Tuesday, April 16, 2024

EDITORIAL: The law and sexual conduct


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How far should the law go in regulating aspects of people’s sexual conduct?
The difficulty of arriving at decisions associated with these complex and controversial issues was demonstrated this week when a blue ribbon panel discussion was held on the topic Paradigm Shift In Prevention Policy: A Public Health Perspective at the Savannah Hotel, Christ Church.
The two Cabinet ministers on the panel, Minister of Family Stephen Lashley and Minister of Health Donville Inniss, clearly agreed on the need to address these issues, but differed on the path to get there.
Lashley suggested that society must want these things first before politicians and lawmakers take them up.
“We feel that there needs to be further dialogue, but we have not seen or heard a public consensus that tells us that we should go forward and repeal the laws [that relate to the decriminalization of buggery],” said Lashley.
“Perhaps the reason why . . . action was not taken is because of the controversial nature,” he conceded.
And on the matter of the decision taken by Government to lower the age at which someone can access medical services without parental consent, Lashley said since the topic was a “highly charged” one, there was a need to give parents, teachers and other interest groups the opportunity to weigh in on the topic.
Inniss, though agreeing with Lashley that policymakers should always listen well to the public, feels those in authority must out of necessity take the lead on these controversial issues.
Inniss said: “As policymakers we have to listen and listen well [and] ensure we identify the stakeholders, but . . . at the end of the day you make the decisions that you determine to be in the best interest of society,” he said.
Inniss said that discussions about decriminalizing same-sex relationships and reducing the age at which one could access medical services without parental consent were principally about teaching responsibility.
“I have a 16-year-old son, and it pains me to know that he can get behind the wheel of a vehicle, perhaps cause the death of someone, but he cannot go to the doctor on his own tomorrow if he has abdominal pain . . . . It is not just about sex but [about] teaching individuals to be responsible for their actions, giving them the information and making sure they have access to these particular services,” he said.
These ministers’ views clearly show the complexity of formulating public policy on these sensitive issues.
Lashley’s approach is one of exercising care not to run afoul of the public and be accused of shoving views down society’s throat. Some would say this is a measured and responsible way.
Inniss’ approach, though taking into account the need to handle such sensitive matters delicately, is that those in authority must be prepared to lead, and that sometimes means taking unpopular decisions. Some would say this is the hallmark of visionary leadership.
Whatever the approach, the fact of the matter is that there is no easy answer when it comes to legislating on issues of morality. Our best hope is that policymakers consult with stakeholders before making decisions.


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