Discrimination is illegal; marrying who you love is not legal anymore.” These were the words of Andy Brice, representative to the British High Commissioner at the opening day of the LGBTTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender and Intersex) workshop on Monday August 11, at the Bay Gardens Inn conference room.
Hosted by United and Strong, the initiative was a four-day workshop for LGBTTI Advocacy Strategies in the System of the Organization of the American States (OAS), convened in conjunction with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Rights’ Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights (GISHR). Invited to give remarks during the opening ceremony of proceedings, Brice began his speech by lauding the ongoing efforts of the LGBTTI agency United and Strong.
“I think the first thing I should say is I have been in St. Lucia for 11 months and just how impressed I’ve been with United and Strong and the work that they do here and how you see the first signs of movement here in Saint Lucia,” Brice expressed.
The UK representative then focused his short presentation on the matter of human rights and the fact that it should be applicable to all persons regardless of gender, race, age and especially sexual orientation. He explained that the issues of prejudice against homosexuals which had been ignored in the past, have been gradually considered and activists continue the fight for equality.
“The UK in the last decade has seen what I would term as an increase in rational debates of rights. The right to look for who you want, the right to full protection under the law, the right to have a joint pension if you’re a lesbian or gay married couple. All of those rights that heterosexual couples have had for centuries in common law, we’ll now be trying those rights in UK law thanks to our Gay Marriage Act of the last year,” he continued.
In attendance at the workshop were representatives of Human Rights and LGBTTI organizations across the Caribbean, and in closing, Brice saluted their efforts and implored them to continue the journey which they have embarked upon and, with the rest of the world, ensure that rights will finally be “equal” for persons who fall under LGBTTI.
“Discrimination is illegal; marrying who you love is not legal anymore. I commend your efforts in the Caribbean. Our efforts are to support and answer to you. And we’re not leaving this, it’s important to hear the Caribbean voices are the ones to speak out on this issue. We want to ensure that the wrongs that were left behind in the past are put right,” Brice concluded.
Noticeably absent at the opening ceremony was the invited government representative Hubert Emmanuel, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No one stood in his stead, nor was any explanation given for his absence. Could this be taken to signal a boycott on the part of the government or an official stance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by extension the minister?
However Kenita Placide of United and Strong, was pleased to be able to see the event come to fruition. “It is really an honour to be able to put on this workshop, dealing with the Universal Periodic Review as well as the OAS system. Being able to do this training is to ensure that persons within the NGOs around the region have the skills and tools and an understanding of the process to be involved, to participate, to be able to speak with the government, but more importantly, how do we connect the international and regional mechanisms with local advocacies that we do on a daily basis,” she said.
The workshop also incorporated human rights and LGBTTI organizations from the United States and across Europe including ARC International, COC Nederland, Arcus Foundation, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Heartland Alliance.