By Maurice Tomlinson
Three times I supported the election of women leaders from the Caribbean who promised to repeal their countries’ anti-sodomy laws. And all three times I have been bitterly disappointed. It is well-known that homophobia in the Caribbean is closely linked to religious misogyny. This is because to many people the WORST thing that a man can want to do is “betray” his sex by being penetrated like a woman. Yet, these women leaders who have survived crushing patriarchy to achieve high political office are content to allow visible manifestations of discrimination to continue in the form of antiquated anti-sodomy laws.
When she was campaigning for office, the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland promised to support LGBT human rights in the Commonwealth, including her home country of Dominica. Yet, as her first term comes to an end, she has not once called publicly on her country to repeal the anti-sodomy law, which is one of the last remaining statues of that kind in the western hemisphere AND includes forced psychiatric confinement.
When Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller was running for Prime Minister she promised to call for a Parliamentary “review” of the country’s anti-sodomy law, which imposes up to 10 years imprisonment PLUS registration as a sex offender and a requirement to always carry a pass or face a fine of up to J$1 million (about US$6,800) AND an additional 12 months imprisonment for each offence of not having the pass. However, once elected Ms. Simpson-Miller later said that the review was “not a priority” and the law remains intact.
When Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley was Attorney General, she suggested a repeal of the country’s anti-sodomy law, which is the worst in the western hemisphere – life imprisonment. However, since being elected with her party winning EVERY SEAT IN PARLIAMENT she has not acted to end the law. Despite saying that “all are welcome in Barbados” and recently amending the “Welcome Visa” to allow foreign same-sex couples to live and work on the island for a year, Ms. Mottlety has not committed to ending the draconian ban on consensual same-sex intimacy. Instead, she falsely stated that there is no discrimination against anyone in Barbados, which is patently untrue, just ask Trans activist Alexa Hoffmann who was fired because of her gender identity.
All these ladies claim to be LGBT allies. Yet NONE of them has acted to ensure the recognition and protection of LGBT human rights in their home countries by ending the archaic, discriminatory and sometimes deadly anti-sodomy laws.
A Facebook friend shared that in his opinion these ladies exploited the LGBT communities to gain power and at the end of the day they forgot their promises. Yet, as women leaders who suffered the stinging effects of discrimination, I expected better from them. They do not get a free pass because they are allies. Their inaction on the anti-sodomy laws therefore begs the question are they really allies? Because, as another dear friend reminded me allyship means ACTION! An abused minority group looks for every possible help they can get and when that help is refused in the end, it is the worst form of betrayal. I certainly feel betrayed by these powerful Caribbean women. And I am not the only one.