This has been a crusade of Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas for some years now, especially in his role as the CARICOM lead Head of Government responsible for health, and the fight against HIV/AIDS, in particular.
While such a liberal posturing would find safe haven in some Western countries, like the United States, or at least certain parts thereof, those sentiments would find great difficulty in taking root in other sister Caribbean states, such as Jamaica. It was the former Jamaican Prime Minister, PJ Patterson who once said, in response to similar comments that were made then by Douglas, that no such accommodation could be made in the foreseeable future in that CARICOM country, at least not while he was Prime Minister. Patterson has since exited the political stage and made way for Portia Simpson-Miller, who now leads the People’s National Party, PNP, which is a sister political organization to Douglas’ St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party.
There are those however, who would tell you that Simpson-Miller, like Patterson, a close political ally of Douglas, would not be one of the regional heads to join the St. Kitts and Nevis leader in pushing for legislation to legalise either buggery or same sex marriage in the Caribbean.
It is not so much that Douglas has a personal or invested interest in the matter, but his political position is planted in the belief that the outlawing of those activities helps to aggravate the problems associated with HIV/AIDS. And he might be right. But he will have a hard time selling that position, even to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, who exist still in a very conservative Christian society.
Douglas is reported to have said that because of his own position with regard to the leadership role that he plays in advocacy, in relation to HIV/AIDS and the fact that when a society continues to openly condemn those persons who are gays, lesbians and who therefore may be driven underground, they may not want to come into testing to know their status with regards to HIV. “That is something that I condemn,” Dr. Douglas added.
Dr. Douglas is advocating that gays, lesbians and homosexuals all have a right to adopt the lifestyles of their choosing; though some recent political remarks against his political opponents would question the sincerity of that pronouncement.
A few years ago when Douglas was strongly and publicly recommending that the laws be changed in the Caribbean, he was asked if he would set the example by leading the way in St. Kitts and Nevis, but the Prime Minister backed away and eased himself out of a direct answer.
Now he is back with a ‘safe answer’ suggesting that the introduction of legislation allowing same sex marriage in St. Kitts and Nevis is for national debate, especially among stakeholders and not just legislators.
He is quoted as saying, “I believe the church will want to have its say upon this particular matter. I believe the various groups that are pursuing the human rights of people in a vigorous way in the fundamentals of what people can do or what people cannot do and also looking at what governments can do to lend support to the debate.”
“I believe it will generate quite a bit of national debate. I believe we would be guided not only with what is happening in North America and in Europe, but to some extent what have been cultural norms in our own Caribbean Society and in our own St. Kitts and Nevis society. This is a fundamental question I believe that will definitely need to be brought to national debate at some time,” Dr. Douglas said.
“As a country, we have been called upon to look at some of the existing laws that we have on our law books. The buggery law for example, we believe that the time has come for debate to take place in our country with regard to whether these laws which continue to perpetuate discrimination and stigmatization against certain people; whether this should not be brought to a debate for discussion so that a national position can be taken within the context of human rights and within the context of allowing people who may have the HIV Virus to come to the fore to get tested and thus receive the management, treatment and the care that is available to them,” Dr. Douglas told listeners of his weekly radio program, on Tuesday.
Nevisians and also Kittitians can still remember that it was only in recent years, that a CCM Administration in Nevis, refused to provide permission to allow the passengers of a cruise vessel to disembark on Nevis, because it was filled with homosexuals, and the Ministry of Tourism then, under the leadership of the late Malcolm Guishard, felt that the sexual tendencies of the passengers were not consistent with the values and morals of the local community.
Apart from the Prime Minister however, there is no known record of any other agent or group in society, in St. Kitts and Nevis, hat has been publicly calling for such measures. But Dr. Douglas is right about one thing; it would certainly generate “quite a bit of national debate”. With elections pending in the country, perhaps we may see the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour party and its leader, Douglas, opening that debate as an election issue for the consideration of the electorate.