7 battlefields: The fight for LGBTI rights in the Caribbean

A recap of recent gains, losses and ongoing battles over LGBTI rights in seven Caribbean nations (Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, Belize, Barbados, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands), with help from coverage in the Caribbean IRN Blog of the International Resource Network:

Areas With Anti-Gay Laws

U.N. action: During Guyana’s recent Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, several nations urged Guyana to repeal its law against male-male intimacy. Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett noted that such recommendations have been turned over to a Parliamentary Special Committee (PSSC). However, that committee is no longer active.

Rodrigues-Birkett said the government hopes that parliament will grapple with the issue after elections on May 11. For more information, see coverage in the Guyana Times and Capitol News.

The government of Guyana even claims it knows of no cases of discrimination against LGBTI people, though such cases are reported by the local Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).

Community center for LGBT people: That organization won a $10,000 Red Ribbon Award during last summer’s International AIDS Conference for innovative community work in response to the HIV epidemic. It said last month that it will use the money to buy land for a planned $100,000 community center that will provide services to the LGBT community and will house its headquarters and a shelter for homeless LGBT youths.

Advice for Christians: A commentary in Barbados Today by the Rev. Davidson Bowen, an Anglican priest, urges Christians to extend love to homosexuals:

“What I will say to the church is that our job is not to judge; our job is to love. It is not love some and not love all or to love those and not the others. As long as we love, we’ve covered our bases.”

Bowen came down on both sides of an issue that divides Christians in their attitudes toward homosexuality: whether people are born gay or decide to become gay.

Honors from the queen: Also in Barbados, Donnya Piggott, head of Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination, received the Queen Elizabeth II’s inaugural Young Leaders Award, as previously reported in the Erasing 76 Crimes article “Queen honors LGBTI leader seeking change in Barbados.”

The citation reads:
“Donnya had to overcome prejudice and personal challenges when she decided to set up an advocacy group for sexual minorities. Barbados – Gays and Lesbians and All-sexuals Against Discrimination (B-Glad) is a lone lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights organisation on the island. Donnya has engaged with the Prime Minister about issues facing the LGBT community and hopes to continue supporting marginalised young people in her country.”

Awaiting court action: Activist Caleb Orozco discusses his 17-month wait for a decision in the lawsuit he brought against the government over the anti-gay law in Belize. Without a decision, he states, “I have the burden of responsibility to look over my back every time I go from point A to point B because the state does not recognise my dignity or my quality of life. … That to me is a lot of burden for just one person.”

Struggles and triumphs in art: Also in Belize, an art exhibit by Briheda Haylock focuses on the lives of local LGBT people. Channel 5 Belize reported that “Haylock used photographs to capture the story of the struggles of members of the L.G.B.T. community and also the triumphs of their acceptance.”

Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and more
Fundamentalists seeking funds: The Caribbean’s homophobia is enhanced by conservative religious organizations that see the region as “not just a fresh opportunity to influence the debate over homosexuality, but also a source of fundraising and followers,” according to the IPPF blog post “Opposition to LGBTQ Liberation in the Caribbean.”

Anti-gay vs. anti-HIV: The article “Homophobia and HIV: A Response to and Lessons From, The Jamaican Linked Epidemics” by activist lawyer Maurice Tomlinson discusses the relationship between HIV and anti-gay pastors and academics, as well as efforts to overcome homophobia. The article is in the latest issue of the Journal of the Student National Medical Association

Areas Without Anti-Gay Laws

Cayman Islands
European influence: The Cayman Islands and other British overseas territories may be required to accept same-sex unions in compliance with the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union, reports Cayman Compass:

The Cayman Islands may soon be required to legally recognize civil partnerships between same-sex couples, according to a senior international human rights professor.

European courts are unlikely to require member states to sanction gay marriage, according to the expert, but they could mandate legal recognition of same-sex unions, affording gay couples many of the same rights as heterosexual married couples. …

[Robert Wintemute of King’s College, London] acknowledged that if the Cayman Islands lacked the political will to introduce the reforms proactively, it may require individuals to contest them in the courts on a case by case basis.

“It is difficult, if no one brings a case to the court, so there is no pressure from the courts and the political parties don’t see it as a priority, so nothing happens in the legislature.”

Another option, he said, was for the U.K. to introduce an Overseas Territories order updating the legislation – as it did in 2000 to decriminalize homosexual activity in its territories, including the Cayman Islands.

But he said it was preferable from a political and social point of view for the country to have the public debate that accompanied the reforms as that would help engender a more enlightened attitude.

Same-sex adoptions: Unmarried same-sex couples can apply to jointly adopt children, according to a recent judgment in the Bermuda Supreme Court.

by Colin Stewart
Source – Erasing 76 Crimes