MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CMC) – A Caribbean Community (Caricom) prime minister has called for the laws governing buggery and prostitution in the region to be reviewed, claiming they are hindering the fight against the deadly HIV/AIDS disease.
“There are difficulties we experience in terms of the Caribbean society discriminating against certain practices which we know are associated with HIV/AIDS,” St Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“We’ve got the difficulty of men having sex with men, and we’ve got the difficulty of commercial sex workers,” Douglas said. However, he said the Caribbean society was divided on whether buggery and prostitution should be decriminalised.
“These are still actually on the law books and such practices are still considered to be criminal activities that are punishable through the laws,” Douglas added.
Jamaica is seen as one of the most homophobic countries in the Caribbean, and the pressure group Jamaicans for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) said that the island has a long-running tradition of rampant homophobia and anti-gay violence.
Appearing on a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programme earlier this year, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding made it clear that while each Jamaican should have the right to privacy and equality before the law, the Government would not bow to international pressure for the recognition of gay rights.
“Jamaica is not going to allow values to be imposed on it from outside. We’re going to have to determine that ourselves, and we’re going to have to determine to what extent those values will adapt over time to change – change in perception, change in understanding as to how people live,” Golding said then.
Golding’s stance has been applauded by some sections of the Jamaican society, while J-FLAG and other human rights groups have condemned it.
“What we are seeking to do at this level in the Caribbean is to raise the level of debate and information-sharing with regards to these practices and how there is a need to seriously discuss decriminalisation and how this can impact positively on our fight to reduce stigma and discrimination within the Caribbean region, and generally I would say within the AIDS global fight,” Douglas said.
“In fact we’ve been saying that there is need for the attorneys-general of the Caribbean region to come together to begin to look at the laws and to see how we can engender the necessary debate and discussion in the wider community as to how we can tackle this particular problem,” he added.
Dr Carol Jacobs, who heads the HIV-AIDS Commission in Barbados, told the CMC that the island’s attorney general Frundel Stuart has agreed to host the meeting, but no date has been set.
Douglas is also the chairman of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) and has lead responsibility for health in Caricom’s quasi-Cabinet.
He was the only Caribbean leader to attend the 17th International AIDS Conference which opened here Sunday and ends on Friday.
Some 23,000 delegates are attending the conference, the largest in its history. This is the first time that the conference is being held in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Host country Mexico is in the midst of a major anti-homophobia campaign, and leaders attending the conference have saluted the initiative calling it one of the boldest and most creative in the world.