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Barbados: Treatment of sexual minorities, including legislation, state protection and support services (2009-October 2012)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 7 November 2012
Citation / Document Symbol BRB104227.E
Related Document Barbade : information sur le traitement réservé aux minorités sexuelles, y compris les lois, la protection offerte par l'État et les services de soutien
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Barbados: Treatment of sexual minorities, including legislation, state protection and support services (2009-October 2012), 7 November 2012, BRB104227.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50b47ee52.html [accessed 2 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Legislation

Sources indicate that homosexual acts are illegal in Barbados (MOVADAC 19 Oct. 2012; ILGA May 2012, 57; US 24 May 2012, 11). According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), same-sex acts are illegal for both women and men (ILGA May 2012, 57). Section 9 of Barbados' Sexual Offences Act of 1992 states that "[a]ny person who commits buggery [anal sex] is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life" (Barbados 1992). Section 12 of the Act, which addresses "serious indecency," states the following:

  1. A person who commits an act of serious indecency on or towards another or incites another to commit that act with the person or with another person is guilty of an offence and, if committed on or towards a person 16 years of age or more or if the person incited is of 16 years of age or more, is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of 10 years.
  2. A person who commits an act of serious indecency with or towards a child under the age of 16 or incites the child under that age to such an act with him or another, is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of 15 years.
  3. An act of "serious indecency" is an act, whether natural or unnatural by a person involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire. (ibid.)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Director of the Movement Against Discrimination Action Coalition (MOVADAC), a Barbadian NGO that advocates to reduce the stigma of groups at risk of HIV/AIDS, indicated that the laws against homosexuality are not enforced in Barbados (19 Oct. 2012). According to a 2010 report authored by representatives of several Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) organizations from Caribbean Community countries, including two from Barbados--MOVADAC and the United Gays and Lesbians Against AIDS Barbados--there have not been any criminal prosecutions for same-sex activity between consenting adults in the region "in recent time" (LGBTI organizations [2010], 4).

According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, when the UK Prime Minister called for the reformation of anti-LGBT legislation, Barbados' Attorney General stated that their "'position on homosexuality was not for sale and that its legislative agenda would be determined at home'" (US 24 May 2012, 11). In response to recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee, Barbadian authorities stated:

Barbados cannot accept at this time, the recommendation to decriminalize such sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex. Decriminalization of sexual acts between adults of the same sex has not received the consensus of religious denominations or the public of Barbados as a whole. In fact significant sections of the community are opposed to such decriminalization. (Barbados 2 June 2009, para. 11)

2. Treatment by society

Sources indicate that homophobia is prevalent in the Caribbean region (LGBTI organizations [2010], 4; CVC n.d.), including Barbados (CHAA 2010, 24, 30). Country Reports 2011, based on anecdotal evidence, states that homosexual people in Barbados were subject to "societal discrimination" in 2011 (US 24 May 2012, 11). Participants in a 2010 study conducted by the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance (CHAA) about HIV prevention among gay men in Barbados describe Barbados as "a small and conservative society that stigmatises sexual minorities" but also note that it is "not a hateful or extreme society" and that LGBT people are not usually subject to physical violence (2010, 29). According to the Director of MOVADAC, LGBT individuals in Barbados are sometimes subject to verbal abuse by people on the street, but can generally "move among the wider population without fear of violence or threats to life and/or property" (MOVADAC 19 Oct. 2012).

According to the 2010 report by the LGBTI organizations, many LGBTI individuals in small Caribbean countries do not want to speak out against human rights violations "for fear of recriminations on them and their families" (LGBTI organizations [2010], 4). The report notes that several LGBT people in Barbados who initially provided anonymous information about human rights violations for the report asked that the information not be used for fear that they might be easily identified within their small communities (ibid.).

According to the 2010 report by the Caribbean LGBTI organizations, there were several cases of women who were perceived to be lesbians in Barbados being pressured by their families to "'change their lifestyle'," to have sex with men and to get married ([2010], 37). Similarly, the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) Coalition, a coalition of community leaders and NGOs that provide services to groups in the Caribbean who are vulnerable to HIV infection (CVC n.d.a), explained that men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Caribbean face "pressure to conform to heterosexuality often combined with isolation from family and community" (CVC n.d.b).

An article about sexual diversity in Barbados by an associate professor of Anthropology at York University published in the University of the West Indies' Caribbean Review of Gender Studies explains that "'queens' (effeminate homosexual men, some of whom dress and act like women)" are visible in the public culture of Barbados (Murray 2009, 1, 3). The same source notes that while queens have been subject to discrimination, harassment, and physical violence, many appear to

have achieved greater public acceptance, or at the very least are more publicly visible, and they are at the forefront of queer community organization and activism whereas lesbians and gays appear to be the problematic group who are less socially acceptable and visible and are not well-integrated into the queer community of Barbados. (ibid., 3-4)

The Caribbean HIV and Aids Alliance notes that this small group of openly and visibly gay men usually belong to the lower socio-economic stratum and may be subject to "verbal harassment and, while less common, physical violence" (CHAA 2010, 17). The same source explains that gay men in the middle and upper classes tend to "avoid public disclosure of being gay as well as association with the effeminate men who could jeopardise their passing in public as straight" (ibid.). Some of these men also have girlfriends or are married (ibid., 23). The Alliance explains that these men fear that if their sexual orientation is exposed it may affect their social standing or that of their family (ibid., 24).

According to the Barbadian media source the Nation, some religious leaders in Barbados have reportedly explained that homosexual people should get help to change their sexual orientation (Nation 12 Dec. 2010; ibid. 22 July 2012). For example, the Nation reports of a "former homosexual" Barbadian preacher who claims to have changed "'with the help of God'" and preaches that homosexuality is an "'abomination'" and "'works of Satan'" (ibid.). According to the government's submission to the UN Human Rights Council, Barbados is a "heavily religious society" and the church has a "significant lobby" to address decriminalization of homosexual acts (Barbados 2 June 2009, para. 11).

3. State Protection

According to Country Reports 2011, Barbados does not have any legislation that protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education or health care (US 24 May 2012, 11). However, in their submission to the UN Human Rights Committee, the government states that it is "committed to protecting all members of society from harassment, discrimination and violence regardless of sexual orientation" and notes that their Constitution protects the "fundamental rights and freedom" of all individuals and "guarantees freedom from discrimination for all people" (Barbados 2 June 2009, para. 12). According to the MOVADAC director, if it can be proven that discrimination based on sexual orientation has occurred in the workplace, the matter can be brought before the Labour Department (19 Oct. 2012). Further information about addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

3.1 Treatment by Police

Information about the police treatment of LGBT people in Barbados was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to the MOVADAC director, "any serious threats [to LGBT individuals] can usually be reported to the police, and in most cases action is taken" (MOVADAC 19 Oct. 2012). When asked about police treatment of sexual minorities, the Director stated:

Though there have been a few reports of LGBT people not being taken seriously when reporting incidences of abuse by partners, the law enforcement authorities will respond to serious cases of harassment. Members of the Trans sex worker community have been known to seek assistance from police when being harassed by persons on the street late at night. Police also regularly patrol the street where Trans are known to work at night, and do not harass them. Several years ago a Trans cabaret performing group was shot at on the West Coast of Barbados while entering a petrol station. The accused were later caught, charged and sentenced to time in prison. No cases of abuse against sexual minorities by police have ever been reported in Barbados. (ibid.)

The Director explained that even though homosexual acts are illegal in Barbados, it "does not prevent LGBT people from seeking police assistance when necessary" (ibid. 23 Oct. 2012). She provided two examples in which LGBT individuals sought help from the police (ibid.). In the first example, a transgender individual whose house was being stoned by children sought assistance from the police who visited the parents and threatened to press charges if the children's actions did not stop (ibid.). In the second example, an LGBT person sought assistance from the police after being subject to physical abuse by his partner (ibid.). The case was brought before the court, but the abusive partner, who was not imprisoned during the court proceedings, stabbed his partner to death two days later in retaliation (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to the study by the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance, some of the gay men interviewed said that the police did not take them seriously or did not take action on cases that they reported (CHAA 2010, 30).

4. Support Services

Information on support services available to sexual minorities in Barbados was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to the MOVADAC director, there is an LGBT group in Barbados with approximately 70 members called the Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (BGLAD) (19 Oct. 2012). BGLAD's website states that the group's mission as "the promotion of human rights for all persons within the Barbadian society and in particular lesbians, gays, and bi-sexuals" (BGLAD n.d.). In addition, the MOVADAC director states that BGLAD's objectives include: promoting the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation; acting as a forum and voice for the LGBT community; encouraging the reporting of LGBT hate crimes and discrimination; and promoting sexual health and self-esteem among the LGBT community (19 Oct. 2012).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Barbados. 2 June 2009. Consideration of Reports Submitted by State Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant. Barbados. Information Received from Barbados on the Implementation of the Conculding Observations of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/BRB/CO/3). (CCPR/C?BRB/CO/3/Add.1) [Accessed 11 Oct. 2012]

_____. 1992. Sexual Offences. [Accessed 29 Oct. 2012]

Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (BGLAD). N.d. "BGLAD." [Accessed 24 Oct. 2012]

Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance (CHAA). 2010. Assessing the Feasibility and Acceptability of Implementing the Mpowerment Project. [Accessed 6 Nov. 2012]

Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC). N.d. "MSM." [Accessed 23 Oct. 2012]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 9 November 2010. "Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Heightens Commitment to LGBT Rights at Hearing on Punitive Measures and Discrimination." [Accessed 24 Oct. 2012]

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). May 2012. Lucas Paoli Itaborahy. State-Sponsored Homophobia. A World Survey of Laws Criminalising Same-Sex Sexual Acts Between Consenting Adults. [Accessed 11 Oct. 2012]

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) organizations from Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. [2010]. The Unnatural Connexion: Creating Societal Conflict Through Legal Tools. Laws Criminalizing Same Sex Sexual Behaviors and Identities and their Human Rights Impact in Caribbean Countries. Report Submitted by Regional Meeting of LGBTI Activists from CARICOM States on the Inter-American Human Rights System. Document sent to the Research Directorate by the Director of MOVADAC on 10 October 2012.

Movement Against Discrimination Action Coalition (MOVADAC). 23 October 2012. Correspondence to the Research Directorate from the Director.

_____. 19 October 2012. Correspondence to the Research Directorate from the Director.

Murray, David A.B. 2009. "Bajan Queens, Nebulous Scenes: Sexual Diversity in Barbados." Caribbean Review of Gender Studies. No. 3. The University of West Indies Centre for Gender and Development Studies. [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Nation [Fontabelle, Barbados]. 22 July 2012. Cheryl Harewood. "From Gay to God's Glory." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

_____. 12 December 2010. "Hell No!" [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Barbados." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 5 Oct. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Royal Barbados Police Force; Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation; United Gays and Lesbians Against AIDS Barbados; Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Barbados — Royal Barbados Police Force; The Barbados Advocate; CaribbeanNews.net; ecoi.net; Factiva; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; Organization of American States — Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; United Nations — Refworld.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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