Silence in court

By Kareem Smith, Barbados Today

The Mia Mottley-administration is yet to respond to a challenge lodged by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the country’s buggery and indecency laws, leaving a local activist disappointed and planning her next move.

The end of October marked three months since the IACHR sent official correspondence to the Government of Barbados demanding a response to its petition which identified human rights violations in the country’s Sexual Offences Act.

In a recent interview, Alexa Hoffmann, who originally submitted the petition to the commission told Barbados TODAY after it was presented to the current administration in July, she expected the request would be acknowledged and some discussion would take place.

However, Government has failed to address the matter and according to Hoffmann gave a clear indication that it did not intend to uphold the human rights of the entire population.

“It bothers me, because it really shows that the Government really does not have the entire population’s interest at heart. It’s only looking at one section of the population and not another and if we are supposed to be a society that is diverse and where everybody is supposed to be accounted for, you can’t have a situation where you say you’re going to listen to one group of people and ignore another group of people,” argued Hoffmann.

Pro-LGBTI movements have been strongly opposed by some factions of the local christian community and as recently as last Sunday, Chairman of the Family, Faith and Freedom Barbados group Pastor Paul Leacock declared any deviation from the current position would be done to the detriment of the current Government.

Earlier this year Attorney General Dale Marshall denied receiving correspondence about the issue but when contacted this week, he said: “We have received correspondence,” but at the time he was unable to address the issue. Efforts to reach him have since then been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Hoffmann declared that members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex fraternity were still criminalised by the country’s laws for consensual acts conducted in the privacy of their own homes while causing no harm to others.

“If you can afford rights to someone who is accused of or has committed a violent crime or any crime for that matter, then you can extend that courtesy to anybody in society. Contrary to popular belief, LGBT people are not threatening the democracy of this country; they are not threatening the fabric of society.

“If I wish to go home in my house, close the door, lock it and pull the curtains with the love of my life and we wish to do what we wish in the confines of my home, it should be treated no differently than a married couple or a boyfriend and girlfriend in a visiting relationship doing the same thing,” she argued.

The IACHR’s petition has been followed by the announcement by the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) regarding its intention to launch legal challenges to anti-gay laws in Barbados and four other Eastern Caribbean countries.

Sections nine and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act have been under most scrutiny. According to the legislation, persons found guilty of buggery are subject to a life imprisonment and ten-year sentence is prescribed for acts of “serious indecency”.

Since Government has failed to respond to the challenge so far, Hoffmann indicated she would be consulting with her lawyers to determine whether Government should be given more time or if they should take the “next step”.

“At that point I have to consult with my attorneys and see exactly what the process is because in most cases, the precedent has been that most Governments cooperated and an amicable conclusion was made, failing which, if the talks break down, then the IACHR makes a recommendation. But in terms of a Government ignoring or overlooking the petition altogether, that is a bit new to me,” the activist admitted.