Homosexuality and The Concept of Human Rights

by Dr. Lawrence A. Joseph

The English speaking Caribbean as a whole seem to be turning a blind eye towards coming to terms with the modern day phenomenon of homosexuality. Whilst this is happening, the outside world is humming with activity generally giving support for this phenomenon. Homosexuality is not new. It refers to the sexual relationship between persons of the same sex. Historical records show that from since time immemorial men had sexual relationships with men and women with women.

The Bible in Genesis, speaks about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sinful nature of those cities which many have interpreted to include homosexuality. Leviticus Chapter 20 verse 13 had cause to state that “If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination;…”. It is reported that Nero who was the first Roman emperor who ruled from 54 AD to 68 AD publicly married at least three men during his reign.

Over the centuries homosexuality was more or less a “hush hush” issue. Although there was compelling evidence of engagement in homosexual activities by many outstanding people like Rock Hudson the actor and  Liberace the famous American pianist, there was no public acknowledgment of same. Today it is an entirely different situation. It has now reached the stage where many public figures such as Anderson Cooper and Ellen de Generis, both TV personalities, have come out openly and declared themselves to be gay. Several sports personalities have done the same.

It has also reached the stage where several countries have legalized same sex marriages. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to do this. Belgium followed in 2003, Spain and Canada in 2005, South Africa in 2006, Norway and Sweden in 2009, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina in 2010, Denmark in 2012, Uruguay and New Zealand in 2013. Although same sex marriages are not recognized federally in the United States, same sex couples are permitted to become legally married to each other in nine states. Both President Barack Obama of the United States and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom have expressed support for same sex marriages.

It seems therefore that the modern day trend especially in Western liberal democracies is highly supportive of homosexuality and same sex marriages. The trend may now be said to be mainstream. It is seen as a basic human right for people in general to have the freedom to choose a sexual partner in his or her own determination. The day is fast approaching when countries such as Grenada and the rest of the English speaking Caribbean may be found guilty of human rights abuse if in the near future they do not fall in line with the mainstream. Sanctions may be imposed and economic aid may be withheld as a consequence.

South Africa’s Constitution is considered to be a most progressive one by many. Its Bill of Rights section prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As a consequence, in 2005 the Constitutional Court, in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie was compelled to rule that the then existing marriage laws which only recognized marriage between a man and a woman, violated the equality clause of the Bill of Rights. The government was obligated to pass the Civil Union Act in November 2006 which Act legalizes same sex marriages.

In seems clear that in Grenada and the rest of the English speaking Caribbean we are not even close to recognizing homosexuality much less same-sex marriages. Section 431 of the Continuous Revised Laws of Grenada states that “If any two persons are guilty of unnatural connection or if any person is guilty of unnatural connection with any animal, every such person shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.” Whilst one may see the reasoning behind unnatural connection with an animal, one may be left to wonder why should it be considered unlawful for two adult consenting males to have sexual relations in the privacy of their homes. This may well be taking it a bit too far and the law ought to be reconsidered.

The homosexuality issue has caught Caribbean people between a rock and a hard place. Their whole moral upbringing has been called into question. They are just not comfortable with the idea of men caressing men and women caressing women. This activity offends everything that religion stands for. Marriage is still considered to be a sacred institution between a man and a woman which institution was created historically for the purpose of procreating children. Whilst the issue is not an easy one, sooner rather than later, the Caribbean would have to make a determination one way or the other.

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