Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Laws at odds with basic human rights

Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor, University of the West Indies.

Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir George Alleyne, has cried down governments of the region for continuing to uphold “archaic” legislation which contradicts our otherwise clear stance and determination to uphold the basics rights of a human.

Addressing members and friends of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) at its Annual General Meeting held last Thursday evening, Sir Alleyne highlighted the need for persons to re-examine the notion and interpretation of human sexuality. He suggested that one of the challenges going forward would be how the BFPA treated the issue of groups that were being marginalised on account of their choice of sexual expression.

He was of the firm view that “sexual health was important for our well-being and that sexuality is essential to our humanity”. Sir Alleyne remarked that though humans are sexual beings, matters of sexuality were often a “reflection of defining binary thought – it is one or the other, things are good or bad – and this would be comforting at one level but not a recipe for fruitful discourse or dialogue”.

The senior academic charged that the Caribbean needs to fast come to terms with the fact that there were “normal variations” in the manner in which that sexuality and the sexual urges of persons were expressed.

“Some of our pertinent laws are archaic in this respect, and I fear often... and with some sorrow, that the only countries in this hemisphere in which sex between consenting adults, males [that is]... is a criminal offence...those countries are to be found in the Caribbean,” Sir Alleyne lamented.

“It’s even sadder that... these laws are a reflection of thinking in our society, societies which proudly embrace constitutions which speak clearly to the observation of basic human rights. This is a contradiction which I often find difficult to embrace...” the Chancellor further submitted.

Using the occasion to publicly back what he referred to as UWI’s affirmation in the Professor Brendan Bain affair that “criminalisation of consensual sex between males, resulting in stigmatisation... is a denial of their basic human rights”, the Chancellor argued that Caribbean societies must be “uncompromising and passionate in our efforts to decrease stigma and provide access to services and to increase recognition of sexuality as a positive aspect of human life”.

On this issue, he concluded, “The marginalised groups such as young people, transgender people, sex workers, men having sex with men, people who are gay lesbian or bisexual, child brides, girl mothers, they need our help, [they] our compassion.” (RS)

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