Government is prepared to recognise a form of civil unions for couples of the same gender, so as to ensure that no human being in Barbados will be discriminated against in the exercise of civil rights, that ought to be theirs.
Governor General Dame Sandra Mason shared this as she delivered the Throne Speech at the Opening of the Second Session of Parliament today, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. She said Barbadians must have a frank discussion as a people and make some difficult decisions.
Dame Sandra continued: “The settlement of Barbados was birthed and fostered in discrimination, but the time has come for us to end discrimination in all forms. I wish to emphasise that my Government is not allowing any form of same sex marriage, and will put this matter to a public referendum. My Government will accept and be guided by the vote of the public as promised in the manifesto.”
She noted that the legal systems of modern societies recognised many different forms of human relationships. Barbados, she added, was now increasingly finding itself on international lists, including within the multilateral system, which identified this island as having a poor human rights record.
She reminded that Barbados did not conduct business or trade with itself or give itself loan funding. “In some cases, our human rights record, when viewed against modern international standards, impacts these other issues and how we are viewed among the global family of nations. On this matter, the world has spoken. If we wish to be considered among the progressive nations of the world, Barbados cannot afford to lose its international leadership place and reputation.
“Nor can a society as tolerant as ours, allow itself to be “blacklisted” for human and civil rights abuses or discrimination on the matter of how we treat to human sexuality and relations. My Government will do the right thing, understanding that this too will attract controversy. Equally, it is our hope that with the passage of time, the changes we now propose will be part of the fabric of our country’s record of law, human rights and social justice,” Dame Sandra Mason said.
She highlighted various instances when Barbados took tough decisions on various matters. She pointed out that in each case, these rights were now accepted as essential, however, at the time they were taken, the decisions were highly controversial and bitterly opposed.
The Governor General said Government would amend the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Actto provide that possession of 14 grams, or half an ounce or less of cannabis is no longer an offence for which one could be arrested, charged and tried, and would therefore not result in an appearance before the Magistrates’ Court, or in a criminal record.
“The possession will still be unlawful, and will still be punished, but there will be a new approach to how we treat the offender, which is already being used successfully in Jamaica and St. Vincent. Police may issue a ticket to a person in possession of half an ounce or less of cannabis, similar to a traffic ticket, and the person has 30 days to pay a fine of $200.
“The ticket will be called a “fixed penalty notice”. A person in possession of half an ounce or less and who is under 18 years, or who is 18 years or older and appears to the police to be dependent on cannabis, will be referred to the National Council on Drug Abuse for counselling, in addition to paying the ticket. A person who smokes cannabis in public will not be arrested or detained. The police may issue a ticket to that person, who will have 30 days to pay …. It will be an offence to fail to pay a ticket for smoking in public or for possession of half an ounce or more,” she explained.
Dame Sandra said the offender would be required to attend the Magistrates’ Court and may be ordered to do community service or pay a fine of $1,000. A conviction for failing to pay a ticket, she added, would form part of the offender’s criminal record.
She emphasised that this new change was not a licence for lawlessness, as Government recognised the link between serious drugs and crime. She added, however, that Government was cognisant of international trends and the social realities of Barbados.