Sociologist warns child protection bill open to sexual orientation questions, urges drafters to revisit it
By Jenique Belgrave
Calling the Child Protection Bill “unacceptable” in its current form, consultant sociologist Dr Veronica Evelyn has urged drafters to revisit and revise the controversial legislation.
Making a submission to the Joint Select Committee on the Child Justice Bill and Child Protection Bill in the Upper Chamber of the House of Assembly on Tuesday, she highlighted three areas of concern, including the bill’s purpose, language, and lack of clarity.
“Section 3.1 states that the purpose of this bill is to ensure compliance with UN [United Nations] and other international instruments. These instruments forcefully promote new ideas about human sexuality, such as the belief that sex is non-binary and includes male, female and any number in between and that gender is fluid and can be changed as well. And these are the twin concepts that underlie the notion of sexual orientation, which Barbados seems to have embraced,” she said.
Though acknowledging that Barbados had to live harmoniously with other countries, Evelyn insisted that it must safeguard its future prosperity and stability.
“Consistent with this, the primary purpose of the bill should be to ensure the well-being of Barbadian children, not to ensure compliance with international instruments. It would be more fitting that the purpose of the bill reflected pride in national sovereignty.
“For example, it could say something like, ‘The purpose of this bill is to ensure that the children of Barbados are nurtured and protected in an environment that enables the wholesome development of their unique personalities so that to the fullest extent possible, they enjoy a safe, happy childhood and grow up to be well adjusted productive citizens, able to contribute meaningfully to the long term sustainable development of Barbados’. We don’t have to ignore our international obligations, but by all means, we must put Barbados first,” Evelyn insisted.
Touching on the bill’s language, she told the session that some of the words were too open to interpretation and lacked definition.
The sociologist said this could lead to confusion – as it has in international countries where the wording is similar – regarding the concepts of sexual orientation and parental rights.
“There was a case in Western Australia and one in Canada where these very words, ‘the best interest of the child’, people saw it as different things, and that is the problem that we are going to have to face…. So, even though this is a child protection bill, we know that protection on one side of the fence is actually seen as abuse. Care is seen as cruelty; harm is seen as health. Do you understand the kind of problem that we’re putting Barbados in?” she queried.
Thanking Evelyn for her submission, Chair of the Joint Select Committee Toni Moore sought to clarify the bill’s purpose, noting that the Government was not seeking to assign gender.
“The bill does not allow the state to assign gender or the state to make determinations on sexual orientation. So what I think you could probably be calling for is for Government, if it has not been made clear enough, to restate its position on gender assignment. But insofar as we are examining the bill on child protection, I think that from the engagement up to now …that it can be concluded that the concern, though relevant, is misplaced within the context of the bill,” Moore said.