Last edited: February 01, 2005

Blinkered Thinking

The Nation, February 1, 2005

By Robert Best

THE 70-PAGE REPORT compiled by Professor E. R. “Mickey” Walrond titled, Report On The Legal, Ethical and Socio-economic Issues Relevant To HIV/AIDS In Barbados, is now in the public domain for discussion.

The first such forum was held last Wednesday at a town hall type session at Solidarity House. Another is slated for later this month at Deighton Griffith School.

The Solidarity House session was by no means a packed house and it was suggested that lack of enough advance notice was the reason for the moderate turnout. What, however, was interesting is that those who were prepared to argue against certain recommendations they anticipated would be in the report, did not seem to want any earlier notice.

The end result was that the focus of most of what was said was against legalising homosexuality and prostitution as being helpful in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and that once The Bible was taken as a guide there was no need for any discussion on the matter.

Little consideration was given to the other recommendations by Walrond. However, what surfaced was another example of what one participant described as “how the now familiar intolerance in the society is preventing us from thinking through issues”.

Putting aside the issue of decriminalisation of prostitution and homosexuality between consenting adults, one participant, for example, was adamant that any recommendation that suggested that his child should be able to seek medical attention without his knowledge was infringing on his right as a parent. He obviously did not stop to consider that Walrond had made the recommendation, based on the observation that “the most obvious (ambiguity) relates to the fact that a young person of 16 can consent to sexual intercourse, but cannot consent to dealing with its consequences”.

The professor has suggested that “a person 16 years and older be able to consent to medical care without the consent of their parents or guardian”.

It is common sense. For example, any teenager who consented to have sex after age 16 and became a victim of a sexually transmitted disease should not have to get the approval of a parent or guardian to get medical assistance, when the law indicates in the first place, that it was all right to have sex without seeking a parent’s consent. That is something for church members, priest and laity, who have been vocal about the Walrond report—even before public discussion was invited—to ponder.

That is not the only ambiguity that should be thought through. It is not mentioned in the Walrond report, but at present teenagers over 16 years can consent to sex, out of wedlock, without breaking any law. Yet the same teenagers, if they wanted to have sex in wedlock can only do so, according to the law, if the parents consented to their marriage.

This is something the church, if it is that serious about people having sex only in the monogamous situation that marriage provides, should have been debating.

What is also being disregarded in Walrond’s recommendations is that he has made a distinction between homosexuality between consenting adults and where buggery forms part of a sexual offence, and favours imprisonment on conviction.

This is thought-provoking since it has come to light that some women in our society favour anal sex (trunking). This cannot be considered as “homosexuality” since the man is “lying” with a woman, but not indulging “in the natural use of the woman,” who nonetheless is “a consenting adult”.

More to think about.

Apart from all this, the complexity of human behaviour as it pertains to sex surfaces when it is recalled that some years ago, a report out of one Latin American country said that young women there, while protecting their virginity, were discovered to be indulging in anal sex.

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