Will the Bahamas lead on LGBT rights in English-speaking Caribbean?

Published: June 29, 2011

The oldest political party in the Bahamas has come out in support of LGBT rights.

The leader of The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), who are currently in opposition, Perry Christie, said last week that his party supports “progressive policies.”

Christie was answering a question about the historic passage June 20 of a LGBT human rights resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Christie said the resolution is humane and therefore the party is in favor of it.

“I think from our point of view we understand the sensitivity of this matter,” said Christie, adding that the PLP has “always been committed to progressive policies — policies that emphasize our commitment to human rights.”

The Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette, from the Free National Movement party, which is described as ‘socially liberal and economically conservative’, said last week that The Bahamas supports the UN resolution “in principle.”

The support was welcomed by The Rainbow Alliance, the Bahamas’ LGBT group, but they said that the ‘words will only be taken seriously when The Bahamas actually corrects its unjust laws against LGBT people’.

The Bahamas does not have a seat on the council. Cuba is the only Caribbean nation on the Council and they voted for the resolution.

“The (PLP) is always committed to ensuring that our policies and our commitments are consistent with the obligations of international agencies and most certainly respecting the rule of law,” Christie said.
The resolution was the first of its kind passed by the Council. It was fiercely opposed by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, among other countries.

The resolution said that the council study discrimination then form a panel to discuss “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Homosexual sex is not illegal in The Bahamas, it was legalised in 1991, neither are LGBT banned from the armed forces. Recommendations by the Constitutional Reform Commission to include protections against discrimination for LGBT in a new, revised Constitution were blocked by members of a PLP Government in 2006.

In 2007, a pastor who had written many articles against homosexuality in The Nassau Guardian daily newspaper held a “Save the Family Rally” in Freeport. Hundreds of people attended the event including PLP cabinet ministers and signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in The Bahamas. Also in 2007 police raided a gay cruise party in downtown Nassau.

In 2001, an Employment Bill was proposed which included a ban on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, but after much debate it was passed with that clause removed.

In 2008 four gay men were reported to have been murdered in suspected hate crimes in Nassau over eight months. Two were prominent Bahamians.

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