Barbados: Regional approach to decriminalising homosexuality

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Barbados: Regional approach to decriminalising homosexuality

(BARBADOS TODAY) – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocates in Barbados are working closely with their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago to prove that changes to the country’s “discriminatory” laws could result in real and tangible benefits for members of the community.

Jason Jones, whose landmark 2018 court victory successfully decriminalised homosexuality in the twin-island republic has launched an LGBTQ+ National Survey to determine whether homophobia and discrimination have abated since his legal victory.

Here in Barbados, recently appointed Chairman of the United Caribbean Transnetwork (UCTRANS), Alexa Hoffmann is hoping that the ongoing research will validate a similar legal challenge against Barbadian laws and gain the attention of policymakers, religious groups and other dissenting voices.

The project will examine whether it is becoming easier for LGBT people to access housing and employment while navigating other aspects of society.

“Hopefully it will encourage other countries to participate in similar research projects and that way a small reference library can be built up and five or ten years down the road we would have a point of reference and as we go along, we would be able to measure how the social climate has improved,” Hoffmann told Barbados TODAY.

“Whether it is same-sex intimacy, same-sex marriage, adoption, family life, etc, they can have at least one document they can point to, which proves that all of this fear-mongering about disasters, calamity, bedlam and mayhem is all a bunch of rubbish and we don’t have to worry about those things,” she added in an apparent jab at the some Christian groups.

Backed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Hoffmann is currently challenging sections of the sexual offences legislation which impose harsh penalties for acts of same-sex intimacy in the form of anti-sodomy and serious indecency laws.

In November, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity (ECADE) launched similar challenges in Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St Lucia.

The case appeared to have prompted a reaction from some religious groups and other sections of society here who argued that such changes should not be entertained by the courts.

“There is all of the bubbling up of the rhetoric about the disaster that can befall Barbados if same-sex intimacy is decriminalised and what it could mean for the country and the economy,” said Hoffmann.

“But we have countries like Belize and Trinidad and Tobago which have decriminalised and Barbados is working its way through.

“Belize’s laws have been removed and they now have equal opportunity legislation that is specifically going to cover sexual orientation and gender identity and that is a much more informal point of reference to have because people can now be protected instead of being told that they are going against the law,” the activist argued.

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