Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Island to recognise same-sex unions

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2020 | 12:10 AM


The Barbados government has signalled its intention to recognise same-sex relationships and reducing the penalties for persons caught with a quantity of cannabis commonly referred to on the street as ‘roach’ or ‘spliff’.

Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, addressing the opening of a new term of the Barbados Parliament, said that the island has always been in the vanguard of pioneering social justice, the protection of civil rights, and the battle to ensure dignity to the poor, marginalised, vulnerable and dispossessed.

Dame Sandra said that the legal systems of modern societies recognise many different forms of human relationships and that Barbados is now increasingly finding itself on international lists, including within the multilateral system, which identify the island as having a poor human rights record.

“On this matter, the world has spoken. If we wish to be considered among 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 human sexuality and relations.”

She said that the Mia Mottley administration 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,” the governor general said, adding that in this regard, the 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”.

She said that a second issue that requires compassion, understanding, empathy and the intervention of the government, is the conviction and incarceration of scores of young men and some women, causing them to lose their jobs, reputation, opportunity to travel, and to become stigmatised over miniscule quantities of marijuana.

She said pursuing these matters is a waste of police and court time, and the government’s manifesto noted that the matter of the recreational use of marijuana was promised as the subject of a referendum.

“My government will honour this promise,” Dame Sandra said.