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Barbados life sentence for Homosexual Acts: American Society of Travel Writers Barbados convention concerns

Written by gaytourism

Homosexual acts are illegal in Barbados, with a life sentence. The Society of American Travel Writers selected Barbados to host their next annual convention in 2018. Some members voiced their concern to promote Barbados as a destination due to anti-gay sodomy laws on the books.

The SATW Board of directors defended their decision to accept Barbados and issued this statement to members:

SATW’s Board of Directors decision to accept Barbados’ bid to host our 2018 convention has raised some concerns among the membership, specifically that there is law in Barbados that makes the island appear unwelcoming to the gay and lesbian community.

That law prohibits sodomy and has been in place for many years. The board heard those concerns when they were first aired last week and wanted to do more research and seek additional insight. We apologize for the delay in responding. We used the time to get a complete picture that we could share with our members.

The law against sodomy has not been enforced for years. More than 70 other countries have similar laws, and the same laws remain on the books in 12 states in the US. There is even a sodomy law in Canada that has not been officially removed from the books.

Visitors – straight and LGBT – do not face any danger or prejudicial treatment in Barbados beyond what one might encounter from individuals in any country who harbor prejudicial tendencies. Barbados, like many places in the region, is moving forward on human rights issues, and the Board believes Barbados is a friendly, welcoming and story-rich island. 

“In the Eastern Caribbean, relationships and acceptance of gay persons has come a very long way. There are more conversations happening, organizations on the ground have done a lot, and we are in a place where a lot of tolerance exists. In Barbados, the LGBT community has been very expressive, and today transgender women are able to dress freely – the freedom to express yourself has come a long way. Yes, we still have ignorant people and challenges, but Barbados is learning to respect people as people.”
-Kenita Placide, Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) and Caribbean Advisor for OutRight Action International

The island’s LGBT community, while small, is not invisible. This month, Barbados will hold its second-ever Pride weekend. The launch reception on November 24 will be held by the High Commission of Canada, and events through the weekend include a beach day, movie night, business and services expo, talent show, and more. The island is home to two LGBT rights organizations, B-GLAD and Equals, Inc.

“I’m an open member of the LGBT community in Barbados. When I moved back to Barbados in 2004 I did so with my male partner and we felt very welcomed as we set up our home and life together. The jobs and the opportunities I have had here over the years after returning have been mainly because I was in the LGBT community. I am happy to be in Barbados at this time, in a progressive setting and being a part of the continued development of my community and country. I can only hope to welcome you here to be a part of the Barbados experience.” 

-René Holder-McClean-Ramirez, Co-Director, Equals, Inc.

SATW has been a safe and inclusive organization for all walks of life – regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, LGBT, etc. – and will continue to be so. We also understand and respect the objections raised by some members. But we are an association of travel professionals who journey around the world and write the truth about what we see. SATW members can be agents of change, able to go to troubled places, and tell our audience what we find there.

“IGLTA advocates respect and dignity for all. We do not support destination boycotts and make every effort to build bridges, not walls. We believe that tourism is a force for good that transcends oppression and promotes understanding.” 

-John Tanzella, President/CEO, International Gay Lesbian Travel Alliance (IGLTA)

Embargoing an entire island or country hurts everyone, not just the purveyors of prejudice. While the Board is listening, respecting and responding to the concerns of our members, there is much that we can do, as a society, to encourage gender rights and freedoms on the island: a forum of local LGBT journalists? a presentation on the positive impact of LGBT travel? We are open to the conversation and to suggestions of how we can use our considerable influence on the ground. 

Finally, one of the reasons Barbados is hosting SATW is the belief that our members will bring positive attention to the Caribbean as a whole, a tourism-dependent region that has been hard-hit by this year’s storms. Barbados was not impacted by the storms – the island lies outside the traditional hurricane belt. But while some islands will recover in time for this year’s “high season,” others will need many months to rebuild. Our presence will help tell the story of rebuilt communities that have suffered so much.

We can achieve so much more with our presence than we can with our absence.


Barbara Ramsay Orr

SATW President

David Swanson

SATW President-Elect

Catharine Hamm

SATW Immediate Past Presiden

Petra Roach speaking for the Barbados Tourism Board also responded:

Barbados could not be  more thrilled to be hosting the 2018 SATW Annual Conference.

Barbados welcomes visitors from all backgrounds and cultures, including the LGBT community, and does not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identification. Bajans are known for their openness, hospitality and welcoming nature, and their interactions with visitors are a top reason for repeat visitation.

Homosexuality is not illegal in barbados. The matter in question is in reference to an antiquated law against sodomy which to my knowledge has has never been enforced.  Many countries around the world, including Canada and some states in the U.S., have similar laws that have not been officially abolished. In partnership with two LGBT rights organizations, B-GLAD and Equals, Inc., we as a nation, continue to make strides on these important human rights affairs.  The second annual Pride Week on barbados will take place November 24.

I personally have several friends in the LGBT community who visit Barbados regularly, several times each year and see it as their second home – I am also copying in Karyl Leigh Barnes  who is a member of SATW and also a partner at our public relations agency of record, Development Counsellors International.

SATW Member Bea Broda came to an interesting conclusion:

I personally feel that this is still half-way measures, and more could be done to actually strike the law from the books. I think the power of certain religions could prevent this, and people think that keeping the status quo is the best option.”

The solution for Barbados legislators: Don’t continue your don’t ask don’t tell policy and take these laws off the books, so they cannot be enforced- ever!

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