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Barbados set to recognise same-sex unions

In a major breakthrough for LGBTQ+ rights in the Caribbean, the government will be guided by a public referendum.

By Thomas Stichbury

Barbados has begun to unfurl its rainbow flag after agreeing to recognise same-sex unions – however, this does not yet include marriage.

In an encouragingly progressive (and long overdue) move, the Caribbean island is starting to unravel its colonial-era homosexuality laws.

Governor General Dame Sandra Mason said the government would be guided by a public referendum on the subject.

“My 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 exercise of civil rights of that ought to be theirs,” she explained.

“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 emphasis that my government is not allowing any form of same-sex marriage and will put this matter to a public referendum.”

She added: “My government will accept and be guided by the vote of the public as promised in the manifesto.”

Addressing the opening of a new term of parliament on Tuesday, Mason also appeared to acknowledge criticism of Barbados’s poor human rights record.

“If we wish to be considered amongst the progressive nations of the world, Barbados cannot afford to lose its international leadership and reputation,” she began.

“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 human sexuality and relations.”

In July, the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, alluded to the country’s anti-gay reputation.

“This country, that has been forged regrettably in the bowels of discrimination, cannot want to discriminate against anybody for any reason. All must breathe in this country,” she urged.