For LGBTQIA+ Community in Haiti, New Law Takes Major Step Backwards

October 5, 2017

Haiti has taken a major step backwards in the fight for equality of LGBTQIA+ persons, one that has drawn comparison to the policies of Russia. Haiti has proposed and approved in the Senate a law that prohibits “any public demonstration of support for homosexuality and proselytizing in favour of such acts”. Lauded by Senators as a bill to prohibit same-sex marriage, in reality the bill is more about limiting freedom of speech and expression in a country that already legally defines marriage as between a man and a woman (Duffy).

The Senate has also passed a law qualifying “homosexuality” as a reason to deny individuals a “certificate of good life and morals” which is essential for jobs, university, a driver’s license, passport or starting an organization. Violators of this law would face up to three years in prison and a fine over nearly $8,000 USD. This attempt to make discrimination part of the national structure has Haitians concerned that even if this bill does not pass the Chamber of Deputies, it has still developed an attitude of intolerance towards LGBTQIA+ (The Editors).

 

Activists are rallying to try to prevent these bills from passing, circulating a petition that states that the two laws are unconstitutional. There have also been efforts to lobby leaders to vote against the law, if it were to be called to a vote. Another potential route for activists is to seek assistance from the international human rights organizations such as the UN Human Rights Commission or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Although the international community is concerned about the degradation of the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals in Haiti, international involvement may only worsen the issue domestically. There is a myth in Haiti that says homosexuality is not Haitian and are instead ideas that were brought into the country by foreigners. Increased international involvement is frequently used as propaganda for anti-LGBT groups (The Editors).

 

The examples of discrimination against sexual minorities was prevalent before these bills were proposed. Discrimination was also seen surrounding the 2010 earthquake and documented by the International Gay and Lesbian Human RIghts Commission and SEROvie, a Haitian organization focusing on providing HIV treatment to LGBT persons. The report details how many Haitians blamed the earthquake on the LGBT community because they supposedly angered God. Persecution of sexual minorities occurred in the form of physical and sexual violence such as “corrective rape” which is rape in the name of converting homosexual individuals to heterosexuality. Evidence also shows that 40 women were arrested in displacement camps and charged with “indecency and immorality” because same-sex activity is not currently illegal (Canavera). If the proposed bills were to become law, the climate of legal and societal discrimination for LGBTQIA+ would dramatically worsen. Whether the bill will pass the Chamber of Deputies is still unclear, but the rest of the world is watching and hoping that Haiti does not take such a massive step backwards in protecting the human dignity of all individuals (Lavers).

 

Canavera, M. (2012, April 02). Brutal Aftershocks: The Persecution of LGBT Haitians After the Earthquake. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-canavera/lgbt-haitians-persecution_b_...

 

Duffy, N. (2017, August 03). Haitian Senate passes bill that will make it a crime to support gay rights. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/08/03/haitian-senate-passes-bill-that-will-make-it-a-crime-to-support-gay-rights/

 

Lavers, M. K. (2017, August 03). Haitian Senate approves bill to ban same-sex marriage. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/08/03/haitian-senate-approves-bill-b...

 

The Editors. (2017, September 11). Haiti's LGBT Rights Groups Find Their Feet Amid a Rising Tide of Animosity. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/23126/haiti-s-lgbt-right...

 

About Author(s)

Katherine Andrews
Katherine Andrews is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Political Science with certificates in Global and Latin American Studies. She spent her summer interning with the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department and has done research with CLAS in Costa Rica and Mexico. Her focus is on gender and sexuality issues in Latin America, specifically international gender-based violence policy.