By Dr Lazarus Castang
Dr Edward Greene (Professor Emeritus at UWI and former Pro Vice Chancellor and Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research) at the height of the Bain controversy sought to defend the decision of the University of the West Indies. His camouflage commentary, “Let’s work together to end AIDS
” “flies like a butterfly but stings like a bee.” He rightly proposes AIDS eradication collaboration. He unfortunately alleges that Caribbean sodomy law reinforces stigma and discrimination against men having sex with men (MSM), and further supports the firing of Bain but misses that such action is a threat to freedom of speech and to academic freedom.
Dr Lazarus Castang is a licensed psychotherapist and an ordained SDA Minister of Religion. He holds a PhD in Old Testament, a Masters in Psychotherapy, and has completed studies in basic medical science. He has ministered to several communities in St Lucia, Barbados and the US and has provided therapy to individuals, couples and groups. He is a graduate of University of Southern Caribbean in Trinidad and Andrews University in Michigan. He has written two theological books and several articles on social relations. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By proposing the elimination of HIV/AIDS as a worthy cause/goal, Dr. Green shows compassionate care for the alleviation of human sickness and suffering in the Caribbean. However, by isolating Caribbean sodomy law as the arbitrary, unjust, counterproductive, immoral and an inhumane measure to be jettisoned, so men can have sex with men unabashed, he apparently makes the law a crime and the criminal the law.
Specifically, on the question of MSM, Dr Greene believes that public law should not influence personal morality. Only public homosexual acts or rape should be criminalised. He assumes that adult, consensual, private homosexual acts should put the acts above the law, or beyond the controlling or punitive scope of the law, and any law against MSM infringes homosexual “rights” and deprives them of justice. In effect, Dr Greene’s strategy is simple. He elevates homosexuality to moral parity with heterosexuality, and then assents to the application of the sodomy law to only public homosexual acts or rape like the laws against public heterosexual acts or rape.
For Dr Greene, the sodomy law is apparently a crime against humanity because it is assumed to negate MSM’s human rights, justice, and healthcare and reinforce stigma and discrimination against them. In the same breath, he seems to make the criminal (MSM), the law. In this case, “the humanised law” (MSM) has been violated by the sodomy law, which is the real criminal, instead of sodomy law being violated by MSM. Therefore, the root problem is in the sodomy law, not with “the humanised law” (MSM).
Dr Greene’s position is worrisome in three ways because there is poison in the pudding.
(1) Dr Greene assumes the naturalness and morality of MSM and seems to classify MSM as a human right which Caribbean sodomy laws unjustly deprive them of. With broad strokes, he intimates homosexuality as a human right under the canopy of HIV/AIDS healthcare. Nowhere does he explain the moral basis of such assumption. In effect, this assumption is clearly treated a given and an axiom admitting no dispute or denial.
Though political pressure and filthy lucre may eventually drive Caribbean authority figures to decriminalise MSM, assign a legal right to MSM and protect MSM as a sexual minority, there is no natural right to homosexual behaviour.
(2) The recurrent Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network and the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) script is to repeal Caribbean sodomy laws criminalising private, consensual MSM. These laws are alleged to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against MSM in the opinions of public health experts and members of civil society. Such opinions seem to carry the force of law, of morality, of justice and of scientific fact, and constitute a goal of PANCAP and CHART. The so-called opinions have overridden or overruled any threat to academic freedom and freedom of speech even in a court case involving an expert witness.
Observe that Dr Greene provides us with an unidentified flying object (UFO) called “the opinions of public health experts and members of civil society.” The UFO’s opinions are made to trump and drown all other dissenting voices associated with it, whether it is for the better or the worse. In fact, the UFO’s opinions are the only standard reality and they exclude and devalue other opinions as mere perception, or more so, as counterproductive rhetoric. He has neither provided scientific research to back up his claim, nor a well-reasoned argument in favour of his script. Therefore, Dr Greene has given us assertion without provision, allegation without evidence, and academic bigotry without academic freedom.
Observe further that the repeated script that sodomy laws stigmatise and discriminate against MSM needs closer scrutiny. The Caribbean sodomy laws do not make Sodom, or sodomy, or sodomites. MSM makes Sodom, sodomy, and sodomites. Sodom, sodomy, and sodomites are based on MSM behaviours, not on sodomy laws. Sodomy laws attempt to negate current and potential MSM behaviors, not create them. And stigma is more attached to and derived from sodomy than sodomy laws.
Caribbean social, cultural and religious sexual norms clearly stigmatise and discriminate against MSM as immoral, while Caribbean sodomy laws discriminates against MSM as illegal and implicitly immoral. To push simplistically for zero discrimination against MSM assumes the morality of MSM and the immorality of Caribbean sodomy laws and social, cultural and religious sexual norms. Such assumption is brazen and the push for zero discrimination is indiscriminate, bigoted and morally callous.
Discrimination that targets other areas of MSM’s life, such as refusal of housing, jobs, and threats to their physical security and safety, should not be tolerated in Caribbean society. However, it is unscrupulous to push that support of MSM persons necessitates approval of all that they do. Neither love nor righteousness necessitates or justifies such requirement.
Moral discrimination against MSM cannot be outlawed as unjust without being bigoted as well in disallowing it in the diversity of opinions. To fire Bain required a judgment/discrimination against his speech and had/have the potential of unfairly stigmatising him as an obstacle to the healthcare of HIV/AIDS patients.
The law against prostitution cannot be blamed for the prostitution stigma even if we change the name to commercial sex work and say it is adult and consensual. The law against incest cannot be blamed for incest stigma even if we called it a loving, committed, monogamous relationship. The law against bestiality cannot be blamed for bestiality stigma even if we say it does not harm other persons, oneself, or the darling dog or sweet sheep. The law against homosexuality cannot be blamed for the immorality stigma even if we call it MSM and view it as “variant of human sexuality.” There is no public law against HIV/AIDS to blame, yet there is public stigma and personal fear associated with the potential contraction or contraction-discovery of HIV.
However, to isolate and blame sodomy laws and public stigma and discrimination against MSM as forcing MSM “underground, away from information, testing, treatment, care, and support services” is to externalise and assign blame to the Caribbean public for MSM’s healthcare behaviours. One thing is clear -- the sodomy laws have not stopped homosexual acts. The HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM evidences this reality. So, it is not more liberty they desire for same-sex sex. It is the freedom to have sex unabashed, without guilt, with social approval and the legal protection they crave.
Dr Greene’s unwavering and unswerving commitment to organisational pro-gay script disallows him from entertaining and considering the following as hindering MSM healthcare: (i) the internal factors like MSM personal fear of the acquisition-knowledge of the dreaded terminal illness, (ii) the self-deception that what one doesn’t know may not cause harm or may somehow just go away or prolong life, (iii) the ethically hedonistic idea that sexual pleasure is the highest value to be pursue even at risk to a healthy life itself, and (iv) MSM’s fatalistic mindset that whatever will be will be.
No one has been arrested for having HIV/AIDS or for seeking information, treatment, care, testing, and support services, no matter how they contracted the disease. It is indisputable that the homosexual drive for men to have sex with men in spite of Caribbean sodomy laws and public stigma and discrimination is disproportionately greater than the health-conscious drive for them to seek information, treatment, care, testing, and support services after their own actions caused HIV transmission. Nothing stops them from doing what gives them the HIV.
But it is assumed that they do not have the guts to pursue the healthcare that controls the disease after its contraction. Then, only Caribbean circumstances outside them are to be blamed for their retreat from healthcare. They are more brazen, audacious, and aggressive for same-sex sex that breaks the law but not for HIV prevention and treatment that do not break the law.
Therefore, though professionally prudent, it is morally vicious for Dr Greene to imply and apply the villain caricature to the Caribbean public, but the victim character to MSM. In the matter of HIV/AIDS epidemic among and treatment of MSM, MSM are at once the principal villain and victim (self-martyrs).
The sodomy laws criminalise homosexuality and reinforce societal opposition to it as immoral. The sodomy law makes sodomy a crime, and identifies it as an immorality. The immorality of homosexuality is not a social construct like Democrats and Republicans. Homosexual act is essentially wrong in itself, because it is against our human nature, against our very ends and purposes, is a procreative dead-end, and there is clear anatomical and physiological discomplementarity of same-sex pairing. Moreover, MSM is not immoral because it is a crime. It is a crime because it is immoral. Decriminalising homosexuality is not the automatic fix or the purging agent to render it moral or amoral.
If the depiction of homosexuality as essentially immoral constitutes homophobia, then refusing to depict it as immoral constitutes moral phobia. If the rejection of homosexual behaviours is cultural, social and religious bigotry, then rejection of cultural, social, religious sexual norms is anti-sexual-norm bigotry. If calling MSM a “right” that is wrong is a faith stigma, then calling the religious belief a faith stigma stigmatises the faith. And if morality is fluid, unstable, and fashionable and accords with the zeitgeist, then morality is mutable and unreliable. Right is wrong and wrong is right resulting in situation ethics. Ethics, then, is groundless, impermanent and lacking consistency.
(3) Dr Greene’s assumption that Caribbean sodomy laws are unjust, counterproductive, and immoral makes the laws a “crime” and the criminal the law. In Dr Greene’s opinion, it is not MSM who breaks the law, it is the sodomy laws that break MSM; it is not MSM who are immoral, it is the sodomy laws that are immoral; it is not MSM unnatural behaviours that draw moral stigma and moral discrimination, it is only the sodomy laws; it is not MSM who are ultimately responsible for their sexual behaviours and health choices, it the Caribbean sodomy laws and public stigma and discrimination. It would appear that organisational goals have pull wool over Dr Greene’s eyes concerning MSM and he is attempting to do the same to the Caribbean public.
Finally, I want to ask the question: What does Dr Greene mean by the mysterious phrase “force them underground” in his statement, “our governments and community leaders increasingly recognise that laws and policies that criminalise key populations, force them underground, away from information, testing, treatment, care and support services”? The phrase “force them underground” is deterministic, assuming a direct cause-effect relationship between the legislation and prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
As written, the base of his dubious conclusion is the opinions of unidentified health experts and civil society, not objective research. The sodomy laws force MSM to hide to have unsafe sex, to avoid coming out, and to hide from medical intervention. The removal of the law will suddenly force them to have safe sex, to come out and to take advantage of medical interventions.
This sort of argument does not account for the large number of heterosexuals with HIV/AIDS without any stigma on or discrimination against their orientation, and without any law prohibiting their risky and/or promiscuous behaviours. Nor does it account for the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM in spite of unenforced sodomy laws in the Caribbean.