Moïse Manoël-Florisse, is an African-Caribbean online journalist keeping an eye…
Last year, the LGBT organization KAP Caraïbe celebrated 10 years of existence in Martinique, a French territory in the Caribbean. The organization, whose name stands for “Konsey, Aide, Prevansyion” — or “Advicel Aid, and Prevention” in English — provides services to and advocates for the LGBT population of the island. In this article, 76crimes speaks with the two co-presidents of the association, Sabine Chyl and Brice Armien-Boudre, about their goals for 2023.
76crimes: What is the political and social context around the rights of LGBTI people in Martinique, and what was the genesis of Kap Caraïbe?
Sabine Chyl and Brice Armien-Boudre: The beginnings were quite stormy, but at the time we were not on the board of the association. Kap Caraïbe was founded in 2012 in the context of a dramatic explosion of homophobia on the island, around the debates on the adoption of marriage for all.
Many elected officials from Martinique had taken part against [same-sex marriage] then, in particular, Bruno Nestor Azerot, who was then deputy of the north of Martinique, as well as Raymond Occolier, the former mayor of Vauclin. Most of their arguments were a form of conscientious objection in the name of the Christian religious values of the Martinican people.
If Martinique is an overseas region of a secular country, it is precisely because we also expect the elected officials who wear the tricolor scarf to have a high opinion on societal and social issues. In this sense, we were very disappointed without being surprised, because we know the local context and the influence of the church on the partisan positions of some and others. Here we are very far from the Hexagon [metropolitan France].
Today, 10 years later, we still feel the weight of this heritage, through the difficulties to establish constructive relationships with the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique as well as with the town halls. Without being treated as repulsive, we can say that we still inspire mistrust among elected officials who still refuse to take a clear position in favor of equal rights. Perhaps they are afraid of losing voters. It must be said that Bruno Nestor Azerot’s past outrages and outbursts have never caused him to lose a single vote.
However, the whole picture is not dark, far from it. And we have functional relations with the cities of Fort de France, Ducos as well as the city of Carbet, where the Martinique Pride March has taken place every year for a few years now. In addition, Senator Catherine Conconne supports our actions against homophobia.
It must be said that the last two laws in favor of opening medically assisted reproduction for lesbian couples in 2021, as well as the one that prohibits conversion therapies in January 2022, have confirmed marriage for all and LGBTI rights as a given, constituting a real cold shower for those who still hoped to be able to go back in Martinique.
“We no longer fight for rights, we fight for the application of rights”.
76crimes: What about the actions of Kap Caraïbe today, in the social landscape of Martinique?
Sabine and Brice: We no longer fight for rights, but we fight for the application of rights, because a lot of changes have taken place over the last ten years. For an association like ours, this implies a real paradigm shift, after ten years of activism in pedagogy. Our objective is to continue the dialogue around the deconstruction of prejudices, however we are now also an association of defense of the rights and we recently changed our statutes going in this direction.
Indeed, in the framework of the legal procedure which opposes us to the regional information channel Kanal Martinique Television (KMT), there have already been indictments following our complaint. Nevertheless, the judicial investigation is still in progress, awaiting possible future criminal sanctions.
Currently, our main focus is on the media. We have to accompany local journalists to teach them how to deal with sexual and gender diversity, while taking legal action when certain limits are crossed. We are also very concerned about social networks, especially around the personality of Eric Damaseau, whose LGBT-phobic comments have caused a lot of ink to flow. But he is not the only one, unfortunately.
We also have other reactionary and populist groups of the radical right in our sights. They borrow codes and modes of action traditionally from left-wing unionism, by conspiring against the entire local political class, in the name of the advent of a hypothetical new moral order. This populist political culture in the West Indies is deeply rooted in Guadeloupe, but not only. It is even international.
“Our actions are a form of reparation”
76crimes: What is it like to be an LGBTI rights activist in Martinique?
Sabine: It’s rewarding. I’ve arrived at a time when things are getting unblocked, at the institutional level. Moreover, we have successful partnerships with bars, in order to offer more convivial space, in favor of the community. We really reap the fruits of the work of the first activists. Afterwards, there are of course many obligations, as our visibility progresses, since we are 80 members. Moreover, we now have an employee and the institutions also have more expectations in terms of results of our actions. For us, it is necessary that the changes in society take root and that it is sustainable and all this represents a lot of time and energy in our daily life, since at the same time, I work in the civil service.
Brice: I was born in Martinique and I spent all my childhood there, so for me the question of the visibility of my activism was really very important. As a child here, I was bullied because of my shyness and alleged lack of virility, so nothing necessarily predisposed me to become a leading activist. I was finally able to find my place in Kap Caraïbe because I am a psychologist. Our helpline helps our young and not-so-young gays, lesbians and trans people to break with their isolation. Nevertheless, my professional trajectory has not always been very simple, even though I am a native of this island.
Sabine and Brice: 2023 will be a big year for Kap Caraïbe, which passed the 10-year mark last year. We plan to continue our professionalization and to recruit another employee. We wish to reinforce and improve the reception of our public while seeking to decentralize our activities in order to expand our partnerships. In the medium term, we would like to develop family mediation. In the longer term, we give ourselves 5 to 10 years to achieve a more inclusive Martinique, by eradicating LGBT-phobia on our island.
In the meantime, in the immediate short term, our public in Martinique will be able to find us for the exhibition around the 10th anniversary of our association. The year will also be marked by theater and self-defense workshops.
Also the second showing of the short film Zanmi will resume, as well as a project of distribution of stickers to fight homophobia with high school students of Ducos. Our actions are and must be forms of reparation.
People wishing to contact Kap Caraïbe or support their work can do so here.