Last edited: October 31, 2004

Time ‘For Change’

The Nation, October 12, 2003
P.O. Box 1203, Bridgetown, St. Michael, Barbados, W.I.
Tel: 246-430-5400 Fax: 246-427-6968

By Karin Dear

The issue of decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution will soon be placed “on the front burner”, if Attorney-General Mia Mottley has her way.

She is determined to remove the “cancer of discrimination” that is preventing “highly at risk” segments of the population from benefiting from HIV/AIDS prevention, and it is an issue that Government has to deal with sooner, rather than later.

Mottley conceded, however, that it may take some time to remove the “inflexible legislative framework” which, she maintained, was threatening the national security of the country.

“We cannot afford ourselves the luxury of not taking decisions because they were unpopular in circumstances where it fell within the province of our power to do so,” she said.

The Deputy Prime Minister underscored that, in the action of addressing such critical issues, “we are in no way seeking to prescribe morality”.

“We accept that one of the characteristics of an evolving society and a pluralistic society is that there is never going to be consensus of morality among every single citizen,” she noted in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Sun.

“While we would like to believe that there are normative values that will guide the society, the reality is that a government in a pluralistic society must accommodate and respect the human rights and the dignity of each individual,” said the MP for St Michael North East.

“To that extent, law, which seeks to discriminate in a society whose history has been scarred with the cancer of discrimination, has in fact, to be reformed.

“Because discrimination, on any basis whatsoever, cannot be tolerated in our society for it has truly been a cancer throughout our history,” Mottley, who is also Minister of Home Affairs, said.

And, the sooner the issues can be addressed the better, said Mottley, “because for every day the issue remains unresolved, our risk factors are allowed to increase; so, sooner rather than later.”

Condoms in prison

Making reference to the controversial issue of the distribution of condoms in the prisons, Mottley stated:

“The reality is that we accept that the prison population is one of the at-risk populations. We also accept that more people spend time out of prison than in, and the average period of time within prison is in fact usually less than three years.

“And, to that extent in a small society, where there is a high level of interaction, the entire population is at risk in some way or another.”

Mottley also stressed that “Government clearly cannot breach the law and distribute condoms so long as homosexuality remains a criminal offence.

“We can’t conspire to breach the law, but we believe that as a Government there are going to be difficult decisions we have to make. In that context, we cannot put our national security at risk and, more specifically, the security of each citizen at risk by reason of an inflexible legislative framework,” she said.

Mottley’s comments came last Friday at the end of an all-day Second National Consultation on HIV/AIDS held at the Sherbourne Conference Centre which was attended throughout by Prime Minister Owen Arthur.

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