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(BARBADOS TODAY) – It is “unfortunate” that well-known public figure and political consultant, Peter Wickham could not be married in his country of citizenship, a regional gay rights advocate has said.
Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican working closely with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to have the country’s sodomy laws struck from the Offences Against the Person Act is challenging the Mia Mottley administration to go the distance by not only legalising same-sex intimacy, but marriage as well.
“Many people have said that we should just do decriminalisation first and then do marriage equality as has happened in many other jurisdictions. My position is that there is no need for the Caribbean to proceed in that way. There is clear evidence that neither decriminalisation, nor marriage equality harms the society,” said the Jamaican advocate.
“They actually help the societies because for one thing, Caribbean people will now be sure that their partners are with them because they want to be. Partners of the opposite sex will not just be with them because societal pressure forces it,” noted.
Over the weekend, Peter Wickham married his partner of ten years in Strasbourg, France witnessed by friends and family. The event has become a talking point for many on social media since it was reported in the local press. But according to Tomlinson, quite a few of “us” have been married outside of our jurisdiction.
“This is very unfortunate considering how we as Caribbean people view family, weddings and marriages. This means that many of our family members are denied the opportunity of partaking in these joyous occasions because of our restrictive laws. But the sheer sadness is just one aspect of our reality,” he said.
In fact, Tomlinson, who is married to a man and splits time between Canada and Jamaica, has urged the Barbados government, to move as swiftly on gay rights issues as it has with the ban on single-use plastics and marijuana legalisation for certain purposes.
In addition to his argument on human rights, Tomlinson says the move would allow more homosexuals to come forward for treatment with issues like HIV. He argued it would also help to address issues relating to immigration, taxation, property and inheritance, allowing tourists to have the same protections under spousal laws as they have in their own jurisdictions. This he claimed was preventing Barbados and many other regional countries from taking advantage of almost two billion dollar global LGBT-tourism industry.
“If for example a tourist falls sick at the hotel and they go to the hospital, the other partner would be a legal stranger under our laws and couldn’t make any decisions for them,” he explained.
Tomlinson, who believes one day very soon, Barbados will have no choice but to adjust its policy believes when that day comes, there will be further implications for other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.
He explained: “The absence of the recognition is in direct violation of the convention which opens us to sanctions from the Organisation of American States, but it will also create complications if Peter [Wickham] or someone in Barbados wants to have their marriage recognised under the convention.
“If they relocate to another Caribbean country and their family wishes to join them, then those relationships must be recognised by those Caribbean countries or they would not only be in breach of the Inter American convention, but also the CARICOM Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, because the CARICOM treaty provides for the Right of Establishment including bringing your family, and I cannot see how the CCJ would find in any other way,” Tomlinson contends.
Government has not responded to the challenge to Barbados’ buggery laws lodged by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which for Tomlinson represents an admission that those laws are indefensible. He added that after conversations with representatives from the IACHR the deadline had been extended in early 2019 but expired at the end of the year.
“Because the Caribbean has the dishonour of having the last remaining anti-sodomy laws in the Western Hemisphere, and Barbados’ life imprisonment is by far the worst penalty, the court is very interested in taking up this matter so I expect it will be prioritised and expedited,” he said.
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