Prime Minister Barrow admits Churches were not consulted on Gender Policy

The backlash concerning the National Women’s Commission’s Revised Gender Policy 2013 continues to grow and on Thursday the press asked Prime Minister Dean Barrow how the Government views the document. First, PLUS News asked whether the churches were consulted in its writing. The Prime Minister says no.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
vlcsnap-2013-05-31-19h32m49s217I really don’t know that the churches were consulted specifically, in face I spoke to the CEO in the Ministry this morning, and I was told that the Churches were not consulted specifically, they are on various sort of satellite bodies, the Aids Commission, the National Committee for Families and Children, but in terms of the writing up of the policy by the consultant and it’s finalization, it is my understanding that the churches were not directly involved. But as I’ve said to Bishop Phillip Wright, the policy is not a platform for legislative action, the policy is to some extent, aspirational, and it can do no more than inform governments’ attitude. If we ever wanted to legislate, and the question of whether there ought to be legislation in certain areas to make the word flesh with respect to protection of peoples’ rights, If we ever wanted to legislate there would have to be wide spread consultation and an effort at some sort of a consensus, so when people see the policy as the thinning of the wedge – when they get from there to the suggestion that this opening the door to some kind of legislation that would sanction same sex marriages, my God, that’s entirely bizarre, its completely out of the question and not a factor in the equation at all. We also, as I think the press release made clear, took out the last few words in the paragraph dealing with respect for diversity because those few last words could have well been interpreted as government trying to oblige the religious community to in fact act in a certain way. This is governments’ policy and this is what ought to inform governments’ actions and we certainly are prepared to maintain very strongly that paragraph, absent those words, which then, results mainly in the statement that government policy is going to be informed and should be informed by a respect for diversity of all types, including diversity of sexual orientation. 

According to the Prime Minister the policy seeks to provide firm ground for the Government to tackle certain social issues – but is not intended as a vehicle for acceptance of alternative lifestyles. However, the Prime Minister says while the policy acknowledges sexual orientation it is not a platform for legislation, however the Government respects the individual privacy of Belizeans, especially those whom it employs.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
vlcsnap-2013-05-28-21h10m37s153We also, as I think the Press Release made clear, took out the last few words in the paragraph dealing with respect for diversity, because those last few words could well have been interpreted as Government trying to oblige the religious community to in fact act in a certain way.  This is governments’ policy and this is what ought to inform governments’ actions, and we certainly are prepared to maintain very strongly that paragraph, absent those words, which then, results mainly in the statement that government policy is going to be informed and should be informed by a respect for diversity of all types, including diversity of sexual orientation.  

While the Prime Minister addressed the government’s employment of persons who say they are of a certain sexual preference, when questioned whether potential anti-discrimination laws contemplated by the policy could be used against private institutions that, for instance, refuse to accept homosexuality as a natural behavior, the P.M. was quick to point out that consultation is needed.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
No, absolutely not, man.  This is in the same vein as the charge or suggestion  or fear or anxiety that we will get to a point where same-sex unions will be legalized.  No.  Government’s Gender Policy is trying to set out norms, trying to set out normative concepts and saying what will inform Government’s actions.  It cannot be anything that ought to be misinterpreted as suggesting that Government will use any kind of coercion, or any kind of even effort at persuasion, with respect to the churches, with respect to private institutions, absolutely not.

Mr Barrow also acknowledged an error in the policy that neglected to remove a reference to possibly legalizing prostitution.

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