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Debate on decriminalization of homosexuality should be led by civil society – Gonsalves

Debate on decriminalization of homosexuality should be led by civil society – Gonsalves

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The decriminalization of homosexual acts between two consenting adults in the privacy of their home, should be a discussion to be taken up and led by civil society, not by a politician.{{more}}

So says Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, when asked during a press conference on Wednesday, if the topic was one that he would encourage discussion on.

The Prime Minister has, over the years, been championing the call for a conversation on reparations from the United Kingdom, for genocide and slavery in the region, and recently, he has put on the table for discussion the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

He said that while he does not have an issue with talks on the decriminalization of a certain aspect of homosexuality, he was not going to lead that conversation.

“It’s not for me to encourage or for me … to not encourage…. That’s a discussion for the society to have, not for Ralph to start that discussion, that’s an entirely different subject than the one on medical marijuana that I’m looking at as an industry, something commercial.

“This is not a matter which a politician should be pronouncing up front, given the nature of this social issue, but for civic leaders to talk about, but for newspapers to talk about and write about, and for them to raise it,” Gonsalves noted.

The Prime Minister, however, outlined some of the legal, moral and social arguments that individuals and groups make, for and against decriminalizing homosexuality between consenting adults, in the privacy of their homes.

He said that regardless of an individual’s position on the subject, love should be shown for persons involved in homosexual or lesbian acts, which is the Christian thing to do.

“I have heard what the Pope has had to say on this matter, and I have heard what church men have had to say on this matter in the Anglican church, and I have heard what other church men, evangelicals, and people have said on either side of the question. Some people have said that they are completely opposed to homosexuality, but that you must not criminalize homosexuality in private.

“I’ve heard persons advocate that view… adultery is a sin, homosexuality is a sin, but adultery is not criminalized, but homosexuality is criminalized, in private I’m talking about, among consenting adults because, you have to always add that.

“I would say the overwhelming majority of people in this country are opposed to homosexuality and lesbianism on moral and religious grounds. I think that’s a fair statement.

“But I think there are significant numbers of people who are saying that there should be a discussion about whether the law ought not to be reformed in relation to homosexual and lesbian acts, among consenting adults in private, to be decriminalized. In other words, you still frown on it, but you say what persons want to do in their bedroom is their business; the State ought not to be involved.”

Should the discussion make its way to Parliament, Gonsalves said that he believes individuals would more than likely debate and decide on the topic according to their convictions, rather than the influence of political support.

When asked in what direction his conscience would lie, he did not indicate.

“If I were to tell you where my conscience lies, I would preclude a lot of debate on this discussion….

“It is not the sort of issue that I think, with great respect, that I think that a politician should be pronouncing on, to polarize people one way or the other and to infuse it with other kinds of prejudices which ought not to be involved in the discussion….

“It is a matter which the society… ought to have a sensible discussion about, but I am an inappropriate person, a politician in my view… but I have told you where I stand and what is my sense.”

According to the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, persons involved in homosexual acts, if found guilty, may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for buggery and five years for acts of gross indecency. (JJ)

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