Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley labeled a question asked by BBC journalist, Christian Fraser, as “inappropriate” during an interview to discuss the announcement of the Caribbean nation’s recent reform proposals including removing Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State and also legalizing same-sex marriage.
The Mottley administration, during the September 15 Opening of Parliament and the Throne Speech, said the decision on whether or not to legalize the latter would be decided by native Bajans in a referendum. Referring to the referendum and LGBTQ+ rights on the island, Fraser asked Mottley: “For that next generation, should they be allowed to be gay in Barbados?”
A visibly startled Mottley responded with, “Sorry?” to which Fraser reiterated: “Should people in Barbados be allowed to be gay, to be homosexual?”
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Surprised by the question, Mottley asked the British journalist if that was something he could ask his government. “Is that a question you would ask the United Kingdom?” the Prime Minister asked.
Fraser replied Mottley by asserting the United Kingdom has laws on gay marriage while Barbados is having a referendum on one.
For the record, laws criminalizing homosexuality and same-sex marriage in Barbados as well as other former British Empires were enacted by its colonial administration.
“I think that is a most inappropriate question as to whether a person should be allowed to be gay. I think the question is, should we discriminate against people because they’re gay? And we will not,” Mottley responded. “We are absolutely clear that Barbados became the first Black slave society, and a country that has known what it is to discriminate against citizens for centuries cannot in today’s world be discriminating against any human being for any reason whatsoever.”
Mottley then went ahead to explain the reason behind the referendum by juxtaposing institutionalized marriage by the church and civil unions – the latter which she says shouldn’t be a prerogative.
“The government is resolute that marriage is a function of the church, and to that extent, a referendum will be held to allow all parties to determine whether they will speak on marriage or not,” she said.
“With respect to civil unions, we believe that that is a function of civil rights, and to that extent there shall be no discrimination against any person, whether gay, whether straight, whether Black, whether white, whether short, whether tall, for any reason in this country.”
Legalize or not? – People power
During the September 15 address by country’s Governor-General, Sandra Mason, the government laid bare their intentions towards becoming a “progressive” nation, arguing that they no longer want to be identified as a country with a poor human rights record on “international lists.”
On this matter, the world has spoken. If we wish to be considered amongst the progressive nations of the world, Barbados cannot afford to lose its international leadership place and reputation. Nor can a society as tolerant as ours, allow itself to be “blacklisted” for human and civil rights abuses or discrimination on the matter of how we treat to human sexuality and relations. My government will do the right thing, understanding that this too will attract controversy. Equally, it is our hope that with the passage of time, the changes we now propose will be part of the fabric of our country’s record of law, human rights and social justice.
In that regard Mr. President, my Government is prepared to recognise a form of civil unions for couples of the same gender so as to ensure that no human being in Barbados will be discriminated against, in exercise of civil rights that ought to be theirs. The settlement of Barbados was birthed and fostered in discrimination, but the time has come for us to end discrimination in all forms. I wish to emphasise that my Government is not allowing any form of same-sex marriage, and will put this matter to a public referendum. My Government will accept and be guided by the vote of the public as promised in the manifesto.