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The filing on Friday, July 26, by two gay men of court proceedings to challenge St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ (SVG’s) “buggery” and “gross indecency” laws, which have criminalised homosexuality since the early days of colonialism has provoked a firestorm of controversy in the country.
This can be seen from the hundreds of Bible-thumping negative comments on Facebook to scrapping these two pieces of archaic and inhumane legislation rooted in the deep seated paranoid antipathy to what is locally called “bulling” among men. Meanwhile, there has always been a general indifference to the even more widespread practice of lesbianism, locally termed “zammie.”
Though this issue will be the talk of the town for some time to come, little attention is being paid to the other constitutional, legal, and moral issues these cases raise.
Like most other Caribbean nations, SVG has a tripartite constitutionally-based separation of powers between the three branches of government: executive (which, among other things, develops and enforces laws), legislative (which passes laws in parliament), and judicial (which rules on the law).
There would be a clear conflict of interest if Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jomo Thomas, made a parliamentary ruling in a case that he, barrister Jomo Thomas, has a direct interest in as legal counsel for these two gay plaintiffs. This could well happen if the government (executive) tried to pass a law in parliament aimed at overruling a court decision that the anti-buggery/gross indecency laws are unconstitutional (which they certainly are, as shown in other Caribbean countries with nearly identical constitutions, making this an easy slam-dunk for the petitioners in these two cases).
Equally important, it is only in countries like SVG where a comingling of competing roles is the norm that allow the Speaker and other parliamentarians to continue to practice private law while in public office. Indeed, all parliamentarians who have some side business, including those that might involve gaining government contracts, are allowed to fully control them while in office.
On the government’s response to these cases, I suspect that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, a champion of human rights, is sympathetic to the plight of unfairly vilified homosexuals in pseudo-puritanical SVG and would try to argue that his hands are tied by the court when it rules that the two relevant laws are unconstitutional. If I am wrong, he could easily hold a referendum on both this issue and the equally vexing capital crime matter to amend the constitution to include the criminalization of homosexuality and the use of executions for those found guilty of murder.
He would do no such thing knowing that they would both net 70-80 percent of the votes cast, in the process placing SVG in the same category with the minority of countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality.
As for the moral-religious issue of homosexuality, I call SVG a pseudo-puritanical country because, contrary to basic Christian teachings, the nation is so pre- and extra-marital hyper-sexualized that: (1) few girls over the age of 15 still have their virginity, (2) some 80 percent of births are to single mothers, (3) many women have children from several different partners, sometimes unsure of who actually fathered their offspring, (4) informal prostitution is so widespread that it is accepted as normal that a man “hand up his hand” when engaged in a relationship with a woman that is actually based on mutual attraction and affection even if both parties have the same financial resources, (5) many men of all ages take pride and are praised for bedding two or more women at the same time, and (6) chronic adultery, for love or money, is common among both sexes.
It seems as if SVG’s so-called Christians are deliberately ignorant of or indifferent to the place in Scripture where these acts are mentioned in the same breath and with the exactly the same punishment as homosexuality, namely 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
The Apostle Paul, chosen by Jesus to spread the Gospel, wrote these words. But his warning has certainly fallen on deaf ears among the countless “unwashed” and “unsanctified” hypocrites in SVG who demonize sodomy while upholding all the other equal sins that the New Testament says will doom them to burn in hell for eternity.