Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, the current chair of CARICOM (Caribbean Community Secretariat) along with other Caribbean leaders, who are continuing to cultivate and place a high discount rate on the lives of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens are helping to mortgage the region’s future with atrophy, by retarding the growth of their nations in exchange for power by majority rule. Social inclusion, equality and open diversity foster environments where everyone can bring their best to the table and feel valued without incurring the costs associated with repression.
In 2014, 12 of the 15 CARICOM member states still criminalize homosexuality. Suriname is one of the remaining member states that has legalized homosexuality since 1869. Social economics has many costs and the archaic philosophy of legalized oppression is counterproductive to investing in a nation’s greatest asset; it’s people. In February, referring to the costs of homophobia, president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim stated, “Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”
It is long overdue that CARICOM’s legal system guarantees equality before the law and a bill of rights that includes protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Curiously, CARICOM’s current agenda is seeking reparations for slavery while its own anti-gay laws undermine the legitimacy of this endeavour. Reparation and subjugation are a conundrum when human rights are being currently denied, while seeking amends for past human rights violations. Attempting to emancipate and ameliorate while citizens are being actively disenfranchised is spurious. It would not be ethical or moral for those countries that have long since decriminalized homosexuality to contribute money and resources to CARICOM nations that currently demean and devalue their LGBT citizens. This should be a factor and a caveat in considering reparations as it is antithetical to the philosophy of promoting equality consciousness. It is unfortunate that these discriminatory laws in CARICOM states exemplify a lack of maturity and responsible leadership.
CARICOM neglects to understand that human rights, which include sexual orientation/expression, are to be protected, not levied with punishments which results in moral, personal and economic losses for the region. It is questionable if CARICOM is ready for the equitable distribution of reparations or aid. Instead of speaking out against homophobia, there are some state leaders in the region who use homophobia for their own political gain.
The World Bank, United States, United Kingdom and the European Union are already considering homophobia in deciding how they provide and dispense aid. Regrettably, CARICOM is still operating under the paradigm that the world is flat with its refusal to reverse its human rights abuses on their LGBT citizens. We are all mutually dependent and homophobia attenuates economies with the immeasurable cost of the devaluation of purposeful relationships that we should be nurturing with each other to increase our Gross National Happiness.
Caribbean Alliance for Equality