MADRE and Partners Advance LGBT Rights in Haiti
Posted on: Thursday, June 27, 2013
On January 1, 2013, two men were beaten and mugged outside their home. They were targeted because their attackers thought they were gay. On February 10, 2013, a group of men carrying knives, machetes, bottles and metal sticks returned to the scene. The gang called the two men “faggots,” threw bottles at them, and threatened to burn their home down. The two men called the police.
The first police officers refused to enter what they termed an “at risk” zone. Meanwhile, the gang members increased their threats, saying they would “kill one of them.” The two men called the police again, bringing officers who fired shots into the air. Hearing the shots, the gang yelled, “You called the police. We’re going to kill you now.” But instead, they fled. The police told the two men to grab their belongings and abandon their home.
Discrimination: Pervasive and Normalized
Discrimination and violence against Haiti’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are common. Diversity in sexual orientation or gender identity is still taboo in the mostly conservative society.
Haitian organizations that work with LGBT people tell MADRE that prejudice and discrimination against LGBT individuals has become normal and violence against them is widespread.
Lesbians are targeted with “corrective rape.” In these assaults, rapists claim to “correct” lesbians’ sexual orientation through forced sex.
A preacher in Cap-Haïtien called three transgender people attending a friend’s funeral “demons in the church.” He later contacted the police and had them arrested.
Radio stations with wide audiences play songs with lyrics like “kill the gays” and “gays are guilty of the situation in Haiti.” Church leaders and journalists continue to preach that gay men and other LGBT “sinners” caused the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti by bringing on the wrath of God.
Political, religious, and media figures with heavy influence in Haitian society perpetuate widespread discrimination that is a one of the major causes of the violence LGBT people routinely experience.
Forced into the Shadows
LGBT individuals in Haiti do not feel safe admitting their sexual orientation or gender identity. They fear discrimination and rejection from their families, close-knit communities, and deeply traditional religious cultures. They also fear violence.
As in other places, LGBT Haitians who are not “out” often feel alienated from family and friends, and LGBT people who are “out” are often rejected by and separated from family and friends. As a result, many LGBT people have weakened support systems, making them more vulnerable to violence and harassment – both from strangers and people they know. LGBT service providers receive regular reports of targeted physical attacks from family members and neighbors.
In one recent case, an openly gay man died from injuries sustained after his close neighbor sexually assaulted him. In another instance, a woman reported harassment in her neighborhood with calls of “here comes the lesbian.” One night two neighbors physically assaulted her, forcing her to flee her home. Three people broke into the house of a man they knew was gay and threatened him if he did not leave the neighborhood.
Impunity Perpetuates Violence
People attack and discriminate against LGBT Haitians without consequence. Police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers lack training or sensitivity on LGBT issues and are often, like so many others, personally prejudiced.
Recently, when a husband was accused of murdering his wife, the judge dismissed the case after learning that the victim was a lesbian. Very few Haitian lawyers are willing to represent LGBT individuals out of fear or their own prejudices. Attorneys willing to take these cases struggle at every level of the justice system.
Haitian law demands equality and safety for its citizens and generally follows international human rights standards. But Haitian law does not explicitly provide protections against violence and discrimination for LGBT people.
LGBT Movement Gaining Momentum in Haiti
Under the constant threat of violence, activism around sexual orientation and gender identity rights in Haiti has developed cautiously. During the past three or four years, small grassroots organizations have begun to speak out about LGBT rights, at great risk to their own safety.
MADRE is working with local human rights groups across Haiti, including FACSDIS, SEROvie and KOURAJ. We are calling on the government to recognize LGBT people as protected classes and ensure equal protection of the law to all its citizens, develop an anti-discrimination task force with a special focus on preventing and addressing violence and discrimination against LGBT people, and initiate trainings to promote sensitivity to LGBT issues among government employees in the health, justice and other sectors.
MADRE is honored to partner with brave LGBT grassroots activists, who risk their lives daily to secure human rights for all.
Archives"Press Room" Home September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Peru TV slammed by UN as racial stereotypes paraded for cheap laughs (The Guardian, September 3, 2014)
In Iraq, women 'are the battlefield' (Women Under Siege , August 12, 2014)
Haitian woman faces death threats for speaking out about violence against women (WBEZ Worldview, July 16, 2014)
Media Spotlight Turns Away from Iraq, as Concerns Mount Over Human Rights and Political Stalemate (Uprising Radio, July 11, 2014)
Iraq: The women left behind (Aljazeera, July 3, 2014)