Cherry to Tackle Anti-gay Laws

Just off the heels of controversial comments on the issue of decriminalizing prostitution, Caribbean Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) head Flavia Cherry has now turned to the issue of homosexuality.
In an interview with HTS’ Sarah Peter this week Cherry says that CAFRA supports the United Nation’s calls for the abolishment of laws governing buggery and prostitution in the Caribbean. The aim is that the changes to the laws would be made by the year 2015.                      The news report was further fueled by a statement from UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS to the Caribbean, Dr Edward Greene, who noted that at least 20 percent of some in Caribbean countries are gays, a cultural shift that must be considered.
The UN has stated that Caribbean countries, faced with potential political and religious fall-out, plan to take a regional approach in scrapping laws against buggery and prostitution by 2015 as they strive to achieve their Millennium Development Goals.
Greene is quoted as saying that those laws force vulnerable communities like commercial sex workers and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) to go underground and so being unable to access HIV education, diagnosis care and treatment.
“I think what we have to do is to project a regional position on revamping the laws which would be in tune with international trends and enunciate them in such a way that we save national politicians from having to put forward these views as if they were theirs,” said Greene, a former Caricom Assistant Secretary General for Human and Social Development (COHSOD).                 Greene says the Caribbean plans to take a two-pronged approach to the situation, and will include rallying support from Champions for Change, faith-based organizations and women’s groups, and on the premise that regional laws are more easily acceptable.
For her part this is what Cherry told HTS: “At the end of the day we are all human and entitled to human rights in exactly the same manner. We all have those inalienable rights to exist and have the autonomy of self. As long as there are discriminatory laws . . . we need to move with the times . . . We have to accept that we live in a plural society. There is a lot of diversity and you have people who have all kinds of preferences. We cannot pretend that this is not our reality. We cannot pretend that there are no sex workers. We cannot pretend that there are no men who have sex with men. We cannot pretend that there are not women who have sex with women. We cannot pretend that these things exist in other places and we as a society are ‘nice and well-behaved’ so we need to keep it criminal.”
Religious enthusiast Everistus JnMarie, who weighed in on the prostitution issue, also spoke to the STAR recently about the issue of gay laws. He spoke specifically to the issue of gay marriage.
“I don’t even like the term,” he said. “You cannot have a gay marriage, you can have a gay union but marriage is confined to being between a man and a woman. The problem I have with gay marriage is that it undermines the term. It is an attack on marriage,” he said.
JnMarie admitted that judging by what is happening on the world stage Saint Lucia will soon have to deal with this issue in a clear way.
“I hope we deal with it in the right way. We could talk about civil unions where there is some legal aspect given to the union but not marriage,” said JnMarie. “Marriage is set up to be life-giving relationship.”
The Caribbean has been getting increased negative attention because of the stance of some countries on the issue laws against homosexuality. Several years ago TIME magazine questioned whether Jamaica was the most homophobic place on earth.

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