An unknown man on the Eastern Caribbean island of Barbados.

© 2018 Boris Dittrich/Human Rights Watch
After Human Rights Watch released a report on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and buggery laws in the Eastern Caribbean, a government minister from Barbados warned against “an attempt to transpose and to transplant a foreign culture into Barbados called same-sex marriage.”

According to news reports, Steve Blackett, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development in Barbados, took issue with the report, which focused on Barbados and six other Eastern Caribbean countries. In an address to the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) he fumed against “external forces and internal forces” that he claimed were seeking acceptance of same-sex marriage.

It is a cheap trick, often used in politics, to rally against something that has not been proposed. The report “I Have to Leave to Be Me” focuses on the region’s buggery laws, and how in Barbados same-sex activity between consenting adults is punishable by life imprisonment. Although the buggery law is rarely enforced, its mere existence emboldens people to harass and discriminate against LGBT people, while the police respond inadequately to LGBT people’s complaints. As the minister himself notes, “They are our relatives, our family or friends, our kith and kin, our hairdressers, our tailors.”

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

LGBT people in the Eastern Caribbean face a toxic homophobic culture, intensified by laws that make same-sex conduct between consenting adults illegal. Despite this, each island has a core group of LGBT activists leading the fight for equality.

They deserve equal protection under the law.

Activists from the regional organization ECADE (Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality) call on their governments including the one in Barbados, to solve the problems, including violence and discrimination, they are confronted with in their daily lives. They are not calling for same-sex marriage in Barbados. Human Rights Watch supports the aspirations of these local and regional activists.

The minister should do his job and focus on solving the many problems LGBT people are confronted with in Barbados. He should stop misrepresenting the call to end discrimination as a call for marriage, maliciously stirring up emotions in people around an issue neither local, regional nor international activists are campaigning for in his country.