That is how one lawyer has described Barbados’ anti-sodomy laws as he works closely with the local Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTI) community to have them struck down.
In fact, Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican attorney based in Canada predicts Government’s failure to respond to a recent challenge by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on the matter will leave the country at the mercy of the Inter American Court of Human Rights.
Based on Barbados’ commitments to that court, he told Barbados TODAY the Government could find itself in a similar position to that of June 2018 when the mandatory death penalty was struck down as unconstitutional by the Caribbean Court of Justice.
In a recent interview, Tomlinson pointed out that the Government should have responded by the end of October to the case being championed by transgender woman, Alexa Hoffman. In the absence of that response, he said the next step is to ask the IACHR to act.
“Our next step is to ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to proceed to a full hearing if Barbados doesn’t provide any defence and I suspect they can’t provide a defence because the law is indefensible,” he said.
Barbados is reportedly the only Anglophone Caribbean country to find itself in the peculiar position. This is because it is the only state which recognizes the jurisdiction of the Inter American Court on Human Rights and is therefore bound by its decisions.
“If the commission recommends that Barbados scraps the law and Barbados ignores the commission, then the commission can take Barbados to the Inter American Court and if the court issues a ruling, it will be binding on Barbados and this has happened in relation to your death penalty and other matters…” the Canadian-based lawyer explained.
He added: “If Barbados ignores this ruling, then a domestic matter may be able to be taken up again, perhaps to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which would basically reinforce what the Inter-American court has said…and I suspect very strongly, based on what the commission and the court have said in the jurisprudence, they will find that this law violates human rights according to the Inter American convention.”
On November 11, the IACHR heard a similar challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws, on behalf of a gay couple there and attorneys, are expecting a result within the next two months. This, Tomlinson pointed out was the next logical step for Barbados.
With the legal storm brewing, Attorney General Dale Marshall has been silent on the issue.
In the meantime, and amid constant backlash from some christians, Tomlinson, an Anglican, has revealed plans to engage local church leaders in robust dialogue during a conference next April. He explained that the event, dubbed an Intimate Conviction Conference about Anti-Buggery Laws, was a response to the “heightened rhetoric” by some Caribbean churches opposed to cases challenging anti-sodomy laws.
“Both as Christians and as lawyers, we think the best way to resolve these kinds of thorny issues is through dialogue, not throwing words at each other on the pulpit or on the streets. We need to think about the people that are being impacted and how we can respect everyone’s rights, while stridently holding our positions, but not doing any harm while we do so,” said Tomlinson.
So far, he reported a very good, but not overwhelming response to the event which is slated for April 24-26 next year and added that some church leaders have consented to attend and even present their perspectives. This, he said was a marked improvement from what transpired in Jamaica when a similar conference had been held and some Christian leaders called for a boycott. Speakers from Africa, Asia, Latin-America, North America, Europe, and the Caribbean are expected to present arguments for and against the preservation of existing laws.
Tomlinson was however clear about his views on the subject and argued that for him, existing buggery laws go against the core principles of Christianity.
“As a Christian in my research of the scriptures and according to my church, the Anglican church, you cannot theologically justify maintaining a law which criminalises what people do with their own bodies as long as it does not harm anybody else, because that is the whole principle behind free will, that’s the whole principle of when Jesus said, ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone’,” said Tomlinson. [email protected]