Americas / Europe

Don’t ignore us, Caribbean activists tell UK gay press

Stonewall's annual Equality DInner fundraiser in 2014.

Stonewall’s annual Equality DInner fundraiser in 2014.

“Nothing about us without us” is a motto with a long history. Now it’s a theme of a protest by Caribbean LGBTI rights activists against the  London-based LGBTI publication Pink News.

Pink News article on March 28, 2017, focused on the Stonewall Equality Dinner.

Pink News article on March 28, 2017, focused on the Stonewall Equality Dinner.

The Caribbean LGBTI rights groups United and Strong of St. Lucia and  the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) has issued a public complaint about a Pink News article that questioned whether a fundraiser for the British LGBTI organization Stonewall should have offered a vacation to St. Lucia, which is one of this blog’s 77+ nations with anti-gay laws.

The March 28 article in Pink News was headlined, “Stonewall auctions luxury holiday to country where gays are imprisoned.” It stated:

Stonewall has auctioned off a holiday to a country where gay sex is illegal. People who engage in gay sex can also be imprisoned for up to 10 years in the Caribbean island of St Lucia.

Stonewall sold a holiday to the island at its annual Equality Dinner on [March 24] under the heading “Paradise Found”. PinkNews asked Stonewall why the holiday was auctioned off, what was happening to the money, and whether the charity would cover the legal or medical costs of the auction winner if they get arrested or face homophobic or transphobic abuse…The sale raised £8,000 according to OutOfOffice, the travel site which supplied the holiday for Stonewall to auction off. The company also organises trips to Barbados and Tanzania, which both carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for men caught having gay sex. …

This was the Caribbean organizations’ press release in response to the Pink News article:

Rights’ groups urge international media to utilise local sources

Logo of United and Strong of St. Lucia

Logo of United and Strong of St. Lucia

(Castries, March 30, 2017 ) Saint Lucian and eastern Caribbean rights’ group are urging the media to validate sources of information and utilise local advocacy groups when writing about the region. This comes following an article in a UK publication under the attention-grabbing headline “Stonewall auctions luxury holiday to country where gays are imprisoned ”.

The piece explored the logic of an organisation representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people auctioning a vacation to a country where intimate relationships between same-sex consenting adults is criminalised. The article also notes that “many Caribbean countries such as St Lucia proactively say they welcome everyone, including LGBT tourists, despite not yet having the courage to formalise this with a change in laws.”

Of concern to local activists is the hype around the risk of visiting Saint Lucia. The piece uses a claim that violence against gay people in the Caribbean was increasing, and that “St Lucia now has a murder or so every year.”

Activists applaud the effort to bring this story to the attention of the world. It has expanded discussion about the situation of LGBTQI+ people in our small islands and sought to call states and civil society to account. We note however, that information could have been better sourced.

ECADE logo

Image from ECADE logo

“Yes, discriminatory laws exist however we’ve had gay cruises and gay couples and people visiting here safely,” notes Adaryl Williams, of United and Strong. “There are several hotel properties with policies in support of LGBT persons. Pink News should have done a bit more research.”

Maria Fontenelle, ECADE’s Communications and Programmes Officer adds, “This misrepresentation of the situation of LGBTQ people in Saint Lucia can be deleterious to our advocacy, undermining the work and our credibility. By distorting the issue, it further trivialises the severity of the situation in countries where gay people face greater risk of being brutalised and killed.”

ECADE, which is the umbrella body for the Eastern Caribbean sub-region, has reached out to Pink News, seeking to clarify why even existing statements by activists from Saint Lucia and the Eastern Caribbean, were not utilised.

“While,we do have buggery laws on the statute books, they have not recently been enforced,” says Jassica St Rose, Women’s Secretariat Representative of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA). “Moreover, currently no one is imprisoned in Saint Lucia for being gay. It would have been instructive if “Pink News” contacted United and Strong or ECADE for comment.

“This also raises the question, why would a pro-LGBT organisation like Stonewall, auction a vacation that would place people at risk? While in 2011, a group of vacationing gay men was attacked in Soufriere, the then Tourism Minister, Allen Chastanet apologised for the incident and indicated that Saint Lucia is a safe place for all travellers.”

Kenita Placide, executive director of ECADE. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Kenita Placide, executive director of ECADE. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Executive Director of ECADE Kenita Placide has been in touch with Stonewall about collaboration and campaigns as recent as January of 2017. Further, ECADE has previously established contact with Pink News, which is among its media contacts.

Eastern Caribbean activists note that the Pink News article leaves the conversation open for civil society and governments to engage in continuous dialogue and debate on LGBT Tourism and the laws that, while seldom enforced, still discriminate.

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