Although more than four years old, the recently released CADRES study on the attitude towards homosexuals in Barbados has been generating considerable interest.
The issue under consideration is always provocative and principal director of CADRES Peter Wickham has indicated that he is already exploring options to have it repeated to generate contemporary data. The study drew on two nation-wide surveys that were executed in 2003 and 2004 and discovered that persons largely saw homosexuality as a “male” preoccupation.
The survey used indicators to gauge attitudes and was informed by an earlier survey (2003) which indicated that there was little if any support for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts; however the 2004 survey demonstrated that this single question only told part of the story of Barbadian attitudes.
The 2004 investigation demonstrates that “negative” attitudes toward homosexuals are prevalent within a relatively small section of the Barbadian population, while the vast majority of Barbadians are either tolerant or accepting of homosexuals.
This essentially means that Barbadians have disaggregated their strong views on the retention of a legal prohibition against homosexual acts, from their attitude towards homosexuals generally, which is considerably softer.
Apart from highlighting this “gap” in the Barbadian logic, the study also helps to explain the rationale behind our attitude towards homosexuals and this seems to be located in the twin issues of fear and concern.
There is obvious concern for the homosexual who the public “fears for” or is “concerned about” and there is also a fear “of” the homosexual which could be located in that person’s apparent proclivity to be predatory, or to the extent that the homosexual could have the capacity to improperly influence societal norms.
The study revealed a major preoccupation with even the most “liberal”persons that their children and to a lesser extent their families should NOT be homosexual, while there was comparatively less concern about the other categories (like “Friends” and “Employees”).
This pattern was clearly influenced first and foremost by concern for the homosexual (“Children” and “Family”) and secondarily fear of the homosexual (Teachers and politicians).
The fact that there was generally little concern about homosexual “Friends” supports the argument that Barbadians are not instinctively homophobic but this fear is rooted in an emotional bond or power relationship.
The other major finding of this study is the identification of demographic variables that appear to influence a person’s attitude towards homosexuals.
The survey demonstrates that women are generally more comfortable with homosexuals than men and similarly young adults are more comfortable than older persons. It is interesting that the age divide here is more 18-50 as distinct from 51 and over since the separation between the views of the 18-30s and the 31-50s is not clearly reflected in their different opinions.
The impact of income and education is; however clear since persons who were better educated and who earned more money in the survey appeared more comfortable with homosexuals.
The final section of the report attempts to compare Barbadian attitudes toward homosexuals with their attitudes toward other controversial issues such as the decriminalisation of Marijuana (Ganja); the Death Penalty and Corporal Punishment of Children.
This comparison did NOT establish any statistically verifiable relationship, but it does demonstrate that Barbadians are considerably more opposed to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts than any of the other major issues engaged in the survey.
This section also supports the argument that there is some distance between the stated Barbadian position on several of these moral issues and their practices.