How Rihanna’s New Gig Could Help Decriminalize Homosexuality in Barbados

How Rihanna’s New Gig Could Help Decriminalize Homosexuality in Barbados

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The island country of Barbados has named Rihanna, its most famous native daughter, “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.”

“Rihanna has a deep love for this country and this is reflected in her philanthropy, especially in the areas of heath and education,” Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said Thursday. “She also shows her patriotism in the way she gives back to Barbados and continues to treasure the island as her home.”

“She has demonstrated, beyond her success as a pop icon, significant creative acumen and shrewdness in business. It is therefore fitting that we engage and empower her to play a more definitive role as we work to transform Barbados,” Mottley says.

The pop icon said she “couldn’t be more proud” of the honor: “Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Mottley and her team to reimagine Barbados.”

In case you’re wondering, a “plenipotentiary” is a person “invested with the full power of independent action on behalf of their government, typically in a foreign country.” It’s not just an honorific, either: Rihanna will be expected to promote education, tourism and investment in Barbados.

It’s actually an excellent opportunity for her to advocate for LGBTQ rights on the island, where homosexuality is still technically punishable by life in prison. (Though the law is rarely enforced).

While nearby Belize struck down its sodomy ban in August 2016, and Belize and Barbados share an identical jurisprudence, the Barbados Constitution contains a “savings clause” that preserves laws inherited from the British Empire — even if they violate human rights.

There is already internal pressure to repeal the Barbados sodomy ban: In June 2016, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said that gays should be “left alone” and protected in the eyes of the law.

Rihanna has been an ally to the LGBTQ community already, though in subtle ways that match her low-key personality: In 2014 she made a surprise appearance at a drag ball in Queens, New York.

Two years later, she helped a fan come out to his family. Communicating via DM on Twitter, Rihanna told him, “Baby it’s okay to be scared, but it’s more important to be who you are… And more importantly the community here amongst us, we will hold you down, boo!”

And last year, when a fan asked why she didn’t include trans models in the ad campaign for her Fenty beauty line, Rihanna quickly and eloquently explained her opposition to token representation.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted trans women throughout the years, but I don’t go around doing trans castings!” she tweeted. “I don’t think it’s fair that a trans woman, or man, be used as a convenient marketing tool.”

International relations require a gentle hand, and Rihanna’s proven she has the compassion and tact to advocate for love, equality and inclusion in her homeland.

Now that Barbados named Rihanna “Ambassador Extraordinary” how can she advocate for LGBTQ rights in the country?