Over the weekend three human rights advocates from St Lucia’s United & Strong Inc presented a screening and panel discussion entitled LGBTI Lives in St Lucia and the Caribbean Region to members of the Women’s Human Rights Education Institute, the Caribbean Studies Program and Centre for Women’s Studies at University of Toronto.
The Lucian panel included Co-Executive Director of United & Strong, Kenita Placide, and Media & Advocacy Officer, Maria Fontenelle, who discussed the challenges associated with human rights activism in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex matters, with a particular focus on the “invisibility” of lesbian and bisexual women.
As they say, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun must have had a cow at the thought, although she may be unaware that we have LGBT rights activists in St Lucia, given that she is convinced “the homosexual agenda is being imposed on us from the outside.” The content of her vicious and delusional op-ed in last Wednesday’s STAR implies that she knows far less about the “gay agenda” in St Lucia or the Caribbean than is healthy or appropriate for a former Gender Relations Minister, lawyer, “utter barrister” (whatever that is), or even as founder of the Caribbean Centre for Family and Human Rights (as long as nobody in the family is queer). Maybe she genuinely is out of the loop, or perhaps this is a case of cherry-picking the facts and manipulative dissemination of the truth to incite and invigorate a conversation which is traditionally controversial and highly emotive. I’m not here to judge—unlike Ms F-B.
The original, weakly written blog item posted on that bastion of regional and world news, www.demerarawaves.com is worth reading, but not nearly as worthy as the dozens of more recent, up-to-date, educated and cerebral articles I found online after a half an hour on Google. Ms F-B took Denis Chabrol’s 507 words, adjusted some of the grammar and syntax to her own ends and spouted a 2300 word commentary, full of self indulgent, emotional language, paranoid delusions of a global gay conspiracy, and inferences about the motivation and character of the US Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS which verge on the libelous (although I’m no lawyer either!).
Not sure why this particular Mount Vesuvius erupted sixteen months after the original demerarawaves post, but given the complete lack of up-to-date content in her op-ed, perhaps Sarah is not an internet person–maybe she thinks Bing is only the fella who sings “White Christmas” but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.
If she had done a little research from the 21st century, perhaps she would have felt a bit silly quoting data from Dr JJ Fluker’s experiences after the legalization of gay sex in England in 1968–yep, there was an increase in reported cases of STDs all right, and it continued until 1981, according to Dr JJ. Of course it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that’s what happens when gay men are no longer considered criminals, and are more confident in actually attending clinics to get treatment.
But is Sarah seriously using a 1971 statistic to support her objection to the decriminalization of homosexual laws which most right-minded people and organizations have identified as pivotal in the campaign to combat HIV/AIDS when the disease was barely recognized at that time? Come on Ms F-B, at your age and with your law degree, you should know better than that!
The HIV/AIDS epidemic officially began on June 5th, 1981 (according to the US Centre for Disease Control & Prevention) and more than 30 years later, with millions of souls lost to the disease, the continuing struggle to reduce infection rates in the Caribbean, Africa and other countries should be paramount for every human being on the planet—black, white, men, women, gay, straight, IV drug-users, hemophiliacs, everyone!
But before I fall in the same trap of letting my emotions run away with me, I have a few quotes and facts that may enlighten readers about the so-called gay agenda around the Caribbean. No doubt they will evoke strong and emotional reactions, positive and negative. But that’s good, in fact, that’s great! Let’s have a conversation instead of a sermon; let’s learn the facts instead drinking the Koolaid of religious zealotry, let’s debate instead of hate—Sarah Flood-Beaubrun may think all Lucians are too homophobic, ignorant and uneducated to make up their own minds about decriminalizing anti-gay laws, but I for one disagree.
The reality of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean
“Despite high levels of intolerance towards LGBT people in the Caribbean, most countries have communities that engage in same-sex behaviours and non-conforming gender norms.” Research in the region shows that same-sex relations are not a primary identity, but rather an activity, as people who engage in same-sex behaviour may not regard themselves as homosexual, queer, gay, lesbian or transgender.”
“Due to high levels of intolerance towards LGBT people in the Caribbean, many are forced to hide their behaviours and/or identities in order to avoid social exclusion, criminalization and/or harm enforced by laws.” “Overlooked and at Risk – LGBT Youth in the Caribbean” by Meheret Melles (Advocates for Youth) and Jaevion Nelson (Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network), available at www.advocatesforyouth.org. The research referred to is from K. Kempadoo – Caribbean Review of Gender Studies 2009.
“Worldwide, the Caribbean is the second most affected region by HIV/AIDS” UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global Aids Epidemic, Geneva, Switzerland
“Criminalisation of homosexuality contributes to the stigma faced by those who contract HIV.” UNAIDS Progess Report for Caribbean, 2008
The Organisation of American States (of which St Lucia is a member) adopted five resolutions between 2008 and 2012 which condemned “acts of violence and human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity”, and urged states “to adopt the necessary measures to prevent, punish and eradicate” discrimination.
St Lucia, along with most other Caribbean states, acceded without reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which affirms that all children are entitled to protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
“In response to the claim of the advocacy group Minority Rights Dominica (Miridom) that the Catholic Church in Dominica is not reflecting the Vatican’s position on unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons, I wish to make it clear that the Catholic Church in Dominica adheres to the call of the Holy See in its statement to the 63rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Declaration of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity ‘to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as to urge all States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them…..The Catholic Church maintains that free sexual acts between adult persons must not be treated as crimes to be punished by civil authorities.” Most Reverend Gabriel Malzaire, Bishop of Roseau, May 21, 2013
“It is now clear that one of the oldest and largest religious denominations in Dominica – and a major contributor to social and educational systems in Dominica – would support an end to the criminal penalties against homosexuals.” Minority Rights Dominica (MiriDom), Dominica News, May 24, 2013
“What Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of Jamaica and President Barack Obama of the United States have in common is that they took a political risk by speaking out in favor of inclusiveness instead of discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They inspire people around the world and give hope to a brighter future for LGBT people… President Obama made himself vulnerable for his decision to support same sex marriage during his re-election campaign, but in doing so shows he is a true leader. Politically speaking, Simpson-Miller also took a big risk. Jamaica has a very violent history of homophobia and transphobia and her predecessor favored ongoing criminalization of homosexual conduct.” Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director of the LGBT Program at Human Rights Watch.