A long and unforgiving era of discrimination and persecution against the Barbados LGBTQ+ community may be finally coming to an end as the Caribbean Island recently became an autonomous republic.
In November of 2021, Barbados removed the Queen of England as their head of state and on November 30, 2021, fully embraced Sandra Mason as its first elected president.
In a reformative effort for the LGBTQ community and human rights in general, a charter was introduced in good faith ahead of the election. It addresses homosexuality and gender politics as non-exclusionary freedoms deserved by all.
Article I of that charter reads:
“All Barbadians are born free and are equal in human dignity and rights regardless of age, race, ethnicity, faith, class, cultural and educational background, ability, sex, gender or sexual orientation.”
Although this isn't a lawful decree, it is in stark contrast to Barbados' long history of harsh laws against homosexuality; consensual sex between same-sex partners was (and still is) illegal and is punishable by a lifetime in prison. Those "indecency" laws, although still on the books, are not enforced.
Religious leaders and other conservative groups have adopted the secular state as their home and in effect influenced many locals against the LGBTQ community. Yet that stronghold appears to be loosening. In a 2016 poll, a whopping 82% of Barbadians were against discrimination towards homosexuals.
Old colonial-era mentalities, especially the "buggery" law have been weaponized to vilify the gay community in an effort to sway conservatives away from equal rights.
Pink News quoted activist Donnya Piggott, co-founder of Barbados – Gays and Lesbians and All-sexuals Against Discrimination (B-Glad), from The Independent:
“As a human rights advocate and part of the LGBT+ community, I think a lot of the laws that exist in the constitution have been oppressive, such as the buggery law which has often been used to justify homophobia against the LGBT+ community," she said.
Even though Piggot is fighting at the frontlines of inclusion for the new republic, the idea was seeded as far back as five years ago. In a 2016 article from Barbados Today, Minister of Education, Ronald Jones spoke to the publication recognizing the validity of homosexual relationships by referencing domestic abuse.
“This country lives with a certain level of hypocrisy,” Jones said, “so now that we are pulling out of the shadows the violence within heterosexual relationships; we need to pull out of the shadows the violence, domestic as it is, [in lesbian and gay relationships].”
Civil rights aside, Barbados is one of the most luxurious destinations for travel enthusiasts. Travel agencies that specialize in LGBTQ trips don't exclude the island from their list of tropical hot spots.
Outofoffice.com praises the island state for its beauty and lux accommodations, but layers those accolades with a tacit agreement.
"Many gay travellers visit Barbados each year, armed with the correct destination knowledge. A destination for those looking for indulgence, it has long been a favourite with discerning travellers from across the globe looking to escape to feel the warm Bajan sand underneath their feet."
Prime Minister Mia Mottley is approaching Barbados' newfound autonomy with cautious but optimistic regard. She is hoping to reassure religious leaders that inclusivity doesn't mean removing them from the table, but instead making more room for those who have been marginalized to have an equal voice.
“I really do trust and hope that they will understand that there is no intention to demean anyone and, in fact, as we have said, the assertion to protect the rights of all is not an assertion to remove from anyone their individual rights or morals,” Mottley told Barbados Today.