Bajans attend constitutional reform hearings

A simmering discussion is taking place in Barbados in relation to gender and sexuality as many who attended constitutional reform hearings this week have been railing against demands by rights activists to include language covering gender neutrality in any amended Barbadian constitution.

Calling it a dangerous and backward step, contributors to the forum in the southern Christ Church Parish argued that there should be no place for such in the island’s premier document despite pleadings from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) activists at the meeting.

The Today online edition reported on the forum on Wednesday saying that the opposition to the issue was overwhelming even as defenders fought back against the tide.

Activist Isadora Barrow contended that the time is right for such inclusions as these are realities of the day.

“Whether or not others in society want to recognize, acknowledge or accept minority experiences in this society, they exist and the law should offer protection. In the last meetings there were sentiments that what worked in the past will work today but in some past, the rights that were being considered were whether or not some were to be seen as fully human or whether some had the right to even participate politically. If we remain bound to these ideas and understandings of the past we will never fully live in the present and the future will come harder to see.”

The hearings to amend and upgrade the constitution have come in the wake of the island switching from an independent nation to a full-fledged republic with its own native president in former judge and the last governor general Sandra Mason. In doing so a year ago this month, Barbados has now joined Guyana, Trinidad and Dominica in that category. Several other CARICOM member nations have signaled plans to do so, chief among them Jamaica in the coming months.

During the lively hearing in Christ Church, another activist, Mike Alexander complained about physical and other forms of attacks on LGBTQIA persons, reporting 106 such cases in recent years. He therefore argued that constitutional protection for and recognition of such minority groups should be guaranteed. “It would help,” he said.

“Might I remind everyone that just because you do not discriminate, see discrimination occurring or hear about it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. It is easy to discard the realities of others when we don’t actively seek to know about their realities. It is easy to say there is no proof of something when the systems in place do not only allow for certain things to be recorded but the same systems fail to act on the incidents that actually are recorded,” the publication quoted him as saying.

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