Good Tactic, Wrong CAUSE
Events at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit in Antigua & Barbuda last week may have heralded the emergence of a Christian fundamentalist movement, with its inspiration, if not formal leadership, in Jamaica, as a pan-Caribbean political force.
At the meeting, the Community's heads of government issued a statement of support to efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, which their agency established to coordinate a regional response to the diseases insists is "necessary to effectively combat the spread of HIV". Significantly, the leaders, according to their communiqué, deferred "full consideration" of a declaration on the matter by Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) pending "consultations at the national level".
Among the proposed commitments in that declaration - which had more than implicit support from Denzil Douglas, the St Kitts-Nevis prime minister, who has responsibility for health in CARICOM's quasi-Cabinet and which was formalised at a stakeholder meeting in Jamaica that was addressed by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller - is that regional governments would, by 2015, remove laws that encourage stigma and discrimination against vulnerable communities, thus making them more likely to access services that limit the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Jamaica's buggery laws, which make anal sex, especially against male homosexuals, illegal and similar legislation across the region would be targeted for repeal.
In the face of the emergence of the evangelical-led anti-reform movement in the aftermath of the Brendan Bain affair, regional leaders, not least our own Mrs Simpson Miller, may have got cold feet. Just before the CARICOM meeting, a group called Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation (CAUSE) held a rally in Kingston, which attracted an estimated 25,000 people, where its leaders were vehement against the so-called gay agenda, which, really, is about advancing individual rights and keeping the State out of people's bedrooms.
But more ominous for Jamaica's political leaders were the urgings prior to the rally, and from the platform, for fundamentalist Christians to get themselves on the voters' register in order to have a say in any action by their government. Presumably, that means voting out any administration advancing the 'gay agenda', so-called, or keeping out any party aspiring to do so. Mrs Simpson Miller had promised to afford a parliamentary conscience vote on the buggery laws but may now be having second thoughts.
While the Jamaican leader's reservations, assuming that she is indeed rethinking her position, may have influenced the decision, her colleagues would not be oblivious to the muscle flexing and electoral implications in their own territories.
At the Jamaica rally, speakers promised that many church and other organisations would write to the CARICOM Secretariat in opposition to the PANCAP declaration. Many did - similar to the regional organisations that declared a lack of confidence in Brendan Bain for providing a supporting affidavit for the retention of Belize's buggery-type law. Hence their call on the University of the West Indies to remove Professor Bain as head of an organisation that provides anti-discrimination-infused training for people who work in HIV/AIDS.
The region's evangelicals have employed tactics used to good effect by their American partners, but, we believe, to the wrong cause. There is greater value in promoting economic integration than having sexual/moral commissars peeping into the bedrooms of consulting adults.
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"PAN-CARIBBEAN PARTNERSHIP AGAINST HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) JUSTICE FOR ALL ROADMAP
Heads of Government received a report on the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) Justice for All Roadmap, a key deliverable of its Justice for All Programme, from the Rt. Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, in his capacity as CARICOM Lead Head of Government for Human Resource Development, Health and HIV and AIDS in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their support for efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination in the context of HIV/AIDS, an action that has been identified as necessary to effectively combat the spread of HIV.
Heads of Government reviewed the Declaration entitled Getting to Zero Discrimination Through Justice For All and agreed to defer full consideration pending consultations at the national level."
Meanwhile another PNP member has come out saying he wants a referendum instead of the suggested conscience vote by Mrs Simpson Miller obviously in fear of curry favour pandering to the vocal right: