commissioner Janet Douglas said while Britain supports equal rights for all, it was up to Barbados to decide whether or not it should go that route.
“The UK itself is committed to promoting the rights of all different communities, and LGBT is one of the communities obviously that we support – everybody’s right to live and love in the way that they wish – but at the same time we are not telling anybody how to behave, nor do we tell other governments what to do about the issues in their own countries,” Douglas said while paying a courtesy call on Barbados TODAY’s Chief Executive Officer and Editor-In-Chief Kaymar Jordan last week.
It was only last month that international human rights organization Human Rights Watch called on Bridgetown to “end legal discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people by repealing all existing laws criminalizing same-sex conduct”.
Human Rights Watch also advised the authorities here to “pass laws defining the crime of rape in a gender-neutral way so that non-consensual sex between men or between women is included in the definition and subject to equal punishment”.
In January of this year during the United Nation Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, several countries also recommended that Barbados decriminalizes same-sex unions.
Steering clear of recommending what the administration here should do, Douglas insisted that like everyone else the LGBT community had rights that should be protected.
“While we are very keen to promote human rights generally across the world including LGBT rights, we do recognize that different countries and different societies have different ways of looking at these issues,” she said.
“But that doesn’t mean that we are abandoning our own position, which is that we do support the rights of LGBT people to live freely and have the same rights that other people have in any other community.” In addition to concerns about the rights of the LGBT community, Barbados has been challenged to abolish the death penalty.
Barbados is one of the few countries that have maintained the mandatory death penalty for murder, although no one has been executed here since 1984.
Earlier this year Head of the European Union delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Daniela Tramacere said the EU viewed capital punishment as “inhumane, degrading and unnecessary”, and had therefore made the universal abolition of the death penalty one of two priorities in its external policy.
While the Barbados Government had announced in 2014 that it planned to abolish the mandatory death sentence for murder, and despite continuing public debate, legislation has yet to be enacted to this effect.
Up to December 2012 there were about five prisoners on death row.
Last year three human rights organizations – the Advocate for Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the Greater Caribbean for Life – submitted a joint stakeholder report to the United Nations’ Human rights Council reportedly calling for Barbados to abolish the death penalty and replace it with “human-rights centred legislation”.
Asked about the UK’s position on this contentious issue, the British diplomat said the former colonial powerhouse remained opposed to the death penalty.
“The UK’s position on the death penalty . . . is clear and that [is] we oppose the death penalty and we are trying to encourage the moratorium against or the abolition of the death penalty worldwide,” Douglas said.
However, she acknowledged that while the UK would continue to speak out against the practice in various international arenas, it was again up to individual countries to decide.
“This is an issue which we can talk to countries and encourage countries, but it is ultimately for different countries to make their own decisions about this. Our own position is very clear. We oppose the death penalty and this is the sort of thing we can talk to other countries about in international fora and in our bilateral relationships,” she repeated.