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Regional bodies at odds over LGBT issues


Regional bodies at odds over LGBT issues

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PORT OF SPAIN – Leaders of a regional coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations sent a letter today to the leaders of CARICOM countries, urging them not to fall prey to a “regional panic in response to equal marriage”.

The letter from CariFLAGS was in response to an online petition by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) which called on regional leaders “to stand firm against international pressures to abolish logical common-sense principles necessary for human flourishing”.

JCHS said it had signatures from 1 286 churches and civil society organisations in CARICOM and support from 80 other countries across the globe.  These signatures and a “civil society declaration” have reportedly been passed on to regional heads of government who will be meeting in Barbados this week.

JCHS argued that CARICOM has recently been the target of determined efforts by the United States and transnational actors to force the region to adopt laws, policies and educational curricula that promote “unhealthy behaviours, undermine the institutions of marriage and family and threaten the well-being of Caribbean societies”. 

However, CariFLAGS said the petition “calls on CARICOM to adopt policies that deny rights recognition to people who engage in what they call unnatural and unhealthy sexual behaviours”.

“Though the “declaration” also mentions euthanasia and abortion, it grounds its concerns and fears in six examples, all of them recent efforts in the region to promote sexual health and protect rights of LGBT Caribbean people,” the organisation said.

CariFLAGS charged that JCHS has in the past successfully targeted CARICOM’s HIV policymaking and programmes, and weakened CARICOM leadership commitment to creating an enabling environment for reversing the spread of the disease.

“Last year, in the wake of JCHS’s mobilisation in support for Brendan Bain, the University of the West Indies lost significant international funding for HIV. Retired Prof. Bain was relieved of roles as a regional policymaker with CARICOM and UWI and censured because of conflicts of interest in court testimony solicited by religious groups opposed to CARICOM policy,” it said in a statement.

CariFLAGS is arguing that the impact of JCHS’s current petition, and any CARICOM embrace of it, may be similar.

“They believe it will likely result in the transfer of millions of dollars in funds from global HIV donors, which is earmarked for addressing policy, stigma and discrimination, from CARICOM to civil society groups like theirs,” the umbrella body noted.

CARIFLAGS urged CARICOM leaders “to ensure neither Dominicans of Haitian descent nor Caribbean LGBT people are cast out of justice, citizenship or the nation”. (PR/NB)