‘Change laws’ affecting gays
AN?ENGLISH professor wants Barbados to decriminalise homosexual relationships.
Professor Robert Wintemute of the School of Law, King’s College London, England, made the call to end discrimination against gay people and have legislation that guarantees their right to not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
While giving a lecture on the topic Lesbian And Gay Human Rights In The Caribbean: Would Decriminalization Restrict Religious Freedom? he touched on lesbian and gay human rights in the Caribbean and the question of changing the criminal law in Barbados while addressing the objection that it might restrict religious freedom or Christians.
Speaking to a packed hall at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus Law Faculty, Wintemute said the criminal laws of Barbados needed to be changed because they were outdated and violated the American Convention On Human Rights.
He said if the laws were changed the action would send a signal to the gay and lesbian minority here that they can come out of the closet a little bit without having to worry about the criminal law being held over their head.
Wintemute said a lot of gay men and lesbian women were married in heterosexual marriages because of social pressure.
“I think it is a much better future for the world if men who love men marry men and women who love women marry women,” Wintemute said.
However, he said the Caribbean judges have a lot of restraints on what they can do within the constitution.
Wintemute said it was common in Caribbean constitutions to have a clause which says you cannot challenge laws that existed before independence. Therefore, he said reform would have to come at the level of Parliament.
Otherwise, Wintemute said, external pressure would have to come from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has dealt with similar issues.
He said what had happened in other countries was decriminalisation followed by anti-discrimination laws stating that people cannot lose their jobs, cannot be exempt from housing and health services.
However, he said it was really a question of social change, social evolution and attitudes.
This, he said, was already evident with young people who tended to be more open-minded than older people, as seen in opinion polls where younger persons are in favour of changing laws. However, he noted that it would be an assumption to think that might be the case in Barbados as well.
He said if there was a lot of homophobia in Barbados it would prevent people from coming out and talking about it.
“It is a vicious circle, the more homophobia, the less openness and the less challenging of challenging of prejudice takes place,” Wintemute said. (LK)