UWI sacks professor over MSM testimony

Desmond Bain gave expert testimony in Belize case.
Professor Brendan Bain gave expert testimony in Belize case.

KINGSTON – The University of the West Indies (UWI) yesterday announced that it had sacked Professor Brendan Bain as director of the Regional Co-ordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network, echoing a view by gay and human rights activists that he has lost the confidence of the programme’s target community.

The UWI publicised its decision two days after the Sunday Observer reported that a coalition of 33 lobby groups from across the Caribbean had been advocating Bain’s removal because of expert testimony he gave in a constitutional challenge brought by a gay Belizean man against that country’s criminal code in September 2010.

Caleb Orozco had argued that the code, which states that “every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years”, violates his right to the recognition of human dignity, to personal privacy and the privacy of the home guaranteed by the Belize constitution.

In August 2012, Professor Bain offered expert testimony in the case on behalf of a group of churches seeking to retain the 1861 law.

Bain, regarded as a pioneer in clinical infectious disease practice in the Caribbean and a leading medical authority on the HIV epidemic in the region, pointed out in his testimony that the risk of contracting HIV is significantly higher among men who have sex with other men (MSM).

He said this was true for Belize, as well as other countries, including those that have repealed the law that criminalizes anal sex.

“The risk to MSM and their intimate sexual partners is not just to their physical health. The adverse physical and physiological consequences of STIs (including HIV) in MSM create significant and avoidable financial costs to individuals, households and governments. These important considerations must be included when considering whether to give public approval to risky behaviours such as are often practised by MSM,” Bain said in his testimony.

But those views, which Bain made clear were his and not the UWI’s, angered the lobby groups who have been pressuring the university to cashier Bain on the basis that they represent a conflict of interest.

Yesterday, the UWI said: “Many authorities familiar with the brief presented believe that Professor Bain’s testimony supported arguments for retention of the law, thereby contributing to the continued criminalisation and stigmatisation of MSM. This opinion is shared by the lesbian, gay and other groups who are served by CHART.”

According to the UWI, “the majority of HIV and public health experts believe that criminalising men having sex with men and discriminating against them violates their human rights, puts them at even higher risk, reduces their access to services, forces the HIV epidemic underground thereby increasing the HIV risk”.

The university said that while it recognises Bain’s right to provide expert testimony in the manner he did, “it has become increasingly evident that he has lost the confidence and support of a significant sector of the community which the CHART programme is expected to reach, including the loss of his leadership status in PANCAP [Pan Caribbean Partnership against AIDS], thereby undermining the ability of this programme to effectively deliver on its mandate”.

On Monday, Dr Carolyn Gomes, executive director of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), and Ivan Cruickshank, the group’s finance manager, raised that same argument in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Gomes said that when the CVC learnt that Bain was thinking of putting in the affidavit, he was approached and asked not to do it.

“We sat down with him and said this is at complete variance with your role in CHART,” Gomes said. “You’re leading a programme that says stigma and discrimination are wrong . . . .  If you put in an affidavit that says you’re for discriminatory laws, how can you lead the programme?”

Cruickshank said that some of Bain’s colleagues who are working in the same field were approached to engage him on the issue.

Asked what Bain’s response was to those efforts, Cruickshank said he was not the one who engaged the professor, however, he learnt that Bain raised the issue of his conscience on the matter.

“He didn’t see the negative type of implications that were being pointed out to him, because in his view he was providing a sort of biomedical representation of information,” Cruickshank said.

Gomes interjected: “He hadn’t thought about the effect it might have had.”

She added: “None of this is aimed at Brendan; it’s aimed at the position taken . . . it’s about how can the university have a credible programme against stigma and discrimination . . . led by somebody who is saying in public, not in private, keep the stigma and discrimination.”

Colin Robinson, manager of Caribbean Forum for Liberation And Acceptance Of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS), one of the lobby groups in the coalition, agreed.

“We’re not asking UWI to hold Professor Bain to any lesser standard than Dr Gomes’ board or mine would hold us,” he said.

“We can’t just run off and do things in private and still want to hold positions that have particular values and principles attached to them, and that’s the simple matter that brought this large swathe of organisations together . . . it’s about protecting the leadership of the HIV epidemic in the region. We can’t have people who are not adhering to those principles leading this, and UWI’s leadership is important,” Robinson said.

Gomes, Cruickshank and Robinson reiterated that their objection to Bain’s testimony was not intended to stifle his academic freedom to voice his scientific opinions.


Source: Jamaica Observer

6 Responses to UWI sacks professor over MSM testimony

  1. Fraser Young
    Fraser Young May 22, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I thought only God can judge? Seems like their are a lot of man made judgements here around here. Do you really think when u get to see your god he is going to applaud your intolerance of others? Is he gonna applaud the burn in hell mentality? I know my God and he teaches tolerance and acceptance

  2. Felicia Marshall
    Felicia Marshall May 22, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Are we ideally standing by and allowing the lbgt communities to take over the world. Where is the heterosexual community of Jamaica who will protest, petition and fight for this man’s rights? Doesn’t he have rights as well to gainful employment and an expression of his beliefs without fear of being victimized.
    We have heard to be tolerant to the lgbt community but are they being tolerant to us?

    Either way Prof Bain has stated empirical research evidence in a court case. He has not incorrectly represented the evidence. He has not lied.

    If what we are reading in the media is the entire story, I disagree with Prof Bain losing his job. I think the UWI should be sued for their one sided approach.

  3. Nakita Xiv Iniestaxavivilla
    Nakita Xiv Iniestaxavivilla May 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

    People ain’t learn yet not to go against the gays? It will never end well…..look at Buju!

  4. Tanya Layne
    Tanya Layne May 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    The arguments that the LGBT community brings is a load of crap and I will not apologize for saying so.

  5. Rawle Agard
    Rawle Agard May 22, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Reverse discrimination.

  6. Rusty Ralph
    Rusty Ralph May 22, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Newsflash!! The Church was the standard bearer of morality and accepted behaviour. Many laws were based on Biblical principles. The moment the Church caved in on the biblical homosexual stance, all is lost. It is now a waste of time protesting. The floodgates are open…


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