Last edited: January 31, 2005

The Walrond Recommendations: Caution Needed

The Barbados Advocate, January 24, 2005
Part 1

By Dr. Leonard Shorey

In February 2004 the Office of the Attorney-General commissioned “a review of the legislation relevant to HIV/AIDS and the attendant socio-economic impact” with a view to producing “a comprehensive report providing recommendations for changes in existing laws, laws that should be removed from the statute books and the socio-economic benefits of such actions”. The study was carried out by Professor E.R. Walrond who noted in the Executive Summary of the document that “the recommendations will impact on all areas of the society and challenge the prejudices, beliefs and fears of many”.

The report is an interesting one and quite a number of the recommendations put forward are worthy of serious consideration and, indeed, of immediate implementation. However, some of them are unsound and should be completely ignored. This article draws attention to some of the desirable and worthwhile recommendations and also identifies some that should be discarded without hesitation.

Several of the recommendations have to do with sexual intercourse between adults and children whether male or female and some of these are presented below:

With respect to protection of children the legislation against adults who may be in authority or temporary guardianship over them ... should be amended to read:

an adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor who is

a) the adult’s adopted child, step-child, foster child, ward or dependant in the adult’s custody, or

b) who is under the adult’s authority or temporary guardianship is guilty of an offence ...

In addition, the report advocates that the section of existing law which “deals with permitting the defilement of a minor under 16 years of age should be extended to include the willing exploitation of children for direct or indirect financial support ... (and) should (also) be extended to include parents and guardians”. It further notes that “In a number of countries it is said that in order to try and rid oneself of a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, there is a practice of having sex with a virgin, who is usually a child. The extent of such practice in Barbados is not known. However sexual abuse of children is thought to be commonplace and there is a need for the legislation related to the sexual abuse of children to be strengthened and clear”. These recommendations and others such as the enactment of legislation to “ensure the confidentiality of medical records, except for patient care and research purposes” are sound and eminently desirable. They are clearly in the best interests of our country and should be implemented without delay.

However, some of the recommendations are undesirable, or naïve at best, and would most certainly NOT be in the best interests of Barbados. Take first of all the issue of buggery. The report correctly notes the “widespread acknowledgment that sexual activity goes on in prisons in both overcrowded cells and in areas such as showers ... and is primarily by unprotected anal intercourse between men”. Arguing that prison authorities have a responsibility “to prevent the spread of disease among inmates” the report proceeds to recommend that “condoms should be designated in the correction facilities as toilet articles, and made available through the correction’s health care/ counselling facilities”. Under our law buggery is a crime. Logically, therefore, provision of condoms by authorities controlling the prison could quite reasonably be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to encourage or at least facilitate breaking the law of Barbados. Professor Walrond recommends that “The law against buggery/ sodomy Sexual Offences Act should be amended and be replaced by one that makes buggery an aggravated offence in a sexual assault”. This is a very upside down and completely unacceptable way to deal with this problem of buggery in our prison because the proposed change would also relate to persons outside the prison. Professor Walrond notes that “the availability of condoms to prisoners has occasioned much emotional debate, largely centred in Barbados on the contention that this would condone an illegal act, namely buggery”, but he appears to hold to the view that that this would be desirable because it might to some degree reduce “the spread of HIV and other STD’s”.

Any proposal that condoms should be made available in our prison is undoubtedly a matter that will continue to evoke strong feelings among Barbadians and it is to be hoped that citizens of our country will remain firm in their opposition to any change in legislation likely to give approval to, or diminish punishment for, buggery. It is an issue on which, as a nation, we should not compromise and we should oppose as strongly as we can any proposal to change the law.

Then there is the issue of prostitution and, as the report acknowledges, “like buggery suggestions to decriminalise prostitution evoke very adverse societal responses particularly from the religious community”. In its naivety the report therefore suggests that “one could through the law try to bring prostitutes into a regulated public health framework ... (involving) the amendment of laws such as that related to brothels and other related activity”. However, it is remarkably simplistic to believe that requiring prostitutes to register will ensure that they remain healthy and will obtain proper and regular treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. This matter will be explored in Part 2 of this article.

(Dr. Leonard Shorey, GCM, is an educator and a commentator on social and political issues.)

The Walrond Recommendations: Caution Needed

The Barbados Advocate, January 31, 2005
Part 2

By D.r Leonard Shorey

Research carried out in other countries with respect to decriminalisation of prostitution and registration of prostitutes indicates that it is naïve and completely unrealistic to believe that requiring prostitutes to register themselves will reduce significantly transmission of STDs. The extracts below speak for themselves, requiring little additional comment from this writer. They are taken from the General Conclusions and Recommendations of: the European Intervention Projects Aids Intervention for Prostitutes (

Greece had the most strict regulations regarding registered prostitutes, with mandatory medical screening twice a week. As a result, most sex workers avoided registration, which made them liable for prosecution. All health care facilities and HIV prevention activities for prostitutes were limited to those who are registered. This is ineffective in public health terms: in Athens approximately 400 women are registered, while an estimated 5 000 more prostitutes are not registered.

In Germany, approximately 50 000 sex workers are registered and are regularly seen by the health services, as required by the laws to combat venereal diseases. However, according to recent estimates a further 150 000 people work in prostitution. Experience in the fight against other sexually transmitted diseases has already illustrated the limits of compulsory health screening. Mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases produces a two tier system of registered and non-registered prostitutes with the latter having limited access to health care.

Legal measures have been introduced to try and prevent HIV-positive people from working in prostitution. In the same way as mandatory testing, these measures can also create problems by encouraging prostitutes to hide from the authorities if they think they may be infected. Access to health care will thus be hindered, since HIV-positive prostitutes are liable to prosecution if they disclose their work; instead, they go underground.

The preceding information makes it clear that seeking to control or limit significantly the transmission of disease by requiring prostitutes to be registered is essentially a waste of time; it is ineffective and ignores the reality of human behaviour. Any such recommendation should therefore be ignored completely.

Another cause for concern in the Walrond report is the astonishing advocacy of a course of action which could have serious adverse consequences for us in Barbados if the recommendation is followed. It is known that there is widely distributed and strongly held opposition in Barbados to the legalisation of buggery, so the following statement in the report is cause for great concern: “As with issues such as abortion one can expect vigorous opposition from religious groups at any suggestion of reform, but once in place such opposition tends to become muted”. This comment amounts to telling the Government: Enact the legislation anyway and people will come to accept it; surely a most cynical statement. The trouble is that when once legislation is put on the statute books it becomes extraordinarily difficult to have that legislation repealed or amended, no matter how unwise, disadvantageous or undesirable it may be. As evidence of this consider the following:

In 1974 the DLP under the late Mr. (now the Rt. Excellent) Errol Barrow made changes in the Barbados Constitution which, among other things, gave him the power to make appointments to the judiciary and the proposed legislation was strongly and vociferously opposed by the Leader of the Opposition BLP, the late Mr. J.M.G. “Tom” Adams. Following the elections of 1976 Mr. Adams became the country’s Prime Minister and held this post until his death in 1985, but despite his fulminations in 1974 against the legislation referred to above that legislation was not amended and remains in force until this day despite the fact that the Barbados Labour Party which vigorously opposed it in 1974 has since held office for 20 years!

This experience should serve as a constant reminder that we need to keep our eyes peeled and to be on constant watch lest we get on our statute books the very undesirable and indeed detrimental legislation recommended in this report with respect to buggery and prostitution. We also need to be on the look out for, and we must consciously guard against and ignore, arguments that may sound attractive, but are essentially superficial and decidedly unhelpful to our country on these very important issues.

In addition to advocating inappropriate and undesirable legislation Professor Walrond made at least one statement which most assuredly requires public explanation. With respect to the “transmission of HIV” he stated: “Probably the greatest inhibiting factor to empowering persons to protect themselves during sexual intercourse by the use of condoms has been the demonisation of condoms by some religious teaching” (My emphasis). Professor Walrond is entitled to his opinion about the provision and use of condoms (he advocates providing them for prisoners), but his extraordinary accusation that “some religious teaching” has “demonized” the use of condoms is a statement for which he should surely have provided supporting evidence. No such evidence is presented in the report which merely contains his categorical but entirely unsupported criticism of “some religious teaching”. In the view of many this allegation is inappropriate, unjustifiable, unfounded and unwarranted, and unless supporting evidence is provided confidence in the objectivity of the report is significantly reduced. Some of Professor Walrond’s recommendations are indeed sound but others should be discarded because of their inherent and demonstrable flaws and shortcomings.

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