January 5, 2001 – Associated Press
Britain repeals laws banning homosexuality in Caribbean territories
by Marcelo Ballve, Associated Press
San Juan, Puerto Rico – Britain has scrapped laws that made homosexuality illegal in its five Caribbean territories, acting after legislatures refused to do so. London’s move angered religious leaders, who say homosexuality is immoral and goes against the grain of the deeply religious and socially conservative islands. “This is totally unacceptable to the minds of the Christian community here,” the Rev. Nicholas Sykes, chief pastor of the Church of England in the Cayman Islands, said Friday.
The order from the British Privy Council, which acts as the highest court for the territories, decriminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. The order went into effect this week and applies to Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos. Britain’s government said the anti-gay laws violate international human rights agreements it has signed. Britain has the power to unilaterally revoke the statutes, but had attempted for years to persuade local politicians to repeal the laws in island legislatures.
Religious leaders and local politicians said the disagreement over homosexuality reveals a widening cultural rift between what they condemned as an increasingly atheist Britain and its faraway Caribbean possessions. The territories could opt for independence. But they do not appear to consider a break from the United Kingdom a serious option and appeared resigned to following the order. “There is nothing we can do about it,” said Orlando Smith, a legislator in the British Virgin Islands.
May 18, 2003 – New York Times, New York
Caribbean Governments in Denial as AIDS Ravages Caribbean
by David Gonzalez
Guaymate, Dominican Republic – A ragged and exhausted man summoned his dwindling strength to lift himself off a foam rubber mattress on the floor of a stiflingly hot shack. “I drink cold water,” he said, haltingly, in this town of sugar cane workers, many of Haitian descent. “And that feels hot. Look at my skin. It burns.” Since January, he has wasted away from diarrhea. He insists that the local clinic does not know his illness.
But a health worker confirms what others only whisper: he is dying from AIDS, one of about half a million people with H.I.V. in the Caribbean, where the infection rate is the highest outside Africa. While the sheer scale of Africa’s epidemic has tended to overshadow the problem here, health experts and political leaders warn of the potential for devastation in a region of small, image-conscious countries that depend on a limited pool of labor and resources, as well as tourism.
Some 40,000 adults and children in the Caribbean are believed to have died of the disease in 2001 alone. It is already the leading cause of death among young men. “The overall threat is very simple; it is affecting the most productive population in the most productive age group,” said Patricio Marquez, a principal health specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, which is financing a regional response to the disease. “There is the risk that an entire generation could be wiped out.”
The epidemic’s full extent is obscured by fear, denial, limited treatment and a lack of public health resources. What is certain, however, is that a social and economic catastrophe is imperiling many countries as infections steadily climb and AIDS spreads in the general population. Some estimates say 2.4 percent of the Caribbean’s adult population is infected with human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS, though rates vary widely. The World Bank estimates that in some urban areas as much as 12 percent of adults carry the virus.
While Haiti, with an infection rate of more than 6 percent, has gained attention as the region’s hardest-hit country, the disease is by no means confined there, officials said. “It has been compared to a volcano that doesn’t stop erupting,” Rafael Mazin, a regional adviser on H.I.V. prevention and care for the Pan American Health Organization, said of the epidemic. “It’s there. It’s there. It’s there.” The persistent growth in infections has underscored both the special dangers and challenges that AIDS holds for the region. Migration between islands – and to the United States – is common and helps spread the disease. But the possible isolation of islands under separate governments and different languages remains a huge obstacle to cooperation. “Being an island is in a sense a figurative way to think about how things have been planned in an insular fashion,” said Dr. Arletty Pinel, Latin America portfolio director at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Political leaders have strongly spoken for prevention, casting AIDS as a development threat that they are trying to confront in order to avoid another Africa-style tragedy. If not, they will end up diverting scant resources to hospitals and clinics that are often hopelessly outmatched by the task of treating the disease. Antiretroviral drugs for those already infected are almost nonexistent. Money, and often political will, is short. Programs that are effective find themselves quickly overrun. A state-of-the-art treatment program started last year in Barbados, for example, has now drawn more than 600 patients from all over the region.
International donors, meanwhile, have mostly ignored the Caribbean in favor of poorer African nations. Money is now beginning to flow in, including some of the $15 billion pledged by President Bush and earmarked for Haiti and Guyana, another of the region’s worst cases. But some leaders, while welcoming the decision, said the effort was insufficient. “Singling out those two we don’t believe is the right approach,” said Dr. Denzil Douglas, prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, who is considered among the region’s most knowledgeable leaders about AIDS. “Because of the mobility of people within the Caribbean region,” he said, “it is to some extent a demonstration of not understanding the nature of the epidemic.”
Indeed, although Hispaniola – the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic – accounts for more than 80 percent of Caribbean AIDS cases, the Bush plan provides nothing for Dominican programs. Dominican officials said any fight against the virus must include joint programs with their Haitian counterparts. “The epidemic in Haiti is a reality, and it is out of control,” said Luis Emilio Montalvo, director of the Presidential Commission on AIDS in the Dominican Republic. “It is the poorest country in the hemisphere with AIDS. And we are neighbors.” Faced with that threat, Dominican officials have begun to confront the epidemic in ways that donors and policy experts hope could provide a model for the region. In many ways, the country shows both the challenges and advances in the Caribbean.
Dominican officials boast that a recent survey shows infections are 1 percent of the population, or half of what was originally estimated, a decrease they attribute to education and prevention campaigns. But the country needs to tackle the danger posed by migration from Haiti, as well as discrimination, denial and insufficient financing. “I’m not saying all the barriers have been overcome,” Mr. Marquez said. “But it is being discussed in the open and seen as something that requires national attention, because of the risk that it could undermine the whole society and have economic repercussions.”
A Point of Entry
In a place called Peligro – Danger – the rapid-fire sounds of Creole, the language of Haiti, are more common than Spanish inside the houses of men who earn about $2 for each ton of sugar cane they slash. These bateyes, communities of sugar cane workers of Haitian descent, are among the epidemic’s hot spots. “The bateyes have been the point of entry for the disease,” said Dr. JosÈ Alberto Roman, who works with H.I.V.-positive women in a nonprofit clinic in the nearby southeast coastal town of La Romana and supported by Columbia University. “When I first came here in the 1987, it was rare. Not anymore.
Now it is something terrible.” But the epidemic is terrible not merely in its presence, but also in the ignorance that surrounds it and in the near total absence of resources to stem the spread of a disease that does not respect borders. As it has in their native country, AIDS has ravaged the bateyes, where superstition, poverty and prejudice conspire against hope. The brother of one AIDS patient recently told Sister Anne Liam Lees, a nun who runs several health and nutrition projects, that the man had died from a spell cast by a creditor. “It’s very difficult to confront reality if you do not think this disease exists,” Sister Anne said. “Even if you told someone they were H.I.V. positive, they would not believe it. They would just go off and have sex with the first person they saw.”
Although several people in Peligro are dying from AIDS, neighbors insist that they do not have a clue. In the neighboring community of Batey 105, residents who are volunteer health educators insist that no one is infected with the virus, a dubious claim. Hygiene is abysmal in Batey 105, where there is not even a single latrine. One health volunteer attributed an outbreak of fevers to a cold breeze, and many people are sick from diarrhea. Public health workers sometimes come by to hand out antimalaria medicines, when they have them. If Sandy Senatic Feliz, a volunteer health promoter, is a front-line fighter against AIDS, then her arsenal is woefully inadequate. Every few months, she said, she is given a couple of dozen condoms.
She still has five left from her last supply run about half a year ago. “We haven’t had any infections here,” she insisted. Sister Anne doubts that, because there is often a lot of traffic in and out of the bateyes, as many men go looking for construction or other jobs after the cane-cutting season ends. When they return ill, and die, she said, their widows often are forced to pair off with another man to secure a place to live. “He comes back and spreads the virus without even knowing,” she said. “Then she has to find another man because she cannot live alone in the batey. The houses are for the workers in the industry, and a single woman does not work in the industry.”
Working the Clubs A syncopated twang blasts through the open-air bar of Jhonnys Patio, as couples embrace and twirl under a flashing rainbow of lights. There is a forced festiveness to the scene, a payday party where men – single and married alike – dance and drink with prostitutes surrounded by murals of nudes. According to government estimates, as many as 80,000 people earn a living as sex workers in the country, and 4.5 to 13 percent of them may be infected. In Puerto Plata, a north coast resort town, sex is for sale at places from upscale clubs to car washes.
The nonprofit Center for Human Solidarity and Promotion, or Ceprosh, is one of the country’s most successful anti-H.I.V. programs and was founded in Puerto Plata in 1989, to help H.I.V.-positive people find new work, and to provide health care and enlist sex workers to teach each other and their clients about protected sex. Harder to reach are the bisexual gigolos or female massagists who cater to tourists but refuse to consider themselves prostitutes and resist prevention efforts.
The tourist industry has been shy to confront the disease openly for fear of tarnishing its image. But the Punta Cana Group, which developed popular resorts on the island’s eastern tip, recently signed an accord with the government – the first of its kind in the Caribbean – to finance H.I.V. awareness programs, as well as to help improve local health facilities. Other innovative public and private efforts are emerging as well, like that of Ceprosh, whose workers do not use a classroom or clinical terms but take their program to bars and nightclubs using the attitude and language of the street. At Jhonnys, several woman strut past while an emcee asks which one is clean.
Another woman, part of the troupe, strides up to say looks are deceiving. “How do you keep clean?” she asks rhetorically. “With a condom. Remember, no party without a birthday hat!” The prostitutes laugh, and even their clients chuckle. The crowd applauds as the women drift out, distributing pamphlets and comic books with graphic depictions of how to prevent AIDS and other infections. The bar owners – some of whom charge the prostitutes a percentage for cruising for clients – welcome these skits. “It’s good for business, and the client is happier,” said JosÈ Antonio Acosta, the owner of El Consulado. “You know the problem, so it’s good to cooperate.”
Women who work the clubs said they almost always used condoms with their clients, but they said sexism prevented them from persuading their husbands or pimps to do the same. Most women in the clubs sell themselves to help rear their children. Some work for pimps who have sex with several women, while others have husbands who have affairs. Antonio de Moya, an epidemiologist at the Dominican government’s AIDS commission, said such relations underscored a cultural contradiction common in the Caribbean, where using a condom with your mistress can be considered the same as being faithful to your wife. “The paradox of our culture is we have resolved Hamlet’s dilemma,” Mr. de Moya said. “For us it is to be and not to be. The culture is disjointed. We should be talking about fidelity or prostitution, not both.”
The women who work in the industry say condom use is perhaps the best and only hope to slow the epidemic, even if programs like those favored by President Bush emphasize abstinence and fidelity as well. Josselina Reyes, a quick-witted woman who became a prostitute three years ago when her husband left her and a newborn child, said those options were fantasies. “Abstinence and fidelity do not exist,” she said, laughing. “Neither abstinence nor fidelity will make me any money. Only using a condom.” More Patients, but Few Tools Two solemn relatives prop up a skeletal young man as he shuffles past Dr. Ivelisse Garris’s office in the country’s only public clinic offering comprehensive services for AIDS patients. Dr. Garris, a compassionate but overworked physician, frowned. “That patient never should have been sent here,” she groused, referring to the man. “In an ideal world he would have been treated closer to his home.”
The problem, as on most other islands, is that hospitals and doctors lack the will or the resources to treat H.I.V.-positive patients, bouncing them from clinic to clinic. But the patients keep coming. Even Dr. Garris’s clinic in the capital, Santo Domingo, is hardly enough for the 2,000 patients on its rolls, and it is open only on afternoons. The clinic is not more than a warren of rooms on a second floor that is reached only by stairs, making it a daunting climb for weakened patients. Support-group members, some of whom have lived with the virus for more than a decade, meet regularly to encourage one another. Almost none of them, however, are receiving medication. It was only last year that the government started providing antiretroviral drugs at all, and then only after six patients brought a suit against the government in the Organization of American States’ human rights court to make the drugs available.
This year, the Global Fund has approved a $48 million grant to the country, which officials said would allow them to provide medicines for 6,000 people and set up treatment centers. Advocates and aid officials are hopeful that the money will drive what they feel could be a model program. But for now, medications remain unavailable in many places. Sixty patients at the social security hospital in Santo Domingo – financed by the government, employers and workers – have gone for two months without medications, increasing the risk of drug-resistant viral mutations. “There is no integrated attention in this country,” said Felipa Garcia, director of the country’s association for H.I.V.-positive people. “People go to hospitals and don’t get the medicines they need. They might get tranquilizers or antibiotics, but that is not real care.”
Doctors complain that they have not had deliveries of critical medicines in a program to prevent mother-to-child H.I.V. transmission, a large part of the epidemic’s spread. Worse yet, some doctors, fearful of infection, have refused to perform Caesarean sections on H.I.V.-positive women, even though the procedure is crucial to reducing the risk of transmission to the child. In Puerto Plata, fear of a personal crisis fills the waiting room at the public hospital each morning as pregnant women await the results of mandatory AIDS tests.
Every week, a couple of people test positive, prompting denials and anger, doctors said. On this morning, a woman tethered to an intravenous unit squirmed in her chair, loudly protesting the suggestion that she was H.I.V. positive. Dr. Sonia RamÌrez ushered her into a consultation room. “I’m ready for whatever,” she said defiantly, insisting that she was not infected. Dr. RamÌrez gently repeated the test result. She pushed a slip of paper with it across the desk. The woman tore it into small pieces. “I do not want my mother-in-law to know,” the woman said. “My husband said you can live with this virus.”
A few blocks away, several dozen members of an H.I.V. and AIDS support group were proving that that was so. Even given the lack of understanding from employers, and sometimes family and friends, increasingly they and many others are dealing openly with the disease and its effects, waiting for medicines and government resources to catch up. Not that long ago, they would have been written off for dead. Now, they spoke about the future as a possibility, not a fantasy. Some have small businesses. Others are rearing children. “This does not take away your dreams,” said Elis Consuelo Collado, 31, who received a diagnosis 18 months ago. “You understand life continues.”
April 24, 2005 – Miami Herald
The Caribbean’s Best Gay Beaches
Strictly from the perspective of gay popularity, there are better beaches around the world than those in the generally conservative Caribbean. But in terms of sheer splendor, it’s hard to find a more magical place for relaxing in the sun than this vast archipelago of lush, foliage-choked islands fringed by sugary-white, talcum-soft beaches. Here’s a roundup of especially wonderful and gay-frequented beaches in the Caribbean.
• Condado Beach (San Juan, Puerto Rico): This bustling stretch of sand lies close to the heart of Puerto Rico’s largest city, a short cab ride from historic and charming Old San Juan. The gayest spot is just outside the fabulous Atlantic Beach Hotel, which has a festive beach bar and cafe.
• Cupecoy Beach (St. Maarten): Sun worshipers flock to this hot spot on the Dutch side of one of the Caribbean’s favorite gay retreats. Cupecoy is the gay beach, usually jammed with nude, toned bodies.
• Magen’s Bay Beach (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands): Away from the bustle of cruise ships and duty-free shops that crowd St. Thomas’ commercial hub, Charlotte Amalie, Megan’s Bay Beach is a lovely stretch of sand with sea grape trees; the calm bay is perfect for a soak.
• Saline Beach (St. Barts): This island known for attracting jet-setters, fashionistas and other fabulous creatures couldn’t be more gay-friendly, even if there’s not exactly a defined gay scene, per se. Same-sexers are pretty much welcome everywhere, including 1,000-foot Saline Beach — where nudity is permitted.
• Sunset Waters Beach (Curacao): Cosmopolitan Curacao, with its Dutch allegiance, ranks among the most gay-friendly islands in the southern Caribbean, and the island has dozens of fine beaches. The broad, magnificent nudist beach below Sunset Waters Beach Resort pulls in plenty of gays and lesbians
Gayness in the Caribbean- personal observations of Jamaica and Barbados
I was doing an online search about gay Jamaica and came acrosss your website. i am a gay man from Jamaica but I live in Barbados at the moment. I am always apprehensive about articles written by foreigners about gay life in Jamaica (Gay Jamaica) but on the whole yours seemed quite balanced. I agree that there is a strong anti-homosexual streak in most Jamaicans but I also know that at least in middle class Jamaica there is some level of tolerance and violent attacks are almost non-existant.
I am not out, although my mother knows and my father suspects. I have also broached the topic on occasion with my straight friends. While most disagree with it, they often work with gay people and are generally indifferent. In addition I have many gay friends who lead quite happy persecution free lives and are out. I have found that Jamaicans will be more tolerant of a masculine gay man than one who displays feminine traits. Also as long as your sexuality is not thrust upon them they are fine.
I have no doubt we will see changes to the laws in Jamaica. It will take time but it will require a gradualist approach. The brash in-your-face appproach is likely to only make the situation less secure.
Regarding Barbados, the laws are essentially the same here. The difference is that the society is more educated, more polite and less aggressive than Jamaica. Homosexuality is not accepted for the most part but people will generally not attack gays and the issue is not dicussed generally in the popular culture. I have seen guys in drag walking through downtown Bridgetown hassle free and there are a few gay friendly establishments around. Generally, from my perspective, Barbados is a more tolerant society and its is only a matter of the laws reflecting people’s attitudes. Still don’t count on a change soon as the majority is still somewhat against removing the laws and no politician wants to be the “one”
There is a common misconception that homosexuality is illegal among the English-speaking Caribbean territories, however what is illegal is the anal sex (buggery), be it between males or male and female. In order to secure convictions there has to be a witness to the act who is willing to testify. Therefore although the act is illegal it is difficult to prosecute an act that transpired behind closed doors on private property. That is why the convictions for buggery that have come to the fore in the Caribbean have essential been the non-consensual kind, often paedophilia. This serves to reinforce in the eyes of the public that gay men molest children.
Barbados and Jamaica share a similar cultural heritage. Those similarities have diverged somewhat over the last 40 years but are still close thanks to the dominance of Jamaican music within the region. Having lived in Jamaica for most of my life and now in Barbados for a year, I think it is useful for me to examine some of the issues facing the gay community on both islands as seen from my perspective. I was born in Kingston and spent all my life in one of Kingston’s volatile inner city communities. I was however fortunate because of my education and career to have an insight into how middle class Jamaica operates.
Gay Jamaica is divided along much the same line as the country in general. There are those who have and the have-nots. I don’t think that it is a deliberate attempt at segregation, but rather affirmation that in a closeted society already segregated along economic lines people are more likely to associate with their own social group. This has in effect created two gay societies: one which is less persecuted and more affluent and a more vulnerable poorer group. The one commonality is that they are operating in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” system.
Middle class gay Jamaica is more tolerated and there is little risk of anyone attacking you. People will suspect you are gay or even know but they will be polite and not comment. Gay couples live together comfortably, shop together at the supermarket, have parties at their homes for gay friends hassle-free. You are also at significantly less risk of losing your job should your status be known. Overt masculinity is not even a requirement. Sure you will get the mumbled comment when you walk among some persons (especially if you deviate from their image of a man), but it is always just words. Guys will even openly cruise you if they think you are gay.
On the other side are the gay men who are living in less affluent neighbourhoods and in lower paid blue collar jobs. Their lives are not as easy. I know persons who have been evicted after their land lord found out they were gay; people who have been chased out of areas; homes have been attacked; at least one home set on fire; persons have been beaten or stoned. I have not personally known anyone who I can say was killed for being gay though. Gay men in Jamaica’s poorer communities are more likely to lead bisexual lives on the down-low. A lot of them marry and have children because it helps to dispel rumours about their sexuality. The more “manly” you are the less likely you are to have anything said or done.
I have spoken to “straight” men from the middle class and they generally hold the view that as long as gay man does not “bring the gay thing to them” , he can do whatever he likes. The poorer inner city guys tend to be more aggressive at the thought of dealing with gay men. The responses typically range from “beat them” to “kill them”.
While I am not seeking to excuse violent behaviour towards gays, it should be noted that the poorer urban areas in Jamaica have higher rates of violent crimes. Persons are angrier, more aggressive and less tolerant in general, not just towards gays. I have however noticed a significant curiosity in the attitude of inner city Kingston to certain gay men. I have seen guys who are very feminine but who were born and raised with these other rough guys, live relatively peacefully in these neighbourhoods. They get called names but they are generally not physically attacked or harmed.
I am relatively new to Barbados so my analysis of what gay men encounter here will be limited and may not reflect the true picture.
In Jamaica, Barbados has a reputation of being a country that is filled with gay men, and at first glance, to the Jamaican eye it may seem to be true. The reality, however, is probably that because of a more tolerant society gay men are more visible in Barbados. Wider access to information technology also allows for greater interaction among gays. Barbados is a generally more educated and less aggressive society than Jamaica. It also has a noticeable smaller gap between rich and poor.
Gay life in Barbados appears to be generally in line with that of middle class Jamaica. Many guys live with their partners and lead normal lives as any heterosexual couple. There is virtually no harassment at all. There is at least one guy who dresses in drag and works in downtown Bridgetown. It seems in some instances that some employers may have a policy to hire gay men judging from the numbers on their staff. There is at least one known gay club and several other regular establishments have big gay clientele.
The lack of venomous attacks however does not mean that it is not opposed. I have heard men in the city complaining about gay men “over-running” the country. I have also heard guys shout “batty bwoy” or “Buller” when a “less masculine” guy goes by. The overall picture however is one of significantly more tolerance than what exist in Jamaica on the whole. There has also been more positive discussion here about providing legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Still any changes seem to be several years away, although I have no doubt Barbados will get there long before Jamaica does.
One glaring example of the difference in attitudes is the upcoming gay cruise that will be leaving from Barbados in March 2006. So far there has been no public outcry over the issue. When Jamaica was suggested as a stop for a similar cruise a few years ago, the uproar it created killed that idea even before it was born. The reality is that in the English speaking Caribbean territories most gay men lead comfortable hassle free lives even in fiercely anti gay Jamaica. True, most of us are still somewhat closeted, but even if we could I don’t think most of us would be any more out than we are now. We want to have our private lives private and go about life as everyone else.
February 2007 – Caribbean Anti Violence Project
The Caribbean Anti Violence Project is supported by a coalition of private citizens and groups who share a vision of a kinder, fairer and more caring world. We oppose all forms of victimization, prejudice and discrimination. You should use this site to report bullying, harassment, discrimination, assault,violence and hate crimes.
The information we collect is used to educate people, to lobby for law reform, to develop better services and for human rights research. We can also issue alerts if particular ‘trouble spots’ are identified. Your privacy is very important. All questions are optional. You do not have to provide your name unless you want us to contact you. Our analysis will not contain identifying details.
It is important to put your experiences on the record. Your report makes a powerful statement and we appreciate the time that you take. For more information, contact us at: CaribbeanAVP.org
We appreciate your support
March 17, 2007 – cinemablend.com
Tobago To Elton John: You’re Gay, Stay Away
by Lexi Feinberg
How sad that in the same week Cyndi Lauper announces a tour to promote gay rights, an island northeast of Trinidad, called Tobago, tries to throw the movement back a few yards. Chalk it up to another disappointing day for mankind. Gigwise reports that Tobago Church leaders wish to ban Elton John from performing at the island’s upcoming Plymouth jazz festival in fear that his presence will turn the locals into Bible-bending homosexuals. “His visit to the island can open the country to be tempted towards pursuing his lifestyle,” says Philip Isaac, Archdeacon of Trinidad and Tobago. The year is 2007, ladies and gentleman. Just thought I’d point that out.
Elton’s marriage to David Furnish has incited local campaigners to try to ban the flamboyant, insanely talented musician via an immigration law, which suggests that homosexuals could be kept out of the country. “We have a huge problem with homosexuality in our population because, unlike our foreign counterparts, our free-up nature and infrastructure cannot support the conditions of this lifestyle,” one person told a local paper.
Buried beneath the screams of insanity is a sole voice of reason. Festival organizer Anthony Maharaj hopes the Rocket Man will ignore the ignorance and come join them; he insists it would be an honor to have him. “This is a man who was knighted by the Queen, who was highly complimented by Desmond Tutu,” he says. Still, if Tobago won’t have you, let me extend an open invite: Elton, you’re more than welcome to come back to New York for an extra show. We love you here, and we don’t even care who you wake up spooning in the morning. Imagine that.
July 08, 2007 – Miami Herald
Caribbean — Make sure islands will welcome you
by LoAnn Halden and Kenneth Kiesnoski
The irresistible lure of tropical breezes, powdery white-sand beaches and turquoise sea is expected to lure upwards of 10 million visitors to the Caribbean this year. But for gay and lesbian travelers, planning a vacation in paradise requires more consideration than tossing flip-flops and a beach hat into a suitcase. Many islands in this region have shown gay tourists a less-than-sunny side to their disposition.
In 2004, a Rosie O’Donnell R Family cruise, which caters to gay families, was met by 100 protesters when it stopped in The Bahamas. Amnesty International has described Jamaica, where a leading gay activist was abducted and murdered in 2005, as ”suffering from an appalling level of homophobia.” Last year, two gay men were severely beaten on the French/Dutch island of St. Maarten.
The St. Maarten incident notwithstanding, the gay-friendliness of each Caribbean island often correlates directly to its cultural heritage and politics. The most noticeable signs of gay life can be found in American territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, particularly on St. Croix. Puerto Rico offers the largest concentration of gay bars (in San Juan) as well as the opportunity for a quiet gay getaway on the isle of Vieques. French and Dutch-speaking islands also lean toward tolerance. The French West Indies isle of St. Barts may not have any all-gay venues, but it’s a popular choice among sophisticated gay travelers. Saba, the tiniest member of the Netherlands Antilles, frequently welcomes gay and lesbian scuba diving groups.
Courting Gay Market
While the Caribbean lags far behind most of the western world in terms of openness toward gay residents and visitors, signs of a sea change are slowly coming into view. Most prominent is the work of the Curac¸ao Tourism Board, which launched a gay website (www.gaycuracao.com) in January 2005 — the Caribbean’s first gay marketing campaign.
”We are committed to increasing Curac¸ao’s profile as a gay-friendly travel destination, and as a viable alternative in the Caribbean,” said Andre Rojer, a marketing representative with the Curac¸ao Tourism Board.
When a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship chartered by the gay company Atlantis Events recently stopped in Willemstad, Curac¸ao, each passenger received an invitation to an onshore ”Welcome to Curac¸ao” party organized by local organization Curac¸ao Gay Plasa, Rojer said. The Dutch island, located 44 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is also home to the gay ”Get Wet” weekend of parties and events, now in its third year; the 2007 schedule coincides with an International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association symposium on the island, Sept. 27-30.
The economic allure of the gay and lesbian traveler may eventually drive many more Caribbean destinations to try this welcoming approach. The Cayman Islands is notorious for shunning an Atlantis gay charter cruise in 1997, but Pilar Bush, director of the islands’ tourism board, has spent the past two years working to improve her homeland’s tarnished image.
In January 2006, Atlantis returned to Grand Cayman with more than 3,100 gays and lesbians sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. By all accounts, the Caymans redeemed themselves. Atlantis Events CEO Rich Campbell said islanders were overwhelmingly friendly and “more than accommodating in every way.” That’s key, according to Tom Roth, president and CEO of San Francisco research firm Community Marketing. ”A destination that is known for inequality and disrespecting its own gay citizens, it’s worthless for them to reach out to the gay community before cleaning that up,” he said.
On a regional level, hotel entrepreneur and airline industry veteran Allen Chastanet — who as vice president of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association has often spoken out against homophobia — was named the island’s minister of tourism last December. As a result, the now chairs the influential 34-nation Caribbean Tourism Organization, which shapes tourism promotion policy for the entire region.
Chastanet has called homosexuality a tourism “nonissue.” ”I think we’re all past that,” he said. If he’s right, expect to see more gay tourism efforts popping up in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, there are plenty of safe and entertaining possibilities for gay travelers to the region — as long as they are realistic and don’t expect to find gay amenities comparable to those in Amsterdam or San Francisco tucked away on an island in the Caribbean Sea.
28th November 2007 – PinkNews
Caribbean island considers ban on gay cruises
by Tony Grew
Tourist authorities on Grenada are considering a ban on cruises for gay people from their shores. The tiny island nation, which has a population of 103,000, gained independence from the UK in 1974. Male homosexual acts are illegal and punishable with up to ten years in jail. Tourism Minister Clarice Modeste-Curwen has said that a policy on the cruise ships has not been finalised.
“As a government, our policy is that we do not support it (homosexuality),” the minister told the Grenada Broadcasting Network. “But are we going to put a barrier that says in any port of entry that if somebody is gay they should be debarred from coming to this country? This is my question. What does the Grenadian community want of us?” Other Caribbean islands have had problems with the new phenomenon of gay family cruises. A cruise hosted by lesbian comedian Rosie O’Donnell was the focus of faith-based protests when it visited the Bahamas in 2004. Earlier this year church groups on Bermuda had promised action against visiting gay families. A ship was scheduled to stop at the island after departing from New York on July 7th.
R Family Vacations, the company owned by Ms O’Donnell that organises the event, was said by the Prime Minister’s spokesman to be concerned about “what might occur if the cruise stopped in Bermuda.” Andre Curtis of United By Faith had previously summed up the combative mood of some church groups on the island: “We may just choose to pick them (the cruise passengers) up by bus and bus them to our church, to different denominations, and have the pastors pray for them,” he said, according to The Royal Gazette. Opposition MPs in Bermuda were critical of the attitude of the churches.
Veteran human rights campaigner and PLP MP Renee Webb said: “It’s a sad day for Bermuda, the church thinks it can dictate who can come to Bermuda and who can’t,” she told the Gazette. “Today homosexuals, tomorrow who?” Ms Webb said she understood why the gay cruise had decided to avoid Bermuda. “They’re not taking a risk and you can’t blame them. They said they had 880 children on the ship. These children have been adopted by parents who are same-sex couples and the children know. But it’s one thing to know it, another thing to be faced by people with placards calling your parents whatever nasty names they chose to call them. It’s a shock, the kids were traumatised and they don’t want to go through that again,” she said, referring to the rough reception gay families received in the Bahamas.
Rosie O’Donnell has been arranging cruises for gay and lesbian families since 2004 and her success was documented in 2006 in the HBO show All Abroad Rosie’s Family Cruise. The inaugural cruise of 1,500 people set sail on a seven-day trip to the Caribbean on one of the largest cruise ships in the world.
December 2008 – forewordmagazine.com
Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles
by: Thomas Glave, editor
Issue Month: May/June 2008
Publisher: Duke University Press
416 pages, Softcover, $24.95
Review by Courtney Arnold
“It is a Saturday night, Independence weekend, and there is not one church on this island that would welcome me and my kind publicly, speak our names openly, with respect, and honor us for who we are.” In “Independence Day Letter,” Helen Klonaris’s contribution to Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles, the author describes the social exile experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in her native Bahamas. Klonaris writes eloquently about the internalized colonialism at the root of her country’s pervasive homophobia; yet her outrage—and the deep hurt it belies—point beyond just a “niche” cause in some “other” place. Indeed, the Caribbean’s notorious and often violent intolerance toward those who are, or are perceived to be, in some way queer is part of a far bigger issue.
As the selections in this anthology reveal, the negating force of the church and of mainstream Bahamian society to which Klonaris refers might equally be attributed to Black and GLBT communities within North America and Europe. In practical application, membership within these groups is often seen to be mutually exclusive and transgressions are met with sanction. Our Caribbean is an important book not only for acknowledging a minority within the minority, but because it bears a complex tension, bringing each voice out of isolation and into a larger discourse. Editor Thomas Glave has herein assembled a collection as genre-bending as its authors’ identities, with poetry (by Faizal Deen from Guyana/Trinidad and Rane Arroyo from Puerto Rico/US, among others) interspersed between academic essays (by Timothy S. Chin from Jamaica and Ochy Curiel from the Dominican Republic), fiction (by Cubans Virgilio Piñero and Leonardo Padura Fuentes), and personal essay (by Audre Lorde from Granada/Barbados/US and Assotto Saint from Haiti), some excerpted from seminal texts and some created specifically for this book. It is also noteworthy that with this publication Duke University Press makes headway against the long-established marginalization of topics generally dismissed as “too specialized” (read: irrelevant to) for serious (i.e. mainstream) academic consideration.
While solidarity can literally save lives, however, and institutional acceptance is often the first step toward greater gains, it is on the front lines, within the separate communities to which the authors at once belong and do not belong, that Our Caribbean holds the greatest potential for influence. Its very existence is a challenge to the usual defensiveness of identity politics. For this reason—and because we all stand to benefit from a more inclusive cultural mindset—this book represents a profound achievement. (June)
15 May 2009 – UNDP-Newsroom
Call to eliminate homophobia in Latin America and the Caribbean
Countries Must Eliminate Homophobia and Transphobia if They Want to Curb the HIV epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, Says UN
Panama City – Stigma, discrimination and violence against homosexuals and other people who have same-sex relations, also known as homophobia, and against transgender, transvestite or transexual people, also known as transphobia, are hindering the efforts to curb the HIV epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, a group of United Nations (UN) agencies said today, in anticipation of the observation of the World Day against Homophobia (May 17).
Evidence indicates that these populations are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. But fear of discrimination tends to dissuade people from seeking HIV testing, counseling, care and, when applicable, treatment. The UN LAC Regional Directors’ Group, representing ten UN agencies, funds, programs and UNAIDS Secretariat working in the response to HIV in the Latin American region, has urged national government and civil society to renew efforts to eliminate homophobia and transphobia
“Stigma, discrimination and violence against homosexual, bisexual and trans people will only stop if society works against it. It is imperative to develop a supportive environment where all people are treated with dignity and respect. All citizens are part of society regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but prejudice and repression have impeded recognition of the rights of sexual minorities, “said Rebecca Grynspan, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on behalf of the group.
“This situation is improving, but not fast enough to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2015, as committed by the governments,” said the UNDP director. Within the UN system, UNDP is the lead agency for human rights, gender, and sexual diversity. According to the UN, the hostility against these groups varies, but homosexual and trans people are frequently insulted, fired from jobs, and barred from community activities. Often they experience discrimination in the health services and are mistreated by the police. Every year there are reports of assaults and homicides motivated by homophobia and transphobia.
Trans people (transsexual, transgender and transvestite persons) face particular challenges, including severe discrimination and harassment in schools. Many are expelled during adolescence and have little chances of getting formal jobs. The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS will launch the document “UNAIDS: Action Framework: Universal Access for Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender People” , which calls for a coordinated and expanded UN response to improve the human rights situation of men who have sex with men and trans people.
“Countries in the region should observe the World Day against Homophobia as a way to strengthen human rights and build up more effective AIDS responses in the region,“ said Cesar Nunez, UNAIDS regional director for Latin America. “Discrimination is an act against the essence of human beings. It gravely affects not only those who are directly discriminated against, but also their families and communities,” said Marcela Suazo, UNFPA Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. The International day against homophobia gives us the opportunity to create awareness of the problem and take responsibility to eliminate it.”
“Hatred against people with different sexual identities or orientations is an assault on life itself and a clear violation of basic human rights, which call on us to avoid distinctions between human beings,” said Mirta Roses, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, endorsed this statement.
The World Day against Homophobia was created by civil society organizations to mark the events of May 17, 1990. On that day, the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the 10th Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10). The 10th Revision recognized that “sexual orientation (heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual) by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.” In earlier versions of the Classification, homosexuality had been classified as a “sexual disorder.”
“Countries should use May 17 to examine their national legislation and policies, and determine how they can be improved,” said Rebecca Grynspan, in the statement, which is also available in YouTube. Examples of countries that have enacted policies or legislation to curb homophobia include, Brazil, which launched “Brazil Without Homophobia” in 2006, a comprehensive effort involving several federal and state agencies; Argentina andEl Salvador, which established that health services should no longer tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In 2008, Nicaragua and Panama, the last two countries in Latin America where sex between men was criminalized, revoked such legislation. In the Caribbean, the decriminalization of consensual sex among adults was proposed during the 8th Annual General Meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) last November, but homosexual behavior is still effectively a crime in seven countries.
The Regional Directors Group was created in 2003 to enhance the synergy of the United Nations response to HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is comprised of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank. All of these organizations are co-sponsors of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
May 31st 2009 – Trinidad Experss
‘One in five MSM may be HIV positive’
On the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia last week UNAIDS called on governments to create social and legal environments that enable universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Cedriann J Martin investigates why Trinidad and Tobago is among the countries with the highest HIV rates for homosexual men. Some names have been changed in the interest of privacy. As many as one in five men who has gay sex in Trinidad and Tobago may be HIV positive. According to this country’s 2008 progress report to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), there is a 20 per cent HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men or MSM. (MSM is a clinical term referring to all men who have sexual encounters with other men, not just those who identify as gay or bisexual.)
Two other Caribbean countries made the troubling top ten list last year. Guyana’s HIV prevalence rate among MSM is reported as being slightly higher at 21.3 per cent while Jamaica is second only to Kenya with between 25 and 30 per cent. The local statistic is taken from Many Partnered Men: A Behavioural and HIV Seroprevalence Study of Men who have sex with Men in Trinidad, unpublished 2005 research done by the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (Carec), Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO). The study is skewed by what researchers call recruitment bias. Luke Sinnette, President of Friends For Life (FFL), a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) serving MSM, explained.
“FFL was part of collecting the information for that 20 per cent statistic. That testing was done with a lot of HIV/AIDS organisations so people are coming into it either thinking that they are positive or having put themselves at risk as opposed to a general population study,” he said.
In an email response Dennis James, Project Director of MSM No Political Agenda (MSMNPA), said while those numbers “may best represent the likelihood of infections amongst MSM it is almost impossible to have accurate surveillance information” because so many men are secretive about their sexuality. Since 2003 T&T’s National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS has included a mandate to address the needs of vulnerable groups including MSM. But the NACC’s “What’s Your Position” campaign which seeks to highlight the ABCDEs of HIV prevention-abstinence, fidelity, condom-use, testing and education-doesn’t specifically target this group.
FFL and MSMNPA are the only MSM specific NGOs that have received funding from the NACC for work with the community. For six months in 2008 FFL got support for the Community Chatroom, a forum for MSM to meet and discuss life, well-being and health. MSMNPA produces a newsletter, a website and other material that focus on HIV information and education. James says many in the community are being infected precisely “because of a lack of prevention initiatives targeting them”. The UNGASS report corroborates. It says that one of the shortcomings of this country’s HIV response is that efforts have been aimed at the general population “with limited interventions specifically designed (for) and directed at high risk groups”. MSM have been slipping through the cracks in our country’s HIV communications and programming for fully a quarter century.
Paul was 21 when he learned that he was HIV positive in 1985, just two years after the first AIDS case was diagnosed in Trinidad and Tobago. Now 45, he remembers the mystery that surrounded the virus two dozen years ago. “At that time it was labeled a homosexual disease so that was right up my alley. They were publishing signs in the tabloids things like swollen glands and fever. Before that there was no scare. We had no reason to protect ourselves. By the time I became cautious,” he said, “it was too late.” The 1984-1986 “AIDS file” at the Heritage Library conveys the panic of that time. One Guardian story of January 1985 starts: “The killer AIDS virus is rampant among male homosexuals in T&T”. A 1984 Express piece calls HIV the “gay virus”. The laundry list of symptoms Paul refers to appears repeatedly: night sweat, prolonged fever, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, coughs and swollen lymph glands. There was comparatively little mention that an HIV positive person might show no symptoms at all.
Mark didn’t have symptoms. It was the early 1990s. He’d just started to work, applied for life insurance and wasn’t worried about the blood test. “I went back to get my results and a man just gave me a piece of paper and said ‘You have AIDS. You should go see a doctor’,” he remembered. “I left there totally shattered. I cried all the way back to the office. I didn’t know what to do because the only message I had about AIDS was that you were going to die.”
By the time Mark started having sex HIV had spread to the heterosexual population and that was echoed in the new messages about the virus. Now 34, he reflects that he didn’t think he was at risk. “Those messages didn’t speak to me and HIV didn’t come up in conversations with any of the people I had sex with. I remember vaguely somebody telling me ‘be careful you get this thing’. But you didn’t know exactly what it was, how it affected you, what the correct messages were, where to go to get information or how to protect yourself against it. I didn’t learn about condoms until afterwards,” he said.
Peter, 33, was diagnosed with HIV four years ago. He said there has always been “an air of HIV” in the gay community-talk about who had been infected and who had passed away. But that didn’t translate into either solid information or safe sex. Peter thought of the virus as a plague of the poor. “Because of the imagery that was used I thought if somebody was from a certain economic background or looked a certain way he was safe. I conjured up imagery in my mind that if you were a black person from a certain neighbourhood, possibly you were that way and if I went with someone from an upper scale neighbourhood I would be okay,” he reflected. “Clearly that was a myth and a big shock to me.”
Different careers. Different ethnicities. Diagnoses in different decades. But their stories illustrate the gulf between what people should know about HIV and what they really do know, even as the national response evolves.
“Most if not all national prevention, treatment and care programmes exclude MSM, or do not include them in their messaging. The need to be politically correct and fear of offending the vast majority drive such decisions,” James noted. “Problem is it creates some imbalances in messaging and service delivery. MSM feel that they are treated separately and this perpetuates a sense of non-involvement. In other words many MSM can say, ‘That is not about me’. Messaging requires a gender approach-an understanding of the issues, needs and gaps within the targeted groups.”
In a September 18, 2008 email response Deputy Technical Director of the NACC, Andy Fearon, said that while the new five year strategic plan due this year will aim for a higher degree of engagement with the community, the NACC actually exceeded its last spending target for that group. “The plan called for a total of TT$0.82m and expenditure up to 2006 was TT$1.72m. As we go forward, however, we need to look at programmes that deal with more behaviour change in conjunction with raising awareness for all stakeholder groups,” he wrote.
Sinnette welcomes a bigger commitment and thinks it should start with more money. “The MSM community is probably about 12 to 20 per cent of the national community. I think it’s fair for that proportion of the budget to be spent on them,” he submitted. UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Dawn Foderingham, clarified that T&T’s strategy for addressing the human rights of vulnerable groups as it pertains to HIV does not entail MSM-specific legislative reform, like the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The approach is far broader.
“Every one of us has the same rights and protection under the Constitution and Equal Opportunity Act but those do not protect us with respect to our HIV health status. One of the things we’re working on is a wide stakeholdership through an advocacy and human rights committee to address the rights of every citizen as it relates to HIV related issues. Through umbrella related legislation we will address stigma and discrimination based on HIV health related status,” she explained.
Foderingham warned that though the stigma and discrimination experienced by MSM is a driving factor for the spread of HIV, we should not perceive either the disease or the proposed protections as their concern alone. “We need to realise that HIV is transmitted through sexual activity regardless of whether you are MSM. If you are heterosexual and having unprotected sex you are vulnerable to HIV and any other sexually transmitted disease. That is the main point. People seek to differentiate themselves too much,” she said, “without minding what’s going on in their own backyards.”
June 2009 – Ian Randle Publishers
Sexuality, Social Exclusion and Human Rights examines some of the key drivers of HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean context by exploring risks, vulnerability, power, culture, sexuality and gender. It provides a unique perspective and analysis of the Caribbean response and how the inclusion of many different sectors in society and an interdisciplinary, rather than segregated multi-disciplinary approach, can effectively address the spread of HIV and AIDS in the region.
Divided into four sections, the volume raises controversial issues not formally discussed in the Caribbean context, but which require confrontation to arrest the spread of HIV.
June 03, 2009 – IGLHRC
LGBTTTI Coalition Applauds Approval of OAS Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
On June 3, 2009, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved a resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in the countries of the Americas at its 39th General Assembly session in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. This resolution is the result of three years of advocacy work by a Coalition of 24 LGBTTTI groups from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This Coalition meets every year before the General Assembly to coordinate its advocacy efforts within the OAS.
During the informal dialogue between the Secretary General of the OAS and civil society groups in San Pedro Sula, José Miguel Insulza highlighted the need for the secretariat to draft a special report focusing in particular on hate crimes and human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual diversity. Later, during the dialogue between the heads of delegations of member states and civil society groups, Claudia Sosa Medina, a Honduran transgender woman, acting as spokesperson of a coalition of activists from Honduras, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, The Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Suriname, Guyana, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Belize, read a statement requesting the ministers of foreign affairs of the OAS member countries to counteract violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex individuals within the region.
The Coalition expressed its concern for the lack of reference to the notion of gender identity and expression in paragraph 5 of the Declaration of San Pedro Sula, which says in relevant part: “Gender identity of travestis, transgenders and transsexuals is a fundamental element of our individual freedom and self-construction.” The representative from the United States reiterated the commitment of President Barack Obama to supporting laws for the development of policies that recognize the rights of LGBT people, highlighted her country’s signature of the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity, and expressed U.S. opposition to so-called “sodomy laws.”
The representative of Brazil mentioned that country’s sponsorship of the draft resolution “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” while Colombia emphasized that the goal of eliminating violence against LGBT people is very important for its government, and that its parliament has approved instruments towards reaching this goal. Finally, the representative from Saint Kitts & Nevis expressed that country’s opposition to any form of violence against any individual, regardless of the orientation of the human being.
On June 3, during the fourth plenary session, the Permanent Council (2008-2009) presented its annual report, containing the resolutions approved by the Permanent Council itself. One of those resolutions approved was AG/RES. 2504 (XXXIX-O/09) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” The resolution not only ratifies what was established last year by resolution AG/RES.2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) entitled, “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” but also references the Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presented at the UN General Assembly on December 18th, 2008.
The new resolution, sponsored by Brazil, condemns acts of violence and human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It also expresses concern over violence against human rights defenders working against these kinds of violations, calling on the states to ensure their protection and on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American system to take action on this issue. Finally, the resolution reiterates the request for the Committee on Legal and Political Affairs to include the issue of “sexual orientation and gender identity” in its agenda for the next ordinary period of sessions.
As a Coalition, we celebrate the approval of this second resolution and we consider it to be one of the tangible and historical results of the advocacy work started in 2006 by Global Rights, Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos and IGLHRC – LAC. This work included coordinating the creation of this coalition that initially focused on advocacy for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in the draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. We thank UNDP, OEA, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and Global Rights for their support ensuring our participation in this General Assembly.
The participants of the Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean within the OAS were:
AIREANA – Camila Zabala – Paraguay, Colectivo TTT San Pedro Sula- Claudia Sosa – Honduras, COLECTIVA MUJER y SALUD, Julie Betances – Dominican Republic, CORPORACIÓN PROMOCIÓN DE LA MUJER, Soledad Varela – Ecuador, CORPORACION OPCION, Diana Navarro – Colombia, ENTRE-TRANSITOS – Camilo Andrés Rojas – Colombia, GRENCHAP – Kimany Parke – Grenada, HUMANA NACION TRANS-Hazel Gloria Davenport – Mexico, IGLHRC – Marcelo Ferreyra – Argentina, INSTITUTO RUNA-Belissa Andia – Peru, ASOCIACIÓN LIDERES EN ACCION -Germán Rincón – Colombia, SURINAME MEN UNITED – Kenneth Van Endem – Suriname, MULABI, ESPACIO LATINOAMERICANO DE SEXUALIDADES Y DERECHOS- Marina Bernal- México- Colombia, ORGANIZACIÓN DE TRANSEXUALES POR LA DIGNIDAD DE LA DIVERSIDAD Andrés Rivera – Chile, RED AFRO LGBTI – Edmilson Medeiros BRAZIL, J-FLAG – Maurice Tomilson – Jamaica, RED LACTRANS – Marcela Romero- Argentina, RED TRANS Nicaragua – Silvia Martínez – Nicaragua, SOCIETY AGAINST SEXUAL ORIENTATION DIDSCRIMINATION- Namela Baynes Henry – Guyana, UNIBAM – Devon Gabourel – Belize, VELVET UNDERGROUND Angela Francis – Trinidad and Tobago.
As a Coalition partner: Stefano Fabeni-Global Rights
June 11, 2009 – Human Rights Watch
LGBT Rights Movement: Progress and Visibility Breed Backlash
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights Defenders Need Resources, Broader Support
(New York) – Activists working for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in many countries are still under-resourced, unnecessarily isolated, and vulnerable to violent backlash even after four decades of struggle, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 44-page report, “Together, Apart: Organizing around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Worldwide,” demonstrates that many groups defending LGBT rights – especially throughout the global South – still have limited access to funding, and courageously face sometimes-murderous attacks without adequate support from a broader human rights community.
“Dozens of countries have repealed sodomy laws or enshrined equality measures, and that’s the good news as activists celebrate their successes during Gay Pride month,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and the principal author of the report. “But visibility breeds violence, and there is a pressing need for new support and protection.”
The report is based on written surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 100 activists working for LGBT rights in five regions: sub-Saharan Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; the Asia and Pacific region; and Latin America and the Caribbean. In each region, the report outlines prevailing patterns of abuse and rights violations; the political and social challenges, and opportunities that activists see ahead; and key strategies these movements are using to achieve social change.
The report shows widely disparate rights situations in different regions. In Latin America, for instance, decades of coalition work between LGBT activists and other social movements – including women’s and mainstream human rights groups – have led to sweeping legal changes, with most sodomy laws in the region repealed and new anti-discrimination protections being debated. Yet repressive laws and pervasive violence based on gender identity and expression often remain unremedied. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the report found, waves of backlash regularly greet the efforts of LGBT activists to make their voices heard, often silencing them with brutal violence. Extremist religious groups – some with support from kindred denominations in North America – actively promote prejudice and hatred.
Key findings of the report include:
* Organizations working on sexual orientation and gender identity still lack resources, as well as adequate support from other human rights movements. Increasing funding for these rights defenders, and building their political alliances, is crucial.
* Defenders of LGBT people’s rights, and of sexual rights in general, routinely face extraordinary levels of violence. In Jamaica, an angry crowd surrounded a church where a gay man’s funeral was being held and beat the mourners. In Kenya, one group told Human Rights Watch matter-of-factly that its members were “attacked by an angry mob who wanted to lynch them and they had to be evacuated under tight security.”
* Sexuality has become a dangerous cultural and religious battleground. Increasingly, both politicians and conservative religious leaders manipulate issues of gender and sexuality to win influence or preserve power. They characterize LGBT people as alien to their communities, outsiders whose rights and lives do not matter.
* The need to change laws is still a central issue – but in many different contexts. More than 80 countries still have “sodomy laws” that criminalize consensual, adult same-sex sexual relations. Yet even in countries that have scrapped these provisions, laws on “public scandals,” “indecency,” “wearing the clothing of the opposite sex,” and sex work are still in place, allowing widespread police harassment of transgender people and others. Enshrining equality for lesbian and gay people in South Africa’s constitution produced an example of global importance, for instance. Yet South Africa’s government is still not fully committed to equality at all levels, or capable of curtailing sexual violence.
The report also details creative strategies that activists have used to combat prejudice and promote equality. In India, activists have combined a legal challenge to the sodomy law with a wide-ranging public campaign to change public attitudes. In Brazil, transgender groups have fostered visibility and countered discrimination through simple monthly excursions to public spaces such as shopping malls or beaches. Activists told Human Rights Watch this helps trans people “feel strong in a group and face those spaces they believe are ‘off limits’ for them. And it is also meant to educate the public to see transgender people as citizens …with whom they can share a movie or a game and the beach.”
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the historic and galvanizing clashes between LGBT people and the police that many see as marking the beginning of the modern US gay rights movement. Yet the US still has fewer protections for LGBT people’s equality than countries such as Brazil or South Africa.
“As the United States prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its own gay rights movement, this report points to lessons of struggles and successes in other countries that everyone can learn from,” said Long. The research and publication of “Together, Apart” were supported by the generosity of the Arcus Foundation, a US-based philanthropic foundation whose mission embraces achieving social justice that is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race.
Four friends of mine, all hard-working professionals, recently completed a cruise on one of the many mega-ships that ‘sail’ (‘motor’ should be the word since the boat is driven by huge diesel engines) among the hundred islands in the Caribbean Sea, many of which are little countries with their own languages, laws and currency. Some of them are protectorates or territories of larger European countries and are subject to those laws.
Daily, these big ships bring in thousands of customers to small ports of call to visit the beaches, souvenir stalls, restaurants, dive shops, taxi stands and even real estate offices where a certain few fall in love with the place and find their dream home. Some ex-pats come to visit and never leave. Most, of course, ferry back out to their floating hotels after a day’s activities tired and hungry.
Needless to say, among the crowds are a small portion of gay and lesbian tourists, many as couples, who mingle with the crowds virtually invisible during mealtimes or participating in ship events like the gym, cinema or stage shows.
My friends, two gay male couples, report they had a nice time, relaxing from stressful jobs at home. They visited 8 different islands and 8 different cultures, swam in azure waters and wandered the lanes of small towns window shopping or taking a donkey-cart tour of a town. It’s the usual thing tourists do on these trips, gliding along the surface of these small countries interacting slightly with native inhabitants.
After their return one couple got together with my partner and me, also a gay couple, to share their vacation stories and some dinner one evening. During the conversation about the ship’s size, handsome staff (well, a few anyway), the menus, entertainment and the crystal-clear beaches and charming villages they visited, I asked if they noticed any other gay folks on the ship. One of them said, “oh, I suppose there were some but we don’t pay much attention to that. We don’t care,” and then went on to another topic.
This comment has stuck in my mind since: the apparent lack of interest to other gay and lesbian passengers who are fortunate enough to afford a luxury cruise and courageous enough to travel publicly as a couple—gay couples are noticeable. Yet they were reacted to by my friends with seeming indifference almost verging on disparagement of like-minded others. The comment was all the more surprising since my friends are active in gay rights and HIV charity work which serves others who are less privileged or less well.
Have these friends—prosperous, fashionable, socially connected–become so care-less to the achievements of our community that they don’t need to recognize the privilege they have and to recognize similar achievement in others. My friends, and likely other gay passengers, have clearly done well enough in one generation by hard work and resistance against conservative forces that would have us quarantined in a far off place.
Such privilege is not so for most of our world LGBT community–and for our friends only in recent years.
Part of my reaction here, is sourced in my awareness that for most homosexuals in the Caribbean the good life is hardly within reach.
Before these two couples left on their cruise I asked to see their itinerary. The list of ports included San Juan Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Dominica, St Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Maarten, Tortola, Half Moon Cay (Bahamas), and Virgin Gorda.
A little research found the following conditions govern homosexuality in the Caribbean:
Legal status: San Juan Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Guadeloupe, St Martin, Tortola, Virgin Gorda
Illegal status: St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Granada, Dominica, St Lucia, Jamaica, St Vincent & Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago
Legal but not accepted: Half Moon Cay (Bahamas)
Wholly unaware were these guys to the fact that in four (St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Dominica, St Lucia) of the eleven places they breezed through they were technically criminals: homosexuality is illegal in these small island nations whose legislatures have passed statutes that make outcasts of same-sex-loving people in their own societies. In the case of Half Moon Cay, as part of the Bahamas, homosexuality is not illegal but it is not accepted and homophobic attitudes run deep.
The Christian missionaries got there before we did, a couple of centuries ago, and in their biased wisdom persuaded political leaders to determine queers to be illegal citizens—at the same time they approved the import of African slaves whose trade made many white Christians rich men.
The present day insult cuts deep and visceral for me. In 2005 a Jamaican gay activist friend of mine was murdered in Kingston. A year later another gay activist doing HIV education outreach was murdered in the same city. A year after that a young man who was merely suspected of being be gay was chased by a gang with bats and cornered at the Kingston harbor where he jumped into the water to escape a beating and drowned as the gang cheered.
In seven of these small ‘paradise’ Caribbean country gays face harassment, job discrimination or death. In addition to St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Dominica, St Lucia, where my friends stopped, there are four more: Jamaica, Granada. St Vincent & Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago where LGBT people are not welcome.
And after two weeks my friends sailed safely home, tanned and a few pounds heavier–back to work, with the Caribbean an unruffled pleasant memory. Meanwhile our LGBT community there continues to be harassed and vilified with more violence to come.
I’m not suggesting my friends not take deserved vacations. But it would have been a gesture of integrity if they had informed Holland-American Cruise company that they are unwittingly supporting homophobic discriminatory governments in certain Caribbean destinations by landing on their shores. If more LGBT travelers recommended the company bring political and economic pressure to bear on these little nations by threatening to stop sailing to their ports. Holland-American could make a fine contribution to human rights and increase their acceptability among the gay community worldwide.
For more about homophobia in the Caribbean see:
September 2, 2009 – The Barbados Advocate
Region still struggling to see a sustained decline in new HIV infections
by Regina Selman Moore
For a long time, the HIV and AIDS response has focused on risk behaviour without acknowledging that our social, political and economic environment combine to create circumstances that can increase or decrease a person’s ability to navigate towards safe choices in sexual decision making.
That was the view expressed recently by Programme Associate at the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Cherise Adjodha. She has noted that in spite of efforts to reduce the spread of HIV, the region is still struggling to see a sustained decline in new HIV infections. “The HIV and AIDS epidemics in the Caribbean have had tremendous consequences on the development of our societies, from the taxing financial burden on our health care systems to the implications for the women and men affected, their families and our local economies. While we have more money available in the HIV and AIDS response, increased access to treatment and more information than ever about HIV transmission, there are still thousands newly infected annually.
“Keeping Score II”, a consolidated report of Caribbean country data on HIV, notes that for every person in anti-retroviral treatment in the Caribbean, 5 were newly infected, with 10 000 new infections in 2007. “HIV is contracted and spread primarily through heterosexual sexual activity in the Caribbean region. Prevention programmes have centered on knowledge and condom provision and while there have been successes, we are still struggling to see a sustained decline in new infections. Particularly, there is great concern that stigma and discrimination limits access to prevention, treatment care and support services.”
The complexity of sexuality and sexual relations she says, are illustrated by common trends: men engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners; the subjugation of women into sexual roles because of economic dependencies; gender-based violence against women and girls and increasing sexual violence against boys; incest; stigma and discrimination against homosexuals; lack of information available to youth about their reproductive health and rights; and lack of health-seeking behaviour and reluctance to test among men, out of fear of being seen as weak or homosexual.
Adjodha has, therefore, proposed a gender responsive and human rights-based approach to treat to these issues. “We are coming to recognise and understand more clearly that our socially and culturally constructed roles as men and women – our gender roles – confine us to particular expressions of masculinity and femininity. In all areas of the HIV and AIDS response, we are confronted by dominant ideologies about gender which hinder women and men, boys and girls in protecting themselves from infection and in accessing services. This, combined with still very pronounced gender inequality, has contributed to the creation of an environment where HIV can be easily spread,” she stated. “Through a gender responsive and human rights-based approach, we can recognise the particular vulnerabilities being faced by women and men, boys and girls and identify the harmful behaviours and environments that promote risk and vulnerability to HIV and AIDS,” Adjodha stated.
October 2009 – ukblackout.com
Homophobia in Caribbean Music
Recently in Guyana, there has been an upsurge, in cycles, of virulent campaigning for homosexual rights in Guyana and against societal homophobia. One area of attack has been “violent homophobic” lyrics in Caribbean music. The cause is mostly clear and largely justified. Like much of the call to violence in general, the call to violence against homosexuals in dancehall, some reggae and the occasional soca song, should be condemned. However, where is the line drawn between campaigning for tolerance and offensive over-representation of a minority issue?
The problem with homosexual militancy as it’s increasingly manifested here is that it is being applied with an arrogance that has completely no regard for societal norms and values. Homophobia, essentially and etymologically speaking, is not hatred. The songs and the violence are simply symptoms of it. Homophobia is fear, largely a fear held by many that homosexuals are immoral and predatory or vicious in nature.
While the immorality aspect of that fear is debatable, there is no evidence that gay people are any more prone to predation of viciousness than the general population. The same cannot be said of the homosexual lobby.
When Buju Banton garnered a hearty applause from the audience on Saturday for his singing of a song that has become a lightning rod for criticism by the gay rights lobby, it was reflective of the strength of the position. While the song is utterly wrong and condemnable in its exhortations to violence, the artiste’s last minute performance of it may be understandable within the context of attempts made to have him banned from performing here.
The demand that musicians publicly renounce homophobia or their belief that homosexuality as immoral as a precondition for performance is wrong, and the calling for them to stop collecting royalties from songs which contain homophobic lyrics is a curious admixture of arrogance and idiocy.
If Buju Banton is to be forever censored and censured because homophobic words constitute a part of his oeuvre, then the Bible needs to be forever censored and censured since not only is it the textual source of Caribbean musicians’ onslaught against homosexuality but it continues to outsell any album made by Buju or any Caribbean artiste. It should not be used in Church each Sunday.
In fact, the link between homophobia in Caribbean music and the Bible is so strong that one artiste who was here recently, Peter Ram, has the words “Man shall not lie with man/It is an abomination”, taken from the book of Leviticus as he informs us, as lyrics in his hit soca song, “Down de road.”
The problem with homosexual lobbyists and militants is that in their blind offensive against homophobia, they either ignore or fail to recognize that their actions constitute an assault on the majority’s most sacred values. How can this not result in greater homophobia? There seems to be the view that homophobia if assaulted long enough and strong enough is going to suddenly metamorphose into homophilia. There is no society in which that has happened and it will not in the Caribbean.
December 1, 2009 – antillean
On World AIDS Day 2009, sexual minorities are still criminals in the Caribbean
December 1, 2009 marks the 21st observance of World AIDS Day, under the theme Universal Access and Human Rights. In our observance of World AIDS Day, our call to action is to repeal laws criminalising homosexuals in the Caribbean. When World AIDS Day was observed today in the Caribbean, ceremonial fanfare belied many governments’ fervent denial of basic human rights to sexual minorities in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
While issuing official government communiqués on fighting the disease in the region – which is second only to Sub-Saharan Africa in new HIV/AIDS infections – Caribbean lawmakers, through their silence, stood steadfastly behind laws which criminalise homosexuals, and tacitly endorsed the discrimination and stigma that work in tandem to thwart any effort to stem the disease’s spread in the LGBT community.
Today, on World AIDS Day 2009, a gay man in Barbados could still be sentenced to life in prison¹ if found guilty of homosexual acts. In Jamaica, he could be sentenced to ten years hard labour2, considerably less than the twenty five year prison sentence prescribed in Trinidad & Tobago3. Indeed, all independent Caribbean states with the exception of the Bahamas and Cuba have criminalized homosexuality to some degree, often with penalties harsher than those which exist in Ghana4, Ethiopia5 and Zimbabwe 6.
Religion, political pandering and homophobia continues to supersede human rights in the region – HIV/AIDS control notwithstanding.
Laws against homosexuality militate against HIV/AIDS control:
A 2009 UNAIDS report found that heterosexual sex is the main driver of HIV transmission in the region, with emerging evidence indicating that substantial transmission occurs among men who have sex with men (MSM), in spite of the law. However while the law does not deter sex between men, Stephen Lewis, Director of AIDS-Free World summarizes: men who have sex with men are often disparaged, abused and discriminated against, and in order to seize legitimacy have sex with women, thus spreading the virus further into the general population.
Laws against homosexuality are a breach of human rights:
Individual rights, freedoms and protection from discrimination are enshrined to varying degrees in most Caribbean constitutions, yet are incompatible with laws criminalising homosexual conduct. In addition, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which most Caribbean states (excluding Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Lucia) have either signed to or ratified has successfully been used to repeal laws against homosexuality (see Toonen vs Australia), citing violations of Article 17 (the right to privacy) and Article 26 (equality before the law). At the very least, laws against homosexual conduct set a precedent under which sexual relations between consenting adults – whether homosexual or heterosexual – fall under the jurisdiction of the state.
Laws against homosexuality give legitimacy to hate crimes and discrimination:
While decriminalizing homosexuality will not in itself end discrimination, the process cannot begin with the laws against homosexuality still in place. Crimes against gays are tacitly legitimised by laws which brand gays as criminals, as well as the religious and irrational justifications used to support the laws’ continued existence. Legislatively protecting gays from hate crimes – another key step in ending discrimination – is also at odds with anti-gay legislation. In addition, legistated discrimination against gays further entrenches the downlow culture within the gay community – another key driver in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Lack of enforcement is no guarantee that laws will never be enforced:
While laws against homosexuals are infrequently enforced, it is within the state’s right to prosecute persons known to be engaging in homosexual conduct. With the hefty penalty stipulated by law, gays still run the theoretical risk of being victimized for their sexual behaviour and being imprisoned on this basis alone.
Call to action
On this World AIDS Day, and throughout AIDS Awareness Month, send a message to Caribbean lawmakers that criminalising homosexuality goes against HIV/AIDS control and is incompatible with human rights.
The criminalisation of homosexuality derives from various laws and differ from state to state within the region. In Barbados, buggery is outlawed, but the stipulation is applied arbitrarily to homosexualsº. Similarly, in Trinidad ‘sodomy’ is outlawed. Jamaican law speaks specifically to criminalising men who have sex with men. For simplicity, references within this article to ‘criminalising homosexuality’ refer to the criminalisation of the gay sex act between men and/or women, on the basis that the act of consummating a homosexual relationship is illegal under interpretation of the law. Note however that some Caribbean countries do not criminalise female to female sex.
December 29th, 2009 – Box Turttle Bulletin
Marriage equality to be recognized in Dutch Caribbean islands
by Timothy Kincaid
The Kingdom of the Netherlands includes six islands in the Caribbean Sea. Three, Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten, are in the Northern Caribbean near the Virgin Islands, and three, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, are in the South, off the Venezuela coast. Currently, the Dutch are in the process of restructuring the borders and autonomy of the various entities. And part of that process is determining the extent to which Dutch Law will apply to local administration.
The Netherlands is one of the seven nations in which (along with a few states and localities) same-sex marriage is recognized. And when it comes to same-sex couple recognition, it appears that the Kingdom will insist that there be no discrimination. (the St. Maarten Daily Herald) Married and registered gay couples will obtain legal protection against discrimination by government agencies in the BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba after the islands have obtained their new status as public entities in the Dutch Kingdom.
It is the intention of the Dutch government to incorporate a new article in the BES Implementation Law stating that weddings and registered partnerships executed in the Netherlands confer the same legal rights as weddings executed in the public entities.
As Antillean law is replaced with Dutch law, the conducting of marriages on the BES islands will become legal. It is not immediately clear how this will impact Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten, but we know that Curaçao has taken steps to attract gay tourists. A gay bashing event on St. Maarten brought into question the commitment of local authorities to provide safety for gay tourists there. But after an initial response that appeared apathetic, authorities decided that it was in their interest to improve relations.
Attitudes throughout the Caribbean may not be as affirmative as could be wished, but those planning on vacations in the sun may consider those Caribbean islands that are under Dutch influence to be better choices.