Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community are “unimpressed” with a statement by Prime Minister Mia Mottley inadvertently beckoning gay visitors to the Barbados’ shores.
They are arguing that with a number of discriminatory laws still on the country’s law books, the PM’s statement was a “disingenuous” attempt that merely “danced around the issue”.
Maurice Tomlinson and Alexa Hoffman, who are both challenging the legality of sodomy laws contained in Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act, told Barbados TODAY that if the Prime Minister was serious about equality, she would be using her supermajority in Parliament to repeal the “colonial” law.
“It is disingenuous for the Prime Minister to invite gay couples to her island knowing that their intimacy is punishable with up to life imprisonment,” Tomlinson declared in a written statement to this newspaper.
“When she was Attorney General, the Prime Minister called for an end to the law. She now has an opportunity to do so and truly clarify for the world if Barbados indeed welcomes all.
“And, as the Prime Minister stated, there will be no discrimination “as long as she is Prime Minister”. So, what happens when she is not Prime Minister?” the Canada-based advocate asked.
While addressing the House of Assembly earlier this week, Mottley flatly rejected the notion that discrimination continues to exist in Barbados.
The statement followed a major adjustment to a controversial section of the country’s 12-month Welcome Stamp Visa application in which the spouse of an applicant was defined with respect to “a relationship between a man and a woman” who are legally married. It also makes provisions for couples who are not legally married, but cohabiting continuously for five years.
After tremendous criticism, the provision was changed to reflect a more inclusive position, then followed by a powerful statement from the country’s leader.
“There is an issue as to who Barbados will welcome and who it will not welcome, and I want to say that as long as I am Prime Minister of this nation, we welcome all. Everyone,” she declared to rousing applause from her colleagues in the House of Assembly.
Unimpressed by the gesture, transgender woman Alexa Hoffman, who has gone to the Employment Rights Tribunal to challenge a former employer who she claims dismissed her because of her sexual orientation, said the country’s discriminatory laws run much deeper than the Sexual Offences Act.
“I am particularly unimpressed by Ms Mottley’s remarks about discussing new legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of SOGIE [Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression] in employment, as our Employment Rights Act of 2012 has specifically outlined prohibited classes of discrimination and even goes as far as to prohibit discrimination against people involved in or leading workers’ unions, people with dependent relatives, and even people known or suspected to have HIV/AIDS,” argued Hoffman.
“In my mind, it would simply be a matter of amending the ERA to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression under the prohibited classes for discrimination in order to protect us from situations similar to what I experienced, as opposed to drafting, debating and hoop-jumping to enact an entirely new law just to protect SOGIE,” Hoffman added.
Following numerous promises of change from senior public servants, the advocate described this occasion as “another case of the Barbados Government tiptoeing and dancing around the issue”.
As a result, Hoffman argued that court cases and petitions such as hers and those along the lines of Jones v. T&T, MacLeish v. SVG and Orozco v. Belize, are the only sure ways of ensuring that all people are truly welcomed here.
As a result, she has warned persons from the LGBTI community against entering the country for business purposes and/or enrolling in the Welcome Stamp initiative.
“After all, if LGBTI locals are in fear of their jobs should they be ‘outed’, or have to worry about their viability for jobs if they do not hide the fact that they are LGBTI, who is to say that LGBTI foreign nationals will be safe?” she asked.
Hoffman and two other Barbadians with the support of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network last year filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) challenging the Barbadian anti-sodomy law, arguing that the law violates the American Convention on Human Rights.
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