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Caribbean Anglican leaders: Resist redefining sexuality, marriage

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Anglican bishops have issued a statement, calling for the region's political leadership to resist pressure by foreign governments to embrace what they call a "redefinition of human sexuality and same-sex unions, under threat of economic sanctions and the loss of humanitarian aid," Pink News reports.

“We urge our leaders of government and of civil society, as well as the people of our nations, to resist any attempt to compromise our cultural and religious principles regarding these matters," a statement from the House of Bishops and Standing Committee of the Church in the Province of the West Indies says. The bishops were attending a meeting in Barbados.

“The dangling of a carrot of economic assistance to faltering economies should be seen for what it is worth and should be resisted by people and government alike,” the bishops said. “More specifically, there is a redefinition of gender to accommodate gay, lesbian and transgendered [sic] people, and the creation of a plurality of definitions which leaves the issue of gender to self-definition, thereby dismissing traditional definitions of male and female.”

There's some indication that Caribbean leaders, like Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and Jamaica's prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, are willing to look into the discriminatory legislation on their countries' books, but there has been little or no momentum behind their statements. 

Last year, in a letter to UK queer rights advocate Lance Price, Persad-Bissessar promised to "put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation” as part of a new national gender policy, the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported. Price, the founder of The  Kaleidoscope Trust, had complained about Trinidad and Tobago's immigration laws and its Sexual Offences Act, which contain discriminatory provisions against gays.

Section 8 of the twin-island state's Immigration Act prohibits entry to homosexuals, people with mental health issues and those with physical disabilities.

Persad-Bissessar told Price she doesn't support "discrimination in any form against any individual, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. I share your view that the stigmatisation of homosexuality in T&T is a matter which must be addressed on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every individual is entitled under international law."

During Jamaica's 2011 election campaign, Simpson-Miller had indicated in a televised debate that she was in favour of MPs voting their conscience on the island's buggery law.

Last year, her health minister, Fenton Ferguson, said he wanted to see a review of the law. But The Jamaica Observer carried a story, headlined "Promised Buggery Review Put on Back-Burner," in which the minister responsible for information, Sandrea Falconer, is quoted as saying that the issue is not yet on the table, as the administration is prioritizing other legislation.

Meanwhile, Jamaican gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson had indicated he planned to sue Belize for its entry ban against gays, contained in Section 5 of the country's Immigration Act. Tomlinson has also pursued a lawsuit against the Trinidad and Tobago government over its entry ban, after he rejected invitations to attend a United Nations HIV workshop and a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) human rights conference there because of the anti-gay immigration provisions. 

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