Will gay rights impact the Dominican economy?
In my opinion it can but does not have to.
On June 26, 2015 the supreme court of the United States of America made the decision to legitimize same sex marriage in all 50 states.
Such legitimization of same sex marriage as legislated in the American law can no longer be denied and will have serious implications not only for Dominica but for the whole Caribbean economy. This is due mainly to the dependence on trading and tourism, in addition to other factors.
It is well known that a large majority of Dominicans oppose very strongly to homosexuality and has been evidenced on the occasion of March 2012.
Many will recall the incident in March 2012 when two men on board the Celebrity Cruise ship were arrested by local police and charged in court for sexual acts on the balcony of the ship. The arrest was brought about due to the vast public outcry of people on-shore, claiming public indecency for having sex in full view of everyone, also for the transgression of the Dominican buggery law. The news went viral locally, regionally and internationally in a sensational way to create mass audience. In the same breath, locally there were all manners of adverse comments about how the Government should not allow gay cruise into Dominica's port. Of course, the men were tried and slapped with a fine of EC$2,400.00 by the magistrate who addressed them as "rogues" and "vagabonds" for their sexual acts and orientation.
Given the above circumstances, the big question is; whether or not Dominica will remain hostile to visitors and guests who demonstrate same sex orientation? Or will there be a change of attitude towards them, after the legitimization of America's same sex laws? Where, emotions will no longer drown out reason and rationality.
Based on the above questions, one has to admit that the task ahead is not an easy one. However, someone has to "bell the cat" and that someone is the Government. They must educate and sensitize the public that persecution of visitors who display same sex orientation is considered a travesty of democracy, especially when their behaviour does not impinge on the rights of others. In addition, the question of economic gain or loss that can have ripple effects on the country must be articulated. This may be done through revisiting the Buggery Law.
In order to get the message across and to engender a change in attitude, I believe that the best approach is to revisit the buggery law with the intention to annul or rescind sections of It. Uncomfortable as this may be for the Government, the issue at its core becomes a matter of fundamental economic purpose, which must be tackled urgently. Let's face it, in progressive societies such as Britain, France, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Portugal, Ireland and now United States of America have all abolished the buggery law and the fundamentalist no longer have any semblance of "monopoly" on dispensing prejudice and stigma. The concept of tolerance must now take centre stage and that is why, even with a recommendation for the law to be revisited, this action should be executed with caution; that is to say, the extent to which people respect and accommodate the views, positions and behaviours of others should not be neglected. This will be achieved through participation and education.
In pursuance of this transitional approach, "Education" and "Participation", are incumbent on the Government. There has to be collaboration with the Government and the Opposition to tackle the issue. There is no room for anything less than a bi-partisan approach; they must sit and discuss what has transpired in United States of America and the other progressive societies that have similar stance on gay rights. In addition, the citizens and residents must take responsibility as well, but the Government has to take the initiative to "educate" so that all can "participate". The most effective way to execute this theorized approach in a timely manner is by way of communication through radio, television, print media and most importantly, town hall meetings.
The factor of time cannot be over emphasized. The cruise ship season is around the corner and more gays are likely to travel. The stark reality therefore, is whether Dominica is ready to position itself as one of the destinations that embraces the visitors of same sex orientation from lucrative markets of North America and Europe that control 46% of the cruise travel market.
Make no bones about it, the cruise market is growing and it is growing progressively up to 2019. The passenger growth projection for 2015 over 2014 is 17.4% and for each succeeding season up to 2019 it is about 8.1%. Besides, new cruise ships are being built at a rapid rate. Seven cruise ships (7) will be added in 2015 with a total passenger capacity of 18,813 and from 2016 to 2017, 15 more new cruise ships will come on line, adding 39,637 passengers to world-wide passenger capacity. Among this positive projection, are the brand vessels that operate under the Caribbean Cruise Line (CCL), Royal Caribbean Line (RCL), Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and other parent companies which all have cruises to Dominica.
These statistics are positive signals for the sector as a whole and this is why Dominica must put its house in order to take a piece of the economic pie. There is no time for gamesmanship. The policy that safeguards the health, safety and wellbeing of guests/visitors to our shores must be pursued to ensure that Dominica is not hurt by any form of fall-out in the tourist sector, or by the inability to change tactics and strategies which could deny economic opportunity from such projected lucrative markets.
Statistics and theories can be purported until the "cows come home", however do not forget that word of mouth marketing is considered the most effective form of marketing tool for any type of business. People talk, so if visitors are treated with respect, equality and fairness, then subsequently positive feedback will help to attract visitors to the shores of DOMINICA – The Nature Isle of the Caribbean.
By Lynford Guthrie (MBA)