Several evangelical church leaders are calling on Government not to change the country’s Sexual Offences Act, despite a human rights challenge to those laws filed by trans woman Alexa Hoffmann, and two other Barbadians, a lesbian and a gay man.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviewed the issue in the last year, has given Barbados three months to respond to the challenge.
Evangelical leader and former senator, Pastor David Durant, declared today that the religious community is strongly opposed to any change to the law. He said religious leaders are to meet in the coming days to formulate an official response and present a united front on the issue.
He told Barbados TODAY: “Since the news broke, I have been receiving calls from pastors from across Barbados’ religious landscape and we are going to have a meeting so that we can make a united front and statement. So, the entire church body is making preparation to make a stand.”
Acknowledging that sexuality was about choice, Durant contended that the church has a duty to steer persons towards the “right one”. He suggested that current anti-gay laws are differentiating markers between right and wrong.
He said: “From what I am getting, the religious community is strongly opposed to this. There are choices and God has given us the power of choice and you could choose to go wrong or you can choose to go right.
“Our position is, as the body of Christ, is to help people to make the right one.
“For example, if a child does something wrong all the time and the parent neglects to guide that child in the right way, then that same child would grow up to dislike the parent.”
But the former senator also expressed the view that the current penalties under the law are too harsh and he believes that Government should update the laws without “tampering” with the intent.
He added: “I think the law is a bit archaic and it should be revisited to be stated in a more relevant manner. The penalties are way too harsh, but I don’t believe that the essence of the law should be tampered with.”
Rev. Durant declared that contrary to what is being proffered by some in the international community, the local LGBT community experiences “no discrimination,” despite the existence of the laws in question.
Barbados TODAY attempted to obtain the views of the East Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It promised to issue a statement on the issue, but one was not received at the time of publication.
Efforts were also made to contact the Anglican Bishop but were unsuccessful.
The views of the local Muslim community was also sought but their spokesman, Suleiman Bulbulia, said he could only offer comment after the matter was discussed internally and a consensus was arrived at.
The IACHR has reportedly issued the Government a copy of the petition challenging sections 9 and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act. These sections effectively criminalise all forms of same-sex intimacy.
Section 9 outlaws “buggery”, which the courts have defined as anal sex between men but also between a man and a woman. The maximum penalty is life in prison.
Under Section 12, “serious indecency” is sweepingly defined as any act “involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire”. The maximum penalty is ten years in prison if the act is committed on or towards a person aged 16 or older.
When contacted this morning, Attorney General Dale Marshall told Barbados TODAY: “I have not yet received nor seen any documentation in relation to any matter before the [human rights] commission.
“If and when any such documents are received, it will be dealt with in the same way that we deal with challenges to the legitimacy of any of our laws.”
However, when asked to elaborate on the procedure for dealing with “challenges to the legitimacy of any of our laws”, the Government’s chief legal adviser offered no further comment.