Debaters fail to declare stance on decriminalising buggery

St John’s, Antigua- Though neither political party would take a firm stance on the decriminalisation of buggery laws at Thursday’s National Youth Forum, the party’s ideological leanings were evident.

A question from social media quizzed the panellists about their party’s view on repealing the law which makes buggery a criminal act, and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Beginning with the United Progressive Party’s representative Joanne Massiah, both parties posited that it was not for the government to decriminalise buggery.

“We believe that the decriminalisation of buggery is not one for a party to decide. This is an issue that necessitates national consultations and a national consensus as we move forward,” Massiah said.

The Antigua Labour Party’s Samantha Marshall agreed.

“Antigua & Barbuda on a whole is a Christian society, so when we look at issues of that nature it is not for a political party or a government alone that has to look at that matter. It has to be something in which society must look at on a whole,” Marshall said.

Under section 12(1) of the Sexual Offences Act, a person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment – (a) for life, if committed by an adult on a minor; (b) for 15 years, if committed by an adult on another adult; (c) for five years, if committed by a minor.

Though the party did not take a stance, those reading between the lines might have felt UPP was more open to removing the law.

Massiah said her party saw homosexual as humans having rights.

“We must recognise all of us that our individual rights and protections are enshrined in the Constitution of Antigua & Barbuda in Section 3,” she said.

“We believe the question which has to be posited is how far is too far for the state to extend its reach into the sexual choices and preferences of consenting adults which do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.”

The other UPP debater Harold Lovell asked the public to keep an open mind when considering the issue.

“Adultery based on Christian principles is against God’s law, but it’s not illegal. I think that is something that we want to think about,” he said in comparison.

Contrastingly, the opposition said it respected the rights of individuals but tempered that with its “Christian” values.

“The Antigua Labour Party respects the rights of individuals to do whatever they wish within their private homes and to make whatever personal choices they wish to make,” Marshall said

“Although we respect your privacy, we also ask that you respect our laws as they stand at this time until our laws are changed.”

Speaking for the UPP leader Baldwin Spencer, Lovell drew the line at same-sex marriage.

“I think that I can state on behalf of the political leader that the party does not endorse homosexual marriages. We believe that marriage is an institution created between man and woman,” he said.

For years, international organisations like UNAIDS have been lobbying governments in the region to do away with anti-buggery laws.

Local human rights group Meeting Emotional and Social needs Holistically (MESH) is on record stating that a change in the law would not only end discrimination against couples who practice buggery, but it would also encourage them to seek health care.

Marshall was joined by her colleagues, Melford Nicholas and Senator Lennox Weston at the Youth Forum.

Shawn Nicholas rounded off the UPP team.

Source – The Daily Observer