Musings: The human right to sexual preference
“One cannot fail to notice the inconsistency of those rejecting human rights: their rejection takes place in the public square created by human rights. It is difficult to reject human rights without using them.” - Filip Spagnoli - Making Human Rights Real
“Discriminations are never a sign of a civilized society. What makes us civilized is our act of liberated kindness with other people beyond the man-made primitive citadels of gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.”? Abhijit Naskar - Either Civilized or Phobic: A Treatise on Homosexuality
At one level, it is perhaps understandable that the Church (in fact, a random group comprising an apostle, a reverend (sic), two bishops and a sociologist) should be prepared to fight against any attempt to make homosexual preferences a human right in Barbados. I refer to the back page report in Friday’s edition of The Barbados Advocate, headlined “Church decries LGBT agenda”.
After all, they can cite any number of Biblical injunctions in support of their position against the practice and, if they would be true to their vocation, they must be equally condemnatory.
At another level, however, this reasoning does not by itself lead inexorably to the thesis that homosexuality per se or homosexual acts should attract the awesome power of the state’s legislative and prosecutorial machinery – considerations that are usually premised on more terrestrial and contemporary conditions.
In any case, there is already some degree of disconnect between these two arms of the state machinery with the legislative provision seeking disproportionately to criminalise acts of buggery and gross indecency even in private between consenting adult partners and the prosecutorial arm apparently restricting itself to the strict enforcement of the law in cases only where these acts are non-consensual, involve minors incapable of consent as victims, or occur in public.
Indeed, especially in the instance of gross indecency, the sole offence that might encompass female homosexual conduct, the definition is risibly comprehensive, seemingly being capable of covering any form of sexual interaction whatsoever between any couple anywhere. According to section 12 (3) of Cap.154;
“An act of “serious indecency” is an act, whether natural or unnatural by a person involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire”
In such a legislative context, the “agenda”, if any, of the LGBT community must be to remove any provision that might cause individuals therein to engage in criminal conduct every time he or she chooses to express him or herself sexually. And the unlikelihood of a criminal charge and prosecution by the State scarcely detracts from the discriminatory nature of a law that is not similarly applied to traditional heterosexual conduct. In fact, this official selective enforcement is itself a cogent argument for the repeal and reform of the provisions.
According to the assemblage as reported, this agenda “equates to “a new form of colonialism because it hasn’t emerged from Barbados, “ but is part of “a global agenda to influence different nations.”
In my view, this assertion does not serve to weaken the force of the local argument given the generally accepted universality of human rights. History has shown us that it takes some degree of geopolitical clout to lead the fight to reverse decades of the unfair treatment of others whether in the context of apartheid, woman’s liberation or the mandatory death penalty. International intervention in a local issue, if it does exist, should not always be perceived as a negative.
The antagonist argument goes a bit further though. According to the chief spokesman, “This is a new attempt to colonise us with certain values and certain perspectives, and if we don’t conform, then the argument is that we can suffer economically, and that we can suffer socially because they withdraw support, they withdraw aid…”
I feel certain that some wag will wish to observe that we seem to be doing quite well by ourselves in suffering economically without the withdrawal of aid from these neo-colonists, and it is at least ironic to make the point about tying financial aid to behavioural conditionalities as we prepare to enter shortly into an IMF agreement.
The sociologist was even more persuaded that the agenda was not a local initiative. She holds the view that the local organisations have no say in the matter of the agenda being pushed, citing the assistance they have been receiving from an internationally recognised organisation. Nevertheless, she was also convinced of the small local group’s futility in attempting to change God’s word, “but they cannot ever.” This last is patently irrefutable.
But what is this agenda? As perceived by the evangelical group, it includes an attempt to make the personal sexual preference of a very small group a human right in Barbados; to impose the homosexuality (sic) lifestyle as a natural organic sexual behaviour and not a learned behaviour on the majority of Barbados‘ population; to deconstruct marriage and to reconstruct it to legitimise same sex partnerships as opposed to the Adam and Eve marriage union for the entire population. This indeed a weighty charge sheet laid against the movement.
First, as any heterosexual will attest, one’s personal sexual activity is already a fundamental human right, unless a human right must also satisfy the criterion of another’s sanction in order to exist. Second, it is quite unclear how one could “impose” a sexual lifestyle on the majority of an unwilling population; and, third, as The Barbados Advocate editorial for last Sunday observed, in the absence of any public call for the legalisation of same sex marriage in Barbados, this notion of deconstructing traditional marriage is tantamount to shouting fire in a crowded theatre when there is none there.
The timing of the intervention here seems clearly designed to detract from participation in the LBGT Pride march planned for Sunday. It (the intervention) may be successful, I do not know. But the legal determination of whether the LBGT movement or the evangelical group is correct on the rather technical point of human rights will ultimately be a matter for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and its interpretation of the relevant Articles of the American Convention on Human Rights that we have agreed to uphold.