Gays and lesbians want Minister to step down
Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe is not the most popular man today in the local gay and lesbian community.
In fact, they are calling for his resignation over his recent suggestion that he would step down from his ministerial position before supporting the passage of gender-neutral domestic violence laws.
In a strongly worded statement today, the Barbados – Gays, Lesbians, and All-Sexuals against Discrimination, otherwise known as B-GLAD, roundly condemned the Minister’s statements, describing them as not only “irresponsible and antediluvian” but also “archaic and non-progressive”.
B-GLAD also said they reflected “appallingly” not only on Dr Lowe, but on Barbados as a whole, as it suggested that recognising his position as a Minister of Parliament, Lowe should recant.
“When such a significant platform is used to recklessly propagate notions of intolerance and homophobia, it breeds an atmosphere of permission among a nation’s citizens to continue such discrimination. Such discrimination can prove to be detrimental to members of Barbadian society, as well as Barbados’ economy, being a country which is fundamentally driven by tourism.
“If Dr Lowe finds a request for recanting his statements unreasonable, then we challenge him to follow through with his promise to resign as Minister. As equally contributing members in every sphere and sector of Barbados’ society, the non-heterosexual population is not desirous of anyone’s bigoted and anachronistic views, obstructing their ability to serve the citizens of this country justly,” the statement said.
B-GLAD also pointed to a 2013 letter it said it had received from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in which he had vowed that his Government remained committed to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and had declared that would remain dedicated “to lobbying, both regionally and internationally against discrimination against any Barbadian citizen, inclusive of those who do not conform to heteronormative societal construct”.
The umbrella body for gays and lesbians further highlighted a 2009 statement by the former Minister of Family and current Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer Suckoo, in which she addressed the issue of unequal protection and gave an assurance of her Government’s intention to implement domestic violence legislation that recognized the realities of existing relationship dynamics within the country.
The group quoted her as saying, “regardless of our personal views towards transgenders, it’s about respect for a person’s life.
“In preparing the legislation one thing we are aware of is that legislation cannot be gender-biased; that is a case for all the legislation the Ministry of Family is addressing. It can no longer be gender-biased. We have to take into account the realities of the situation. Right now we have seen violence, with men against men in homosexual relationships, women against women [and other] transgender issues. The law has to protect all its citizens. If we’re amending legislation or drafting new legislation we have to take into consideration the nuances of the environment in which we live today.”
While pointing out that Lowe’s comments stood in direct contrast to those of Dr Byer-Suckoo, B-GLAD said it was “highly problematic that any Member of Parliament would allow personal views to hinder their ability to serve the people of a country in their best interest, as they were elected to do”.
Insisting that “all persons are equal before the law [and] consequently, they are entitled, without discrimination, to equal protection of the law”, B-GLAD also sought to remind Barbados of its obligations as a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “both of which Barbados has ratified and vowed to uphold with utmost integrity”.
The group highlighted the results of a recent CADRES survey on Attitudes Towards Homosexuals in Barbados which showed that approximately eight to 16 per cent of the population is composed of non-heterosexual people.
“These people contribute to Barbados within every sector of the economy and make up a significant part of the electorate,” the group said, arguing that “it has been long overdue that they be recognized and validated in the eye of the law”.
“To purposely exclude or deny gender and sexual minorities equal protection under the purview of Barbadian legislation is not only a denial of their existence, but it is a direct violation of their fundamental human rights,” it said.
As it relates to the issue of domestic violence, B-GLAD said extensive research had proven that the problem was equally prevalent in same-sex and heterosexual relationships, especially in the English-speaking Caribbean, where it described the recent surge in abuse cases as “alarming”.
“In addressing this epidemic which has been plaguing us, to be so overtly archaic and non-progressive, reflects appallingly not only on Dr Lowe, but on Barbados as a country. One must bear in mind that Barbados is a country whose main resource is tourism and, as such, our Government has a responsibility to actively maintain an atmosphere of tolerance and receptivity. Barbados should be consciously moving towards this as a society, not regressing based on notions which were imposed on the Caribbean through colonization,” B-GLAD said.