On June 29th, 2017, the Haitian Senate introduced a bill with homophobic provisions. The draft law regulates the conditions for a citizen to receive a certificate of good standing, a document required by many employers. In clear violation of the right to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the bill lists homosexuality as an immoral act alongside child pornography, incest and infant-juvenile prostitution.
If the draft bill became a law, LGBTIQ persons or those perceived as such could be barred from acquiring the certificate, hindering their ability to get a job or hold public office. In addition to violating the right to due process for all Haitian citizens, this bill would further entrench discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ persons in Haiti. It would also severely infringe upon their socio-economic and political rights, violating Haiti's domestic and international human rights obligations.
In response, MADRE, SEROvie, FACSDIS and OutRight Action International mobilized to raise awareness about the ramifications of this bill for LGBTIQ rights in Haiti, and to prevent passage of its homophobic provisions. We drafted an open letter to international community stakeholders, requesting that they urge members of the Haitian Parliament to amend the draft law by removing language on the prohibition of homosexuality.
Open Letter to the International Community on Haiti’s Pending Draft Law on Certificate of Good Life and Morals
We, the undersigned Haitian and international organizations, write to alert you to a matter we believe should be of mutual concern: a draft law with homophobic provisions that is currently before the Haitian Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament for review and vote. This draft law, entitled “la proposition de loi sur la réputation et les bonne vie et mœurs,” defines notions of moral life and practices in Haitian Society and regulates the conditions for a citizen to be granted a Certificate of Good Life and Morals. After the bill was introduced in the Senate late last month, homosexuality was added to the list of immoral acts in Article 4, under Chapter 1 (alongside child pornography, incest, and infant-juvenile prostitution), in clear violation of the right to be free from discrimination.
The Certificate of Good Life and Morals has widespread use in Haiti. Employers often request the certificate as proof that a job candidate has not committed any crime that amounts to a felony. The Certificate is also required to run for and hold public office. If the bill is enacted, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons or those perceived as such could be barred from acquiring the Certificate, hindering their ability to obtain employment or hold public office. The legislation will further entrench discrimination and violence against LGBTI individuals in Haiti, and severely infringe upon their socio-economic and political rights, in contravention of Haiti’s domestic and international human rights obligations. Shortly after Haiti and the world’s governments agreed to “Leave No One Behind” in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a barrier such as this to employment cannot be permitted.
We are also concerned that this pending draft law would violate the right to due process for Haitian citizens. Under the draft law, the process of fairly determining whether someone has engaged in criminal conduct that would negate their right to a certificate is left in the hands of ordinary citizens superseding a judge-issued criminal conviction issued at a fair trial.
Specifically, the draft law states: “For the purposes of this Act, any behavior, any action causing a disturbance of public order, public or collective peace is deemed contrary to good life; Any reprehensible action against his family or third parties disturbing public order.” The memo further clarifies under Article 4 that such “disturbance of the peace” (a crime under Haitian law) includes “any public act in relation to child or child pornography, incest, polygamy, pedophilia, infantile or juvenile prostitution, procuring and proven homosexuality.” In other words, a criminal conviction is not prerequisite to being denied a certificate under the terms of the proposed draft law.
Patrick Laurent, a well-known and respected Haitian lawyer, explains that the draft law would refuse a certificate of good character in the following cases:
- To a person whose criminal record contains a conviction, without prejudice to the provisions of Article 8 of this Law, for which they were sentenced to a custodial or criminal penalty involving deprivation of liberty;
- To a person whose good repute can be denied with certainty because of one or more “well-founded complaints” about his or her conduct, or;
- In all other cases provided for by law.1
The decision of whether an individual has engaged in illegal conduct⎯whether disturbing the peace or the serious crime of child pornography⎯is a matter of law. As you know, it is judges, not legislators, who guarantee fundamental judicial fairness, justice, and liberty through the process of fair trial. The draft law however, opens up the possibility for ordinary citizens to lodge complaints that may deny certificates without due process, violating the right to fair treatment through the judicial system and opening the possibility for unfettered abuse.
We therefore respectfully request that you consider urging members of the Haitian Parliament to amend the draft law to strike out Article 4 (which includes the prohibition on public acts of homosexuality) and amend Article 3 to the language proposed in the original bill prior to voting on its passage.
Reginald Dupont, SEROvie
Marjorie Lafontant, FASCDIS
Lisa Davis, Esq., MADRE
Jessica Stern, OutRight Action International
[1.] Le Nouvelliste, “Que dit la proposition de loi sur les bonne vie et mœurs?” June 23, 2017, available at http://lenouvelliste.com/article/172462/que-dit-la-proposition-de-loi-su...