Has CHART morphed into J-FLAG?
Alyssa Lindsay, Guest Columnist
I write in response to the article ('Bain issue not about academic freedom') written by Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, published on May 29, 2014 in The Gleaner.
The fact that Professor Antoine begins her article by stating that the University of the West Indies' (UWI) dismissal of Professor Bain is not "about whether or not the statement in [his] court testimony was true or untrue" is telling. It is precisely because she is aware that his affidavit did not include personal opinion or falsehoods, and merely presented statistics and scientific evidence, that she makes sure to distance herself from any debate about whether what he said in court is true. She knows it is!
And since no one can be fired for speaking the truth, or so we thought before Professor Bain's unceremonious dismissal, she endeavours, throughout her article, to try to fabricate a reason for the UWI's decision.
In her first attempt at this fabrication, she claims that by serving as an expert witness in court, Professor Bain "voluntarily aligned himself with ... a diametrically opposed, unacceptable message on an issue of grave import for the UWI".
As a graduate of the UWI, I was unaware that decriminalising anal penetration was an issue of grave import to that institution. Yet, these are the words of the dean of the Faculty of Law at the St Augustine campus. I ask all the UWI graduates out there, were you aware that your alma mater was championing the cause of unsafe sexual practices? Of all the contributions that our premier university could be making to the region, THAT is what is of grave import?
Facts versus opinion
She then claims that the 'harm' had nothing to do with the content of the words that Professor Bain spoke, again an indication that she is well aware that his words were merely facts and not personal opinion, as the propaganda would have us believe. She states that his crime was that he spoke "with one voice with a litigant party whose purpose and objectives are in direct conflict with the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network and the UWI".
Now, I was not aware that expert witnesses spoke with "one voice" with anyone. I was under the impression that expert witnesses presented facts to a court to assist the judge or jury to make an informed decision.
Is the dean of the Faculty of Law saying that expert witnesses are not required to be objective, and are merely hired by litigants to say whatever they want them to? Is that her understanding of how the legal system works? This leads me to question her suitability in grooming the Caribbean's up-and-coming lawyers.
What an expert witness says under oath is not influenced by whichever party requested his testimony. It is based on his knowledge, experience and findings. I am sure that professionals the world over would appreciate me informing the dean that an expert should not be judged or penalised for which litigant requested that he present his findings.
She then goes on to say that "anti-discrimination training is a vital part of CHART's own programme" in order to show that by presenting evidence that could be used to support a position in a court case, Professor Bain was undermining CHART's mandate. First of all, if scientific evidence does not support your programme, maybe your programme is misguided.
But second, and more important, anti-discrimination training has nothing to do with repealing laws that protect people from unsafe practices - another thing I would expect a lawyer to know. If Professor Bain were the head of an organisation that trained medical practitioners to adequately treat drug addicts, would it be discriminatory for him to present evidence in court which indicated that legalising drugs would not be beneficial?
It, therefore, cannot be discriminatory for him, as head of CHART, to present data showing that decriminalising unsafe sexual activity does not, in fact, benefit the individual or the society. In the same way that laws criminalising the use of cocaine are designed to help, and not harm, drug users, laws criminalising dangerous sexual activity are also designed to help and not harm those who wish to engage in them.
The head of CHART knew this; the dean of the Faculty of Law and the vice-chancellor of the UWI seem to be unable to grasp this. The anti-discrimination training conducted by CHART should, therefore, equip medical professionals to be compassionate and caring to all their patients. It has nothing to do with the removal of laws that would protect the patients for whom they are caring.
It is the final part of her article, however, which makes me wonder whether Rose-Marie Belle Antoine is not very bright or simply thinks her readers are not very bright. She likens Professor Bain's position at CHART following his testimony in court to a known racist heading a race studies department or a male chauvinist leading the Gender Department, in her last-ditch effort to justify why the UWI "had no choice but to dismiss" him.
She seems to be forgetting one gravely important fact: CHART is not the Caribbean Homosexual Regional Training Network. It is the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network. Therefore, Professor Bain's leadership could not be the same as a racist heading the race studies department. CHART is not a gay-lobby group! It is a medical training network designed to equip health-care workers to effectively treat and prevent HIV, which, in case the dean is unaware, is a disease which can be contracted by anyone and impacts everyone, and not one particular group.
This is precisely why a medical doctor with decades of experience in the field would be the most appropriate head. The fact that someone in her position would make those two comparisons means that, in her understanding, CHART's mandate is to lobby for the acceptance the LGBT lifestyle. That is the only way Professor Bain's retention at the helm could be likened to a misogynist heading the Gender Department.
What has led the dean of the Faculty of Law at UWI, St Augustine, to believe that CHART's mandate is the same as J-FLAG's? Is it something she should share with the public?