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Protect all

Kimberley Cummins

Protect all

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MINISTER OF THE Environment Dr Denis Lowe has received a tongue-lashing from several human rights organisations in Barbados over his very vocal opposition to gender-neutral domestic abuse legislation.

George Griffith, a social worker with almost half a century’s experience, called on Lowe and other politicians and public figures who may have similar sentiments to stop their stigma and discrimination of sexually diverse individuals.

Speaking to the SUNDAY SUN, Griffith said he was deeply concerned and disappointed by Lowe’s comments because he believed that such ignorance only bred further ignorance.

“In Barbados we have always been more mature and more measured and the last thing we want now is for leaders to be advocating discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.

“My concern is that we are all subject to fundamental rights and freedoms that are protected by the Constitution of Barbados and it does not matter whether we are heterosexual or homosexual; whether we are Christian or non-Christian; whether we are white or black; no matter who we are; even if we are criminals we are still protected under the law.

“If we are saying that domestic violence is a scourge that should be eradicated from Barbados and that through education, advocacy and laws we want to make sure that people are not subjected to domestic abuse I would consider it very improper and discriminatory if the laws of Barbados said that we are going to make provisions for persons in heterosexual relationships only to ensure that those persons are protected,” Griffith said.

Griffith, as well as SAVE Foundation chairman and founder Liesel Daisley, along with president of the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA), Ralph Boyce, were all in agreement that in 21st century Barbados to make a deliberate decision to exclude sexually diverse Barbadians from domestic abuse legislation was fundamentally unjust.

Furthermore, they said that it would also be against international laws and emerging conventions if people in same sex relationships were not equally protected particularly since homosexuality in Barbados was not illegal but rather the act of buggery.

Though Boyce maintained that MESA did not accept openly gay men into that organisation on the basis that it was established to “build strong men and strong families”, he still believed it would be highly discriminatory if all human beings were not seen under the same light under the laws of this land.

“I feel once they are human beings the gender thing should not stop persons from getting access to the law. I still feel God’s plan for family was man, woman and children. People want to have their own lifestyles and a man wants to be a woman. In my books, I really find that not acceptable. I feel it is against the laws of God and against the laws of nature – I am very clear on that [but] they are citizens and they have the right to practise their own lifestyles be it in private and not flaunt it too much,” he said.

Daisley, through Save Foundation, has for some five years been a champion against domestic violence, and she also told the SUNDAY SUN she was displeased by the minister’s remarks. Speaking prior to the start of an event to raise awareness of domestic abuse which was held at the Ilaro Court yesterday, she said a victim in all forms was still a victim and they should be respected.

“This is why we don’t discriminate. We don’t even ask them what type of relationship they are in. They are free to tell us if they want or not but once they come to us for help we will help them. We do recognise that we are in 2014 and relationships are no longer the typical [man and woman] relationships so we embrace everybody and treat them all the same. We are in agreement that there are female on female and male on male abuse and not only male on female abuse,” she said.

Daisley questioned why if the rain falls on everyone and the sun shines on all, why the laws can’t protect everybody.

“You shouldn’t have one law for one type of person and a separate law for a different type of person that is discrimination and who are we to judge people to tell them how they are supposed to live their lives? That’s not our job, that is not our role. [SAVE’s] role is to help them – all victims of domestic abuse,” Daisley said.

According to Griffith, homosexuality was present in Barbados before he was born and it will continue long after he dies, so in his opinion, what was needed now was for Barbadians to understand that these persons are deserving of the same protection of the law.

“Really and truly we will never know how many homosexuals are in Barbados. I would dare to say they are homosexuals in every church, every Government agency, every organisation, school and that is their right. It is not in the interest of the Government of Barbados or the Barbadian society to seek out people who are homosexual and who are not. We need to treat people as people.

“We really have to get away from the stigmatisation and we must not continue to do some of what Denis Lowe is doing. We need people in the society to speak out. I will speak out irrespective of the consequences because human rights and social justice is my concern.

“And speaking out does not mean that you are encouraging people to engage in homosexual relationships; that is a matter for them. They have their own rights for self-determination but I feel we cannot sit back and see the country trending in this direction and not say or do anything about it,” said Griffith. (SDB Media)