LGBT rights in Barbados
|Penalty||Life imprisonment (not enforced, repeal pending)|
|Recognition of relationships||No recognition of same-sex unions|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Barbados do not enjoy the same rights as non-LGBT people. Homosexual acts are illegal (regardless of whether they were consensual and done in private) in Barbados, with a life sentence; however, the law is rarely enforced. The law is currently in effect, but under review. In June 2016, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said that gays should be "left alone" and protected in the eyes of the law.
In August 2016, the Belize Supreme Court struck down Belize's sodomy ban as unconstitutional. Because Belize and Barbados (and all member states of CARICOM) share an identical jurisprudence, Barbados' sodomy ban is also unconstitutional. However, unlike Belize, Barbados' Constitution contains a "savings clause", which protects laws inherited by the former British Empire from constitutional review, even if these laws run counter to fundamental human rights.
Because of Barbados' small population, many LGBT Barbadians choose to remain in the closet in fear that coming out would expose them to the entire country. Barbados held its first Pride Week in July 2018. Activities raising awareness and acceptance were hosted throughout the country.
Legality of same-sex sexual activity
Same-sex and different-sex anal and oral sex (known as buggery or sodomy) are criminalised in Barbados. Chapter 154, Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act criminalises "buggery", regardless of whether the act was done in private and consensual, or whether it was done between two men or a man and a woman. Section 12 criminalises "serious indecency" which is defined as any act "involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire". The maximum penalty is ten years in prison if the act is committed on or towards a person aged 16 or older. Punishment for "buggery" is life imprisonment. The law is rarely enforced, however.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report entitled: "I Have to Leave to be me: Discriminatory Laws Against LGBT People in the Eastern Caribbean". The organisation called on Barbados to repeal Section 9 and urged the Government of Barbados to create a safe environment for all Barbadians. A government minister subsequently warned that external forces were trying to impose same-sex marriage on the country. HRW called the minister's response a "cheap political trick", as their report does not mention same-sex marriage at all, and instead focuses on the discrimination and harassment LGBT people face in Barbados.
In August 2016 and April 2018, the Belize Supreme Court and the Trinidad and Tobago High Court, respectively, ruled that laws criminalising homosexuality are unconstitutional. These rulings have been welcomed by Barbadian LGBT activists, who hope to have their own law repealed as well. However, Barbados' Constitution contains a "savings clause", which protects laws inherited by the former British Empire from constitutional review, even if these laws run counter to fundamental human rights, thus making any legal challenge to the buggery law difficult. As such, Barbadian LGBT activists have filed suit in international courts instead. In June 2018, transgender activist, Alexa Hoffmann, and two other Bajans, a lesbian and a gay man, filed a case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) challenging Chapter 154, sections 9 and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act with the help of by Trans Advocates and Agitation Barbados, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the University of Toronto International Human Rights Programme and other local and international advocates. The case was reviewed by the IACHR in 2018. In late July 2019, the Commission gave the Bajan Government three months to respond to the petition. If the state refuses to repeal its laws, the Commission can refer the matter to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which can issue a binding decision mandating that Barbados repeal the laws. At a global homosexuality decriminalisation conference that was held in Barbados by LGBT activists, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Y. Forde said, "We have no fear of legal challenge to any of our legislation. That is how new law is made and how jurisprudence is enhanced and kept relevant." In response, several evangelical church leaders plan to meet to formulate an official response to the case.
The Anglican Bishop of Barbados, as well as the Catholic Church, have come out in opposition to the buggery law, stating that, while they morally oppose homosexuality, governments must respect the rights of all persons, including LGBT people. On the other hand, some more fundamentalist, extremist and religious fanatic groups have attacked LGBT activists and LGBT people more broadly. These include the New Testament Church, which has made factually incorrect and unscientific comments regarding sexual orientation, claiming that heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are chosen, and has argued that discrimination against LGBT people should be encouraged, while at the same time victim playing.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. The ruling was fully binding on Costa Rica and sets a binding precedent for other Latin American and Caribbean countries including Barbados. The Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a human right.
Adoption and parenting
Same-sex couples are unable to legally adopt in Barbados.
LGBT rights movement in Barbados
In 2013, Donnya Piggott and Ro-Ann Mohammed founded the association Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination as an organization to create an education mechanism and open public dialogue in a supportive manner for the LGBT community of Barbados.
Barbados held its first small pride event in November 2017. In July 2018, despite fear from backlash, around 120 people marched in the first gay pride parade on Rihanna Drive, in the capital Bridgetown.
In February 2018, although she allowed him to stay over at her place due to personal issues, Brandon Coward attacked Bajan trans woman activist Alexa Hoffmann with a meat cleaver. The attack left Hoffmann with serious injuries, including to her throat. In April 2019, Coward was convicted and ordered to pay Hoffmann BDS$460 (US$230) or face three months in prison.
On 20 November 2018, the first candlelight vigil was held in Barbados for transgender and gender non-conforming lives lost to transphobic and gender-based violence globally. This was the second demonstration for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) in the country, the first being a "Flash Stand for Equality and Inclusion" dedicated to transgender persons, which was held on 24 November 2017 as one of the launching activities of the first official Barbados Pride.
Homosexual refugee claims
In 2011, the Government of Barbados said it was investigating claims that some gay Barbadians were seeking refugee status in Canada. In 2016, a Guyanese newspaper reported that over 300 members of the LGBT community in Barbados were seeking asylum in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States because of persecution at home. The Bajan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maxine McClean, stated a concern of the Government at these applications attempting to secure refugee status in Canada since two of the nine applications to the Canadian Government had already been denied and questions have been raised as to whether it is an attempt at abusing the refugee system to Canada.
The Bajan organisation United Gays and Lesbians Against AIDS, Barbados (UGLAAB) stated it was also looking to conduct its own investigation on the same allegations.
The Barbabdian Ambassador to the United States, John Beale, later commented to the local press that some of the other nations in region were among the highest number of such refugee applications to the United States, but he went on to say that the U.S. Embassy to Bridgetown had not yet reported any specific problems within Barbados to the United States State Department. The ambassador highlighted that sodomy laws were a part of statute law for Barbados and that the Barbadian Government should perhaps consider formally retiring those laws to maintain Barbados' good image internationally.
In 2011, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, stated during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia that his Government would find it difficult to provide aid for countries which still had laws banning sodomy on their statute books. Thereafter, the Attorney General for Barbados Adriel Brathwaite stated publicly that Barbados would not be dictated to by the United Kingdom. Following the statement, several members of Barbados' openly gay community stated that Barbados should begin to offer packaged tourism deals for gay tourists. However, an informal comment line by the Barbados Nation newspaper found that plan to be disliked by some.
Following the UK's comment, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established a unit to tackle gay rights. It noted the problems some of the laws in the region presented and stated that it would "promote the harmonious development of all its work areas based on the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights and the need to protect the rights of all individuals and groups historically subjected to discrimination."
Recent polls conducted by Caribbean Development Research Services Inc. (CADRES) have found Barbadians to be more tolerant than previous years. In a 2016 poll conducted by CADRES, 67% of Barbadians described themselves as tolerant of the LGBT community. Another 82% also opposed discrimination against the LGBT community.
In recent years, due in part to the rapid legalisation of same-sex marriage in many countries including the United States, many American evangelical ministers have come to Barbados. Human rights activists have accused them of spreading and preaching violence and hatred. Owing to these evangelical ministers, homophobic rhetoric in Barbados has become more widespread.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||(Not enforced; repeal pending)|
|Equal age of consent|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment only|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|
- Politics of Barbados
- LGBT rights in the Commonwealth of Nations
- LGBT rights in the Americas
- LGBT rights by country or territory
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