Britain Forcing Compliance in Its Territories
The Washington Blade,
November 24, 2000
By Will OBryan
BRITAIN Baroness Scotland, an officer of the British Foreign
Office, has indicated in a letter to a member of Parliament that the government will be
issuing an order to force its Caribbean territories to abolish discriminatory laws against
Gays, according to a Nov. 12 report in Britains Independent newspaper.
"We said that in the event of formal notification that they were unwilling to pass
the necessary measures, we would have to consider making an Order of Council,"
Scotland wrote. She added that she expects the order, something similar to a U.S.
executive order, to be issued before Christmas.
For the five affected territories Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman
Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands the alternative to obeying such an
order is independence, which is not realistic option. As Orlando Smith, a legislator in
the British Virgin Islands said, according to AP, "There is nothing we can do about
Angela Mason, executive director of Stonewall, the prominent Gay-advocacy group in
Britain, praised the decision in the Independent.
"This is a very welcome initiative," said Mason. "Equality before the
law is a basic human right wherever you live. We are delighted the government is taking
these rights seriously."
While laws in the territories generally prohibit sexual acts between males, often
making no mention of sex between women, the laws are not generally enforced, according to
the AP. The Cayman Islands government, however, made international headlines in 1998 by
denying docking rights to a cruise ship carrying more than 900 Gay men and Lesbians on the
grounds that Gay passengers were unable to uphold the "standards of appropriate
Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament who has pushed for changes in the
territories laws, told the Independent: "The government gave the Overseas Territories
the chance to change the law themselves, but they have not. It is vital we keep up
pressure to ensure the government proceeds with the order as a matter of urgency."