NASSAU, Bahamas — Gay pride celebrations are set to take place in The Bahamas from August 28 – September 2, 2014.
Billed as “Freedom Weekend 2014”, the island’s first Pride event is being coordinated by the Society Against STIs & HIV (SASH) Bahamas, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer (LGBTI) nonprofit. If plans are realised, the event will also be the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, and the second in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) after Suriname held its first pride in 2011.
Decriminalised, but marginalised: The Bahamas stands as an exception in the English-speaking Caribbean as it relates to the criminalisation of homosexuals, after it abolished its sodomy laws in 1991 in response to the then-emerging HIV crisis and increased gay stigma that was thought to be responsible for a disproportionate HIV burden on gay men. Yet, according to gay-rights activist Maurice Tomlinson, there is still a “high degree of social stigma associated with homosexuality” in the country.
Writing for the 76 Crimes blog, which advocates for the repeal of anti-gay laws worldwide, Tomlinson added:
“The Bahamas boasts a significant number of evangelical Christians who are heavily influenced by homophobic fundamentalist American churches. In addition, many legal impediments still stand in the way of full-equality for LGBTI Bahamians”
The SASH initiative comes against the backdrop of intensely polarised recent debates on gay rights in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica and Belize, where religious groups have staged protests against possible repeals of the buggery law.
Last month, CARICOM Heads of Government rejected a Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV & AIDS (PANCAP) Justice for All policy paper which recommended, among other things, the repeal of laws criminalising homosexual relations.
Update: “Freedom Weekend 2014” was cancelled due to threats of violence from the community. One of the organizers reported receiving death threats on his Facebook page. The Bahamas have a history of violence against homosexuals, with even the police force known to engage in harassing activities. In 2011, the government reaffirmed its definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, dashing LGBT hopes for marriage equality in the islands.