Caribbean overview: LGBT rights vs. anti-gay status quo

The Trinidad newspaper Newsday provides these overviews of anti-gay protests, recent anti-gay violence, and gay-rights activism in Caribbean countries.  The overviews are part of an extensive article on the life and work of LGBT activist and Erasing 76 Crimes blogger Maurice Tomlinson.

Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)
Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The article includes Tomlinson’s view of Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who proposed a parliamentary “conscience vote” on the country’s anti-sodomy law, but then decided not to do so:

“The Jamaica PM has been a disappointment. … The reality is that Jamaican LGBT will have to use the courts to gain our liberation as our Parliamentarians clearly lack the intestinal fortitude to show leadership on this issue.”

Tomlinson’s court challenges seeking to overturn restrictions in Belize and in Trinidad & Tobago against travel there by homosexuals:

The cases …  stem from his refusal to lie about his sexuality, after he had declined invitations to conduct training and sensitization sessions regarding the rights of individuals infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Belize in January 2013 and invitations in December 2012 by the United Nations Population Fund to participate in a HIV workshop, and a CARICOM conference on human rights.

The constitutional challenge against Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law:

Javed Jaghai
Javed Jaghai

On August 16, 2011 the complaint was filed with the Jamaica Supreme Court on behalf of Dartmouth College graduate Javed Jaghai, who said his landlord kicked him out of his home because of his sexual orientation. Tomlinson has told the Washington Blade—an American gay news source— that the eventual outcome of Jaghai’s case could reverberate throughout the region. Tomlinson said Jaghai’s case could potentially have an impact on relationship recognition of same-sex couples in the Caribbean.

“That would be a long-term effect we expect,” he said. “Right now it’s to get the courts to acknowledge that at least in private same-gender loving individuals have the rights of everyone else.”

Tomlinson’s description of  anti-gay protests and recent anti-gay violence in the Caribbean:

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of International Planned Parenthood Federation)
Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of International Planned Parenthood Federation)

 Tomlinson recently posted this commentary on his Facebook page:

“The Jamaican fundamentalist religious group, Love March Movement (LMM), which last year held an anti-gay march through the streets of the capital, Kingston is planning to stage an even bigger event this year on September 14, 2013. This follows island-wide anti-gay mass protests organized by the island’s churches, which were led by the Open Bible Standard Churches headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa.

“This latest march will take place just two months after the barbaric mob killing in Montego Bay of 17 year-old cross-dresser, Dwayne Jones; the mobbing of a suspected gay police officer in Kingston and a near fatal mob home invasion of two suspected homosexuals in St. Catherine. Despite the fact that Jamaica’s Minister of Justice, many of the island’s religious leaders and civil-society groups all condemned these latest attacks on gay Jamaicans, LMM, and its sister organization, the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, have remained silent.”

Effigy hanging at anti-gay protest in Belize. (Photo via Facebook)
Effigy hanging at anti-gay protest in Belize. (Photo via Facebook)

“During a similar anti-gay march in Haiti which took place last month two homosexual men were viciously assaulted. Subsequently 47 LGBT individuals in the country were attacked. Belize also witnessed an anti-gay march earlier this year during which the LGBT organization, UNIBAM was hung in effigy. A Belizean government minister condemned this action and the religious organizer of the march subsequently apologized while lamely claiming that the parade was too large for him to notice the prominent homophobic effigy. Ironically, the LMM has applied to be joined as an interested party in the domestic challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law on the ground that the law’s repeal would strip them of the right to freely condemn homosexuality.”

Anti-gay violence in the Caribbean, and conservative religious leaders’ role in it:

American fundamentalist churches are reported to be leading the anti-gay movement in the Caribbean.

The Guyana Times on July 29, 2013 reported that Red Thread, Help and Shelter, Artistes In Direct Support and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination had joined the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and other civil society groups in the region in condemning increasing homophobic and transphobic violence in the Caribbean.

In a joint release, the groups said CVC and its partners are deeply concerned by a stream of reports coming from Caribbean civil society organisations about incidents of violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, the article stated. According to the groups, “these tragic events are not isolated acts, but instead a reflection of systematic discrimination and violence experienced by Caribbean LGBT people, particularly the most visible and vulnerable. Organisations such as

  • United and Strong in St Lucia,
  • United Belize Advocacy Movement in Belize,
  • Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) in Jamaica,
  • Trans Always Friends (TRANSSA) and the Community of Trans-Transvestite Dominican Sex Workers (CONTRAVETD) in The Dominican Republic

often have to deal with similar horrific threats, harassment and violence towards their communities because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This violence is a consequence of fundamentalist and hateful discourses towards LGBT communities and is likely to be replicated if urgent action is not taken.”

For more information, read the full Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday article, “Visibility Is Liberty.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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