Emotional appeal to keep Haitian trans people safe

In the wake of an assault on a transgender Haitian man and the death of a transgender Haitian woman, the Caribbean Trans Network has called on the government of Haiti to protest the rights of its trans citizens.

Yaisah Val, a Haitian activist who works for improved health, housing and respect for trans Haitians, responds in this emotional video to the recent events that have impacted the nation’s LGBT community:

The United Caribbean Trans Network issued this statement:

United Caribbean Trans Network statement denouncing incidents of
transphobic violence and abuse in Haiti

Recently, one of our members in Haiti spoke out against the violent sexual assault of a Trans man by a group of men. The attack was motivated purely out by prejudice against the man’s gender identity and expression and was an abhorrent violation of his human rights. We were also made aware of an incident where a Trans woman attempted to seek counselling and emotional support to alleviate the distress brought on by a lack of support systems at home as well as the general stigma and discrimination experienced while navigating society. Most regrettably, despite the efforts by Trans-led organisations to mobilise the services she needed, she ultimately took her own life before she could access counselling.

Logo of the United Caribbean Trans Network

These two incidents are a very small part of the myriad of challenges faced by Haitian LGBTI organisations, particularly those whose efforts are geared towards assisting Trans and Gender Non-conforming individuals. Many of the stakeholders in Haiti (and the wider Caribbean region) face challenges as they relate to mobilising essential services, whether those services are medical care and access to effective treatment (especially in the realm of testing, treatment and care for HIV), housing, employment and financial assistance, and even protection of the law and access to justice. Many individuals face compromised health, poverty and even lose their lives due to the lack of support from the government, and the situation is grossly exacerbated during times of crisis. The impact is most severely felt right now during the current COVID-19 pandemic, where governments have implemented State of Emergency measures which restrict movement and therefore affect the ability of marginalised groups to access even those essential services which have not been restricted by the state, and those who have pre-existing medical conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19.

We at the United Caribbean Trans Network (UCTRANS) wish to make it abundantly clear and remind the government of Haiti and other governments throughout the region that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that, whether in times of crisis or in the absence of one, the state has a constitutional and even an international responsibility to ensure that the human rights of all citizens, visitors and residents existing within its borders are protected and upheld. When vulnerable groups are marginalised, discriminated against, abused and exposed to undue hardship, particularly when such mistreatment is attributed to the diversity of that group’s members, it is the duty of the state to correct the situation and ensure it does not recur. When the tragic situation occurs where a member of a marginalised group ultimately loses their life due to circumstances of prejudice and marginalisation, it serves as a further indictment of the failure of the state to protect that individual, and can even call into question the wellbeing of other citizens who may find themselves in similar situations.

We are therefore calling upon the government of Haiti at this time to make every possible and reasonable effort to ensure that the unfortunate events earlier mentioned are brought to justice and do not recur, and where the situation of LGBTI people is not known or believed to be of the extent of the Haitian LGBTI population, that efforts are made to ensure that such conditions have no chance to develop.

Finally, we wish to extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the Trans woman who lost her life, as well as our support to the Trans man who is currently seeking care, treatment and justice in the wake of his attack, as well as to the organisations and human rights defenders who have worked tirelessly with these individuals and continue to work with many others to alleviate and improve their situation as they navigate through Haitian society.

 

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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