The issue of gender and sexuality in Chapter Three of the proposed new Constitution was at the center of strong discussions during another of the public meetings organized by the Constitutional Reform Commission.
The overwhelming number of Barbadians presenting at Deighton Griffith Secondary School, Kingsland, Christ Church on Sunday night expressed their disapproval with the inclusion of language that pushes for gender neutrality. Many argued that if Barbados accepts and encourages this agenda through its Constitution, the island will be “falling down a slippery slope”. However, this position received some pushback from members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual LGBTQIA community.
Isadora Barrow, while calling for the inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation to be added to the language in Chapter 3 of the Protection of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Individuals, also advocated for the removal of sodomy and indecency laws of the statute. books. She highlighted the importance because, according to her, while the rest of the world moves forward, there are some in Barbadian society who remain subject to the shadows and the nooks and crannies based on their gender identity and orientation.
She said: “Whether or not others in society want to acknowledge, acknowledge or accept the experiences of minorities in this society, they exist and the law should offer protection. In recent meetings there were feelings that what worked in the past will work today, but in the past, the rights that were being considered were whether some should be seen as fully human or whether some had a right to participate. [politically]. If we remain tied to these ideas and understandings of the past, we will never fully live in the present and the future will be harder to see.”
A similar case was also made by Michael Alexander of the gay rights organization EQUALS Barbados, who stated that members of his community in Barbados today are still discriminated against and their lives threatened. So much so, that according to figures he cited from a “database of shared incidents”, since the end of 2017, 106 cases of human rights violations have been reported. Of these, only 8 percent reported those cases to the authorities because, according to him, the police reject their cases, are insensitive or lose their reports.
Alexander, however, noted that 70 per cent of respondents said they faced verbal abuse, 43 per cent experienced physical violence, while a number said other examples of discrimination they experienced were being forced from their homes, denied services, fired from work and denied education. opportunities.
“Can I remind everyone that just because you don’t discriminate, see discrimination happen or hear about it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s easy to dismiss the realities of others when we don’t actively seek to know their realities. It’s easy to say there’s no proof of something when the systems in place not only allow certain things to be recorded, but the systems themselves don’t act on the incidents that are actually recorded,” Alexander charged.
The Rev. Dr. Ferdinand Nicholls, who addressed some issues including the dire need for a political revolution in Barbados, argued that his community also faces discrimination. This occurs when an attempt is made to block their fundamental rights to freedom of thought and religious expression because they may have a position contrary to another group of people.
“It seems to me that any time you disagree with a particular group of people, you are considered a fanatic. You and I should have an argument and a disagreement without you thinking that I hate you. I don’t hate you, I hate that you try to discriminate against me because people seem to think that discrimination only flows in one direction, but it doesn’t. And by doing so, you’re saying what I believe, I’m forced to put that aside to accept you and that’s just not going to happen. And if ever a Constitution provided for that kind of violation of religious freedom, there would be riots in this country. You can’t talk about discrimination and do it one way, you have to appreciate the fact that there are other people who think differently and we agree to disagree,” said Dr. Ferdinand.
This view was supported by Michelle Edwards, who argued that the pressure for gender fluidity was a “threat” to all children in Barbados.
“I suggest all right-thinking Barbadians make it a priority and their business to uncover the truth behind [Comprehensive Sexuality Education]. . . . It is a threat to the well-being of every child in this nation and, indeed, the world. We as adults must stop at nothing to protect our children from this evil. We will be held accountable if we remain silent,” Edwards said. (KC)