Unsilenced Stories from Haiti
Direct from the source. Nowhere in Haiti – in any newspaper, blog, or website – can reports on the daily lives of LGBT persons be found. Through our deep ties with the masisi community in Haiti, KOURAJ hopes to fill this gap by going where the silence is so voices may finally be heard.
Lundi 11 juin, Jacmel - Hier soir, vers 1h du matin, un groupe d’hommes a lancé des pierres sur la maison où se réunissaient un groupe d’amis homosexuels. Deux d’entre eux sont sortis pour aller leur parler et ont été agressé violemment à coup de bouteilles en verre et des pierres. La police n’est arrivée que deux heures après les faits et a transporté les blessés à l’hôpital, ils sont toujours dans un état stationnaire.
(English) Yesterday evening around one in the morning, a group of men threw rocks at and broke down the door of house where a group of homosexual friends was hanging out. Two of them approached the attackers to speak with them, and they were brutally attacked with broken bottle shards, stones, and punches. The police arrived only two hours after the event and transported the two seriously injured victims to the hospital, where they still are in an immobile state.
Vendredi 8 juin, Jacmel – Aujourd’hui, KOURAJ exprime toutes ses condoléances aux proches et aux amis à l’occasion de l’enterrement de notre frère Doudou, qui est décédé à la suite d’un accident tragique de moto à Jacmel la semaine dernière. C’était un ami et un frère, engagé dans le mouvement, et qui nous manquera beaucoup. Doudou, KOURAJ ne t’oubliera jamais, que la terre te soit légère…
(English) Today, Friday, June 8, KOURAJ expresses its condolences to the relatives and friends in attendance at the funeral of our brother Doudou, who died in a tragic motorcycle accident in Jacmel last week. He was a friend and a brother, engaged in the movement, and will be greatly missed. Doudou, KOURAJ will never forget you, may the earth be light on top of you…
Dimanche 6 mai, Port-au-Prince – Un jeune homosexuel âgé de 18 ans, habitant un quartier populaire de Port-au-Prince s’est fait mis à la porte de chez lui par ses parents parce qu’ils l’avaient surpris avec un autre homme. Il a dormi la nuit dernière chez un ami et n’a plus personne pour le supporter. Il ne peut plus retourner au lycée, car ses parents refusent de continuer à payer les frais d’écolage.
(English) A young 18-year-old homosexual living in a poor district of Port-au-Prince was kicked out of his house by his parents because they walked in on him with another man. He slept last night at friend’s house, but he no longer has anyone to support him. He is not able to return to high school because his parents refuse to continue paying for his school fees.
Mardi 24 Avril, Cap Haïtien - Deux masisi ont été arrêtés par la police dans la 2ème ville du pays, Cap Haïtien, alors qu’ils assistaient à l’enterrement de l’un de leur ami, assassiné quelques jours plus tôt. Lorsque des membres de l’assistance ont signalé au pasteur leur présence, celui-ci a appelé la police qui les a interpellés et incarcérés pour « atteinte à la pudeur ». Ils n’ont été libérés que le lendemain matin après avoir du subir une nuit humiliante en garde à vue.
(English) Two masisi were arrested by the police in the second largest city in Haiti, Cap Hatïen, while they were attending a funeral for their friend who was murdered a few days prior. When other attendees of the funeral informed the pastor of the two masisi also in attendance, the pastor called the police who then incarcerated them for « public indecency » because they were too effeminate. There were not released until the following day after being subjected to a humiliating night under police custody.
Check back soon.
KOURAJ in the News
by Housing Works / AIDS Issues Update Blog / May 24, 2012
Last week on May 17th Housing Works staff traveled to HAITI to support our local partners at a conference for LGBT Haitians held on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the groundbreaking conference brought together over 300 LGBT individuals to discuss sexual orientation and gender-based discrimination in the Haitian community.
This landmark event featured speakers M. Nigel Fisher of the United Nations, Charlot Jeudy of KOURAJ, multiple speakers from SEROvie and Edner Boucicaut, of Housing Works.
In a country where most LGBT people are fearful of violence and cannot be photographed at an LGBT event, speakers at the conference took an even bolder step forward by standing in front of a rainbow banner that declared in Hatian Creole Omosekyalite se pa yon mal, se omofobia ki fe mal, which in English means Homosexuality is not bad, Homophobia is bad.
“We will never be able to create a future for ourselves unless we join together and come out as gay men, lesbians and transgender people said Charlot Jeudy, President of KOURAJ, bringing the audience to its feet with affirming applause.” Our sexual orientation, our gender identity is innate to who we are. We can’t change that. But what we can change is the society around us.”
It’s Haitian society, not laws, which need to be changed. Unlike much of the Caribbean, Haiti does not have laws criminalizing homosexuality left over from the colonial era. Much of the anti-homophobia advocacy in many Caribbean countries by local activists and international organizations is focused on decriminalizing homosexuality as part of dealing with the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
Moreover, the 2010 earthquake further devastated the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, so issues of basic survival can seem to trump the need for other kinds of advocacy. But the work for cultural and national acceptance of LGBT people in Haiti remains a struggle, and this conference is proof that the rebuilding of Haiti means houses, hospitals and schools, and social justice for marginalized groups within the country.
There is hope that annual organized events like IDAHO will generate a greater understanding of homophobia in Haiti. Housing Works has been working in Haiti since 2008, and will continue to foster like-minded partnerships for LGBT rights in Haiti by working with the country’s first openly political gay rights organization, KOURAJ.
Housing Works will be releasing exclusive stories from the LGBT community in Haiti in a series to run during Pride month in June. Stay tuned to the AIDS Issues Update blog through June for more.
Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.
by Claude Bernard Sérant / defend.ht & Le Nouvelliste / May 23, 2012
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht/Le Nouvelliste) – The LGBT community in Haiti gathered more than three hundred men and women of sexual orientation stigmatized by Haitian society to tell the country to cease discriminatory practices against them.
A man, slightly disguised, who spreads his fingers in speaking at the Hotel Montana, Thursday, May 17 at the first National Congress of the Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Population of Haiti, said he was proud to belong to the LGBT community.
In the hall resounded a voice: « Lese nou viv! »
On the occasion of this event, several institutions supporting International Day against Homophobia were present at the Hotel Montana: Housing Works, the initiator of the movement that works with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA); UNAIDS, UNDP; Sérovie; Women in Action against Sexual Discrimination (FACDIS), the Ministry of Public Health, AIDS and Promoters Target Zero and Kouraj, a newly created organization.
Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declaired on December 1948, it was not until June 2011 that the world would see a resolution of the Council of Human Rights and an equally historic report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the laws and practices that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identities.
The resolution recalled that « human rights are universal, and therefore should apply without discrimination to lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, » said the Acting Deputy Special Representative of the UN Mission for the Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Nigel Fisher.
The LGBT community openly in front of more than three hundred members of organizations from seven area departments of Haiti, people stigmatized for their sexual orientation by Haitian society, Nigel Fisher stressed that the recognition of LGBT rights is a concept struggling to take root in the social and normative in different countries.
According to the sources of the High Commissioner, Nigel Fisher revealed a series of violations throughout the world against LGBT. « Murder, rape and physical attacks, arbitrary detention, denial of right to assemble, or discrimination in employment, education and access to health, are just some of the violence suffered by LGBT in UN member countries. Haiti is unfortunately not an exception. In a country where the socio-economic conditions are already precarious, the respect for economic, social and cultural rights is a mirage for LGBT. You are subject to marginalization and exclusion from society. Moreover, given the prevalence of HIV / AIDS in Haiti, LGBT are stigmatized by the public but also the medical profession. They can not discuss openly with doctors or seek care. »
Stories Member of an organization that defends the interests of the LGBT community, Jean-Louis of Sérovie explains: « In 2003, two of my friends were returning from a party about eleven o’clock at Poste-Marchand. Sniffing they were gay, young men beat them savagely. One of them lost an eye. A patrol of the National Police on site did not even help.
Ala pa gen nasyon chans! « Jasmin, nicknamed tati, has claimed exclusion. « My mother has eight children, I am always on hand. « His friend was raped by a group of handymen. It took him right away to a clinic for prophylaxis. He was ashamed to go to complain to the police.
President Kouraj, Jeudy Charlot assumes and proclaims her gender. Having completed his studies in law, working on his thesis project. « My subject is the issue of homosexuality in Haiti. Reality. Legal approach. We fight against homophobia in Haiti. We have a structure to fight against all forms of stigma and discrimination. We have fifty active members. We take this opportunity to thank UNAIDS that allows us to gather in this room to discuss the problems we face. »
Executive Director of Women in Action against sexual discrimination, Marjorie Lafontant supports the same battle as Charlot: « We fight for the rights of lesbians, gay, transgender, bisexual and transvestites are respected in Haiti. »
‘Revolutionary’ gay rights group formed in Haiti: Creation of Kouraj is sign gays ‘have engaged, have reacted, have acted’
by Natasha Barsotti / Xtra! (Canada’s Gay & Lesbian News) Vancouver / Friday, May 04, 2012
Masisi means « faggot » in Haitian Creole.
But the founders of the Caribbean nation’s first openly political gay rights organization, Kouraj, are reclaiming it and using it with abandon in naming and speaking about themselves and their community.
It is the central word in the mission they have set out for themselves: The Masisi Manifesto.
The first couple of lines of the manifesto read, « We were born masisi. We will always be masisi. » It ends by evoking the slave-led revolution, more than 200 years ago, that culminated in Haiti declaring itself a free republic, the first independent nation in Latin America, under rebellion leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
« Yesterday we were Black, today we are Masisi, tomorrow we will be Human Beings, » the statement concludes.
For the president of Kouraj, Jeudy Charlot, the organization’s creation is revolutionary in itself and already a victory. « To be homosexual in Haiti requires courage, » Charlot told Xtra via email (through translator Don Wilson). « The biggest obstacle for homosexual people is that they are not accepted, and they cannot accept themselves, » he says. Kouraj, which means courage, represents an awakening of sorts, he adds. « It represents a sign that some homosexuals have become engaged, have reacted, have acted, » he says on the group’s website. « We do not yet have numbers, but this will change. Kouraj is the spark, the possibility that there is an alternative to enduring suffering; it is the means that we masisi have chosen to finally change Haiti. »
While Haiti does not criminalize homosexuality, there are no laws specifically guaranteeing the country’s masisi protection from discrimination. Charlot says there is talk about anti-discrimination legislation, but it remains at the level of lip service — for now.
« Whatever you do is in secret, » Charlot says, noting it was a long struggle to have his own family accept him. « I do not want to leave this country because I do not want youth who are born homosexual or transgender to have a more difficult life than others solely due to something they did not choose, » he states on the Kouraj website.
« Gays and lesbians always hope to go live in another country if their families become aware of their situation. Families can reject them, and here in our poor country, there is not enough work, » Charlot points out. « This is what creates the dependence on the part of gay and lesbians. »
It also doesn’t help that the churches are « always reminding us what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah in their sermons, » Charlot says. « They advise Christians to avoid sitting with us because we are Satan’s representatives. These are the churches that often have missionaries from the United States that say they are bringing ‘Good News,' » Charlot observes. « They have this whole discourse on hell for us because we don’t accept that it is God who can save us. » Following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s masisi were accused of causing the disaster, « divine punishment for their mortal sins, » the Kouraj website notes.
The presence of human rights organizations is not a source of relief either, he adds, because they do not speak up on behalf of gay Haitians. « They do not provide any intervention on the rights of the LGBT community. Those organizations are hypocritical, which is why we created Kouraj. »
The police are dismissive in the face of reports about homophobic harassment or violence. « Bringing a complaint to the police will result in them saying they do not deal with such cases, or they may simply ignore you, » he says.
Charlot says Kouraj’s immediate work is focused in part on an information campaign aimed at finding out whether gays and lesbians understand what homophobia is, how it manifests and its consequences for gay Haitians. « We are travelling around the larger cities in the country so that we can recruit representatives for Kouraj in these cities to understand the degree of homophobia, » Charlot elaborates. « We need political and financial assistance because we need to move around when we are pleading a case, when we need to help another gay person who is victimized by violence. »
The group is also working on a book of testimonials that will feature the experiences of gay Haitians to create more societal awareness about the systemic discrimination they face. Charlot is hoping that the book, whose estimated publication price tag is $10,000 (US), will be ready in time for Livres en Folie, a large cultural event held in June.
Also high on the organization’s priority list is funding to establish a headquarters. Kouraj’s membership now gathers on the down-low in people’s homes for meetings and parties. One friend’s home, often used as a congregation spot, is referred to as a house of sodomy by his neighbours.
« We cannot just meet anywhere due to the possibility of violence against us, » Charlot says. « We need to have a space of our own. »
Don Wilson is a physician based in Comox, BC and lived for two years in Haiti. Xtra thanks Don for the translation. For more info, and/or to donate: visit kouraj.org