PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, July 1, 2015 (AMG) — Leaders of the Caribbean Forum for the Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS) – a regional coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations – today sent a letter to CARICOM heads of government urging them not to fall prey to regional panic in response to the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the United States.
The response came amid plans by the vocal anti-gay, evangelical lobby – the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) – to deliver a petition urging the denial of equal rights for the Caribbean’s LGBT citizens.
Using a social media platform that previously mobilized international support for anti-homosexual laws in Russia and Uganda, JCHS collected thousands of private signatures from around the world for a “civil society declaration” to CARICOM, which it intends to submit to the regional organ at its Heads of Government meeting in Barbados, which will also be attended by the UN Secretary-General, Ban-ki Moon.
Evoking faith, family, and Caribbean freedom struggles, the JCHS e-petition calls on CARICOM to adopt policies that deny the recognition of rights to people who engage in what they call “unnatural” and “unhealthy” sexual behaviours. CariFLAGS drew parallels between the petition and the Dominican Republic’s treatment of people of Haitian descent, urging the regional body to oppose both.
In the past JCHS has successfully targeted CARICOM’s HIV policy making and programmes, with gay lobbyists arguing that the group has weakened CARICOM leadership’s commitment to reversing the impact of the HIV epidemic — a key threat to the region’s development. CariFLAGS is of the view that the current JCHS petition, if embraced by CARICOM’s leadership, could lead to even more of the same.
Calling the petition’s recommendations a backward step, CariFLAGS expressed fears that continued anti-gay policies in the region would likely jeopardise millions of dollars in donor funds earmarked for LGBT civil society groups and programmes to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination.
An initial CARICOM application for such funds was turned down on its first round, and CariFLAGS believes that CARICOM must stand up for principle if it wants to continue to lead the region’s response to HIV. The group urged CARICOM leaders to ensure that neither Dominicans of Haitian descent, nor Caribbean LGBT citizens, were excluded from justice.
Image credit: Gilbert Bellamy/Reuters