Three betrayals by three powerful Caribbean women

Three women promised much to the Caribbean LGBTQ+ community but delivered nothing once they were in power — Patricia Scotland, Portia Simpson-Miller and Mia Mottley. None of them has taken action against the anti-LGBTQ+ laws of Dominica, Jamaica and Barbados.

COMMENTARY

By Maurice Tomlinson

Three times I supported the election of women leaders from the Caribbean who promised to repeal their countries’ anti-sodomy laws. And all three times I have been bitterly disappointed. It is well-known that homophobia in the Caribbean is closely linked to religious misogyny. This is because to many people the WORST thing that a man can want to do is “betray” his sex by being penetrated like a woman. Yet, these women leaders who have survived crushing patriarchy to achieve high political office are content to allow visible manifestations of discrimination to continue in the form of antiquated anti-sodomy laws.

Baroness Scotland (Photo courtesy of The Telegraph)
Patricia Scotland, a Dominica native and secretary general of the Commonwealth: As her first term comes to an end, she has not once called publicly on her country to repeal its anti-sodomy law. (Photo courtesy of The Telegraph)

When she was campaigning for office, the Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland promised to support LGBT human rights in the Commonwealth, including her home country of Dominica. Yet, as her first term comes to an end, she has not once called publicly on her country to repeal the anti-sodomy law, which is one of the last remaining statues of that kind in the western hemisphere AND includes forced psychiatric confinement.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of PRI)
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller: On the campaign trail, she promised a review of the anti-sodomy law. After her election, it became “not a priority”. (Photo courtesy of PRI)

When Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller was running for Prime Minister she promised to call for a Parliamentary “review” of the country’s anti-sodomy law, which imposes up to 10 years imprisonment PLUS registration as a sex offender and a requirement to always carry a pass or face a fine of up to J$1 million (about US$6,800) AND an additional 12 months imprisonment for each offence of not having the pass. However, once elected Ms. Simpson-Miller later said that the review was “not a priority” and the law remains intact.

The new prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley (Photo courtesy of St. Lucia Times)
Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados: She formerly urged repeal of the nation’s anti-sodomy law, but not she has done nothing to remove it. (Photo courtesy of St. Lucia Times)

When Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley was Attorney General, she suggested a repeal of the country’s anti-sodomy law, which is the worst in the western hemisphere – life imprisonment. However, since being elected with her party winning EVERY SEAT IN PARLIAMENT she has not acted to end the law. Despite saying that “all are welcome in Barbados” and recently amending the “Welcome Visa” to allow foreign same-sex couples to live and work on the island for a year, Ms. Mottlety has not committed to ending the draconian ban on consensual same-sex intimacy. Instead, she falsely stated that there is no discrimination against anyone in Barbados, which is patently untrue, just ask trans activist Alexa Hoffmann who was fired because of her gender identity.

All these ladies claim to be LGBT allies. Yet NONE of them has acted to ensure the recognition and protection of LGBT human rights in their home countries by ending the archaic, discriminatory and sometimes deadly anti-sodomy laws.

A Facebook friend shared that in his opinion these ladies exploited the LGBT communities to gain power and at the end of the day they forgot their promises. Yet, as women leaders who suffered the stinging effects of discrimination, I expected better from them. They do not get a free pass because they are allies. Their inaction on the anti-sodomy laws therefore begs the question are they really allies? Because, as another dear friend reminded me allyship means ACTION! An abused minority group looks for every possible help they can get and when that help is refused in the end, it is the worst form of betrayal. I certainly feel betrayed by these powerful Caribbean women. And I am not the only one.

Written by Maurice Tomlinson

Maurice Tomlinson of Jamaica and Canada has been involved in HIV and AIDS and LGBTI rights activism in the Caribbean for over 15 years. An attorney-at-law, he leads and supports legal challenges seeking the repeal of the region's homophobic laws. Contact him by email via 76crimes (at) gmail.com.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Ugandan queer ally Stella Nyanzi leaves academia to focus on politics

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley tells parliament that "all are welcome" in the "Welcome Stamp" program. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Barbados allows anti-LGBTI bias in the workplace (1st of 2)