Last edited: February 14, 2005

Britain Forcing Compliance in Its Territories

The Washington Blade, November 24, 2000
World Briefs

By Will O’Bryan

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 it."

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 behavior."

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."

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