2 West Indies: Anglican Church maintains stance on homosexuality 12/07
3 Homophobia regarded as a major setback to the HIV fight 9/09
4 Local MSM Community Watching Buggery Law Test Case in Belize 9/11
5 UNAIDS director says buggery law debate is good 10/11
June 2007 – newint.org
Antigua and Barbuda
by David Thorley
When new Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer moved into Antigua’s government offices in 2004, his predecessors had bequeathed him a scene of desolation. Wilmoth Daniel, his deputy, explained that they found ‘the drawers open – all the files were removed like a thief in the night … What a shame of those individuals in authority to [remove] all those files, the soul and heart of the country.’
From 1949 until 2004, embracing the moment of independence from Britain in 1981, the Antigua Labour Party had dominated governance of the two islands under the rule first of Vere Bird, and then of his son, Lester. Whatever was in the missing files, it cannot have reflected kindly on the Bird dynasty which – in spite of Vere Bird’s posturing as a reformer from the trade-unionist movement – was mired in corruption, and was once compared by the Antiguan-American novelist Jamaica Kincaid to the Haitian dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier.
The general election of 2004 saw the vote of the United Progressive Party (UPP) increase by 49 per cent in an electoral rejection of the Birds’ vices. The Jamaica Observer reported ‘allegations of bribery, misuse of funds in the national health insurance plan, and a 13-year-old girl’s charges that he [Lester Bird] and his brother used her for sex and to procure cocaine’.
The 2004 election was fought and won on the basis of public transparency and suitability to govern, rather than along strict policy lines. The UPP is a moderate party which aims to cultivate the private sector as a means of attracting investment, but also fosters ‘genuine empowerment of the people through decentralization’. In 2005, the Government reintroduced income tax in response to a growing deficit between revenue and expenditure. At an international level it has forged economic ties with the left wing governments of Cuba and Venezuela.
Relations with the US are moot. When the US began to regulate against internet gambling, many of its most profitable websites decamped to Antigua. In the hope of closing the loophole which allowed Antiguan-based sites to target American custom, in 2006 the US passed the Unlawful Gaming Act, which criminalized money-transfers to offshore gaming websites. It was a new step in a concerted drive which had already seen Antigua’s gambling revenue fall from $1,000 million in 2000 to $130 million in 2006 – and had cost 10 per cent of Antigua’s workforce their jobs. The Antiguan Government lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization, publicly supported by China, Japan and the European Union, which decided in Antigua’s favour both in 2005 and 2007.
As in many other Caribbean nations, however, tourism is the principal source of Antigua and Barbuda’s income. New hotels continue to be planned and built, though tourist revenue has dipped in recent years, leading the Government to promote eco-tourism. Tourism remains vital but it tends to lead to development of the islands’ coastal areas, while domestic poverty thrives inland. A recent article in the Antigua Sun highlighted problems with vagrancy and gang violence.
The question of how far foreign capital can alleviate these problems is hotly debated. Recently the Texan oil billionaire Allen Stanford was at the centre of a spat about the status of foreign investors when he made disparaging remarks about Baldwin Spencer. Stanford had promised heavy investment in cricketing facilities for the nation, but many Antiguans felt strongly that such investment bought him no rights to criticize their elected government.
Domestic criticism is mounting too, however. The Government promised to make poverty and social welfare a priority but there has been little sign of urgency. Its own investigation into domestic poverty has been slow to produce results; and in 2004 the UN found that child poverty had increased. Homosexuality is legal and persecution of gay people is expressly forbidden by the Constitution but there are still reports of discrimination and homophobic violence.
December 2, 2007 – Antigua Sun
West Indies: Anglican Church maintains stance on homosexuality
by David Virtue
The 36th Triennial Session of the Provincial Synod of the Church in the Province of the West Indies has re-committed its support for the official position of the Anglican community concerning homosexual relationships. In recent times, the church in North America, particularly in the US, has deviated from certain principles the church in the Caribbean still holds dear by embracing homosexual relationships. The recently concluded synod, which was held in Antigua recently, has also mandated the Standing Committee to commission a teaching manual on human sexuality for use in each diocese.
Discussions of human sexuality, and in particular homosexuality, have been at the forefront of church deliberations for many years now. Some dioceses have engaged in extensive discussions and study while others are just beginning. “We endorsed the resolution to establish a separate and distinct Provincial Commission on Family Life. We also recommended that the work of Diocesan organisations such as the Mothers’ Union, Men’s Fellowship, Youth Groups, which are directly engaged in family life, be incorporated into the responsibilities of the Provincial Commission on family life,” a communique from the synod further stated.
During the meeting in Antigua from the 24 to 29 Nov., the synod also expressed deep concern over the serious epidemic of crime and violence in the region. The members said that recognising there is no clear correlation between crime, violence and poverty; they believe that the issue of deportees is a contributing factor. The synod noted that the services of Law Enforcement and Judicial systems need to be brought up to modern standards “especially when the criminal element takes full advantage of delays, thereby compromising public confidence in the judicial system.”
The synod called upon the heads of Government of Caricom to deal with the scourged or organised crime and violence. According to them, a regional summit meeting which will include all relevant stakeholders should be convened with a view of formulating a regional plan to address the matter. The synod also looked at the spread of HIV/AIDS and issues concerning ministry and the mission of the church. A number of resolutions were passed to further equip both clergy and Laity in the exercising of their ministry and the wider mission to society.
23 September 2009 – Antigua Sun
Homophobia regarded as a major setback to the HIV fight
by Rawle Nelson
It is the belief that often it is a glance or a whisper that creates an uneasy feeling. Sometimes it is something more blatant like a foul remark that underscores the thorny, cutting reality of homophobia in Antigua and Barbuda and which has created setbacks in the country’s AIDS response. There is rarely any open dialogue on the local community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Antiguans and Barbudans that has retreated into obscurity afraid of venturing out for HIV-related information, HIV testing and more importantly, treatment.
President of the HHH network in Antigua and Barbuda, Lyle Evans said while there are no exact figures are out, it is widely believed that only a few HIV-infected LGBT Antiguans and Barbudans are currently receiving anti-retroviral treatment, solely because of homophobia, which is aligned with that chronic phrase– stigma and discrimination that has seriously affected HIV efforts.
Evans who is a Dominican by birth but have been living in Antigua for a number of years said the isolation of the LGBT community in Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis, the wider Caribbean region and at a global level, homophobia is contributing to the spread of HIV by creating an environment where people who need vital information are afraid to access it. The criminalisation of homosexuality has also impeded this access. Seven Caribbean countries, including Guyana, currently criminalise homosexuality.
“Outside the law books, there has been no serious political commitment, initiative or programme to address homophobia. Entertainers, deejays and individuals across the Caribbean have denounced it, exposing strong biases and more increasingly advocating violence against the community. However, today we are seeing that despite all this, some have remained strong, thus the establishment of a club that many would have argued would have been impossible a few years ago,” Evans said.
Jamaican singer, Bounty Killa, however, had unleashed a scathing attack through several controversial performances that he had within the region on the gay and lesbian community. John (not his real name) who is from Antigua but is a gay said a number of bisexuals are usually brought from Jamaica to come to the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Kitts/Nevis where they would have sex with gays.
He said that despite some of these guys who would publicly say that they are not gays or bisexuals but lived a closed life in which they have sex with men, with many seeing it as just a fun thing. “I do not care about those people that judge me as I do whatever pleases me and like everyone else I deserve to live freely without fear,” Michael (not his real name) from Antigua said.
Meanwhile, the MSM (Men having Sex with Men) community of Antigua and Barbuda have announced that they will soon begin a massive campaign of recruiting membership for their community noting that knowing the members of their community will aid them in combating HIV/AIDS. The group stressed that part of their effort is to aggressively campaign also for greater tolerance both locally and regionally. John pointed out also that even within the community people are afraid of showing support.
The MSM group also pointed out that access to health services in the OECS can be improved by providing anti-homophobia training for health-care workers and auxiliary staff to mitigate same-gender and HIV-related stigma. He added that as the quality of client services improve, LGBT individuals within Antigua and Barbuda and the OECS will gain confidence that the public health system does not house homophobic prejudices and allow discriminatory practices.
September 26th, 2011 – Antigua Observer
Local MSM Community Watching Buggery Law Test Case in Belize
St. John’s Antigua – Interests in Antigua & Barbuda are quietly but keenly monitoring the judicial review of the buggery law in Belize. (Barbuda is an island in the eastern Caribbean, and forms part of the state of Antigua and Barbuda.) Oral arguments in the matter, which was initiated by the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), are scheduled to be heard in early December, a press release from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) said.
The press release noted that the leaders of more than 20 Caribbean organisations representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have pledged support to their Belizean counterparts. More than being an issue in Belize, the regional LGBT community and advocates see it as a test case for the Caribbean, which has anti-sodomy laws.
Tracy Robinson, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UWI, Mona was quoted in the CVC release as saying, “the sodomy or buggery laws undoubtedly affect LGBTs disproportionately, but they also criminalise sexual activities between consenting adults who are heterosexual. Some argue that because the law is rarely enforced against consenting adults it poses little harm. But it has been shown that the continued existence of the laws is used by some to sanction their violence against LGBTs results in LGBT people fearing the police and not reporting serious crimes against them and impedes meaningful access to health care and other services to prevent and treat HIV,” Robinson said.
Across the region, people have been speaking out, with Colin Robinson of the Trinidad-based Coalition for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) saying his group would be “relentless” in trying to change the legislation in the different states. CVC Co-Chair Dr Marcus Day said, “CVC has a mandate and commitment to preserve the rights and dignity of populations that are marginalised and do not have voice in the national and regional dialogue and whose rights are regularly trampled on. We are, therefore, driven by a strong human rights framework.
“To have laws that criminalise person in same-sex relations really and truly negate the human rights of this population. This cannot be allowed to continue,” Dr Day said…
Read complete story
October 6th, 2011 – Antigua Observer
UNAIDS director says buggery law debate is good
by Observer News
St John’s, Antigua – Rather than just an emotive issue about the public’s views on homosexuality, the attorney general’s recent comments about maintaining buggery laws should be viewed as the starting point for an important discussion Director of the Caribbean Regional Support Team, UNAIDS Ernest Massiah said.
“It’s not just about a buggery law. This is about looking at equality, equality of all citizens in all Caribbean countries, and when you start that discussion from that point as opposed to a buggery law, I think then you see a discussion as well as points of convergence that would be different than if you start looking just at a buggery law,” Massiah told Observer from his office on Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Attorney General Justin Simon told the delegates at the 12th Session of The Universal Periodic Review, which comprises the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council, that any change in the Sexual Offences Act would have to come as a result as a mandate from the people.
Among other things, the Act criminalises buggery. The AG is in Geneva, Switzerland, at the meeting, but his comments sparked lively discussion here, with the topic being narrowed down by most people to a conversation on the immorality of homosexuality. The minority has attempted to broaden the scope to a discussion about human rights.Massiah said Simon’s comments should be viewed as an opportunity to move forward the dialogue on matters like public health.
“There are fundamental issues of public health where the legal framework works against the public health, and that is where one needs to be very clear … because the objective of the law should be to protect the public health,” said Massiah, who holds a doctorate in public health.The three areas he highlighted where the law has negative impact are in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS; the perpetuation of stigma; and the overall climate of discrimination.
“For example, you cannot provide condoms in prisons because prisons are state-run, and … you know that sex (is) likely to be anal sex. In some countries in the region we have seen ministers of national security saying they’d like to engage in good public health but the law prevents them,” Massiah said.
He also noted that while a case might be made that the buggery law is rarely enforced, a climate exists for those affected by the legislation where they could be subject to what he called “arbitrary discrimination” at any time. Speaking to Caribarena.com, the attorney general opined that he did not see the law changing anytime soon, since “Antigua is still very much led by male and church influences.”