Haiti: Situation of sexual minorities and treatment of this group by society and the authorities; legislation, state protection and support services (2012-September 2013) [HTI104591.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Legislation

Sources indicate that homosexuality is not illegal in Haiti (ILGA n.d.; US 19 Apr. 2013, 33; RFI 17 May 2013). In 13 September 2013 correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a SEROvie representative pointed out that Haitian legislation contains no act that punishes or protects homosexual individuals and that this situation [translation] "weakens them." According to its website, SEROvie is "a Haitian community organization that has been providing HIV and AIDS prevention and support services to men who have sex with men (MSM) since 1999" (SEROvie n.d.).

In 12 September 2013 correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the President of Kouraj also pointed out that there is no [translation] "specific legislation protecting the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals)." The Kouraj website states that Kouraj is [Kouraj English version] "a group of...activists" created to stimulate debate on the civic rights of LGBT individuals in Haiti and to strengthen solidarity in that community (Kouraj n.d.).

2. Attitude of Society and the Government

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 published by the United States Department of State indicates that, although there were no "confirmed" reports of discrimination against LGBT persons by the authorities, domestic NGOs reported that LGBT persons "faced widespread societal discrimination, including social stigma, targeted physical violence, sexual assault, and employment insecurity" (US 19 Apr. 2013, 32). In addition, the same source reported that people in rural areas are much more "tolerant" of the LGBT community than in urban centres, such as Port-au-Prince (ibid., 33). Country Reports explains that the "cohabitation" of same-sex couples has been tolerated in rural communities and that the acceptance "allowed some men to dress and live openly as women" (ibid.). However, Supplementary Information on Haiti Regarding the Treatment of LGBT Individuals, submitted on 18 September 2013 by SEROvie, Kouraj, the Office of International Lawyers (Bureau des avocats internationaux) and other organizations following the 105th session of the United Nations Committee states that, in order to "prevent discrimination and ostracism, many LGBT individuals in rural communities hide their sexuality, choosing instead to live as though they were heterosexual" (SEROvie et al. 18 Sept. 2013, 4).

Further information on whether LGBT individuals are treated differently in rural communities than in urban ones could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

An article published by Radio France International (Radio France internationale, RFI) on 17 May 2013 points out that [translation] "insults and persecution occurs daily in the country; it is impossible for a homosexual to be out publicly." In addition, the President of Kouraj stated that homosexuality is a [translation] "taboo" subject in Haiti and that [translation] "visible and known [homosexuals] are beaten and insulted on a daily basis" (18 Sept. 2013).

The President of Kouraj described the situation of sexual minorities in Haiti as [translation] "difficult" (18 Sept. 2013). According to the SEROvie representative, [translation] "both the government and society in general share the same perception of LGBT individuals" (13 Sept. 2013). The President of Kouraj reported that, generally speaking, [translation] "LGBT individuals are frowned upon and misunderstood by society, but that they do not really encounter problems in some areas, including the arts, or with some religions, including voodoo" (12 Sept. 2013). Similarly, the SEROvie representative stated that the opinions of voodoo practitioners and individuals who are not religious are [translation] "somewhat moderate and tolerant" (SEROvie 13 Sept. 2013). He added that there is [translation] "a very negative opinion centred on a shocking form of machismo" among Protestant men (ibid.). The President of Kouraj reported that violence and discrimination increase when the LGBT community comes together or mobilizes itself (its participation in the national debate; the commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia; the public condemnation of certain actions) (18 Sept. 2013). However, the SEROvie representative reported that

[translation]

in terms of the government, the best advised and best informed authorities who have homophobic tendencies openly exhibit discriminatory attitudes toward homosexual individuals, but they are very careful when doing so, just so that they do not get into trouble performing their duties. However, some generally less informed subordinates are not always aware of potential trouble and are more likely to react with disdain and contempt toward Haitian homosexuals. This is true both of the departments of health, social affairs and justice, and of the national police.

In terms of society, the most extremist individuals do not hesitate to openly mock effeminate homosexuals; they even create radio and television programs to denigrate them. Even the sermons in some churches are about the situation of Haitian homosexuals. In order to justify disparaging LGBT individuals, homosexuality is always linked with pedophilia. Homosexuals are automatically seen by these extremists as pedophiles (13 Sept. 2013).

According to the Acting Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations' Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), whose remarks were published by the Port-au-Prince newspaper Le Nouvelliste (Le Nouvelliste n.d.), [translation] "LGBT are stigmatized by the public, but also the medical profession" (Le Nouvelliste 22 May 2012). At the first national congress of the LGBT community in Haiti, which was held on 17 May 2012, the MINUSTAH Special Representative reported that LGBT individuals [translation] "cannot have honest discussions with doctors or seek care" (ibid.). Similarly, the President of Kouraj reported that an [translation] "effeminate gay who goes to the hospital because he was assaulted cannot receive a medical certificate," because [translation] "his behaviour caused the assault" (Kouraj 12 Sept. 2013). Further information on the attitude of health care professionals toward LGBT persons could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

With respect to the treatment of LGBT individuals by their own family members, the President of Kouraj reported that they [translation] "are generally rejected" (ibid. 18 Sept. 2013). He explained that the more religious a family is, [translation] "the more risk there is of the LGBT member being excluded" (ibid.). Further information on the treatment of LGBT individuals by their families could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.1 Demonstrations

According to the President of Kouraj, whose remarks were published in Le Nouvelliste, [translation] "the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, celebrated in Haiti on the 17th of May, is a step forward for the gay community, which is stigmatized by violence" (17 May 2013). He also explained that 2013 was the second time that the day was being celebrated (Kouraj 18 Sept. 2013).

Sources indicate that, on 19 July 2013, a march was organized by the Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations (Coalition des organisations religieuses et morales) to protest against homosexuality (AI 19 July 2013; 360° 1 Aug. 2013; AP 19 July 2013). More than 1,000 people took part in this march (ibid.; Gay Star News 20 July 2013). However, Swiss magazine 360o, which covers current homosexual, bisexual and transgender issues (360o n.d.), reported that this type of protest was rather [translation] "unusual" in Haiti (360o 1 Aug. 2013).

Media sources report that a number of homosexuals or individuals assumed to be homosexual were attacked during or after the march (Gay Star News 31 July 2013; The Sentinel 19 July 2013). According to Amnesty International (AI), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that, between 17 and 24 July, [AI English version] "47 cases of violence and aggression [were perpetrated against] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons or [persons] perceived as such;" these persons were attacked using "knives, machetes, cement blocks, rocks and sticks" (AI 2 Aug. 2013). Sources also report that, during the 19 July protest, two individuals, who were assumed to be homosexual, were found dead (The Sentinel 19 July 2013; L'autre Haïti 20 July 2013; Tout Haïti 19 July 2013). AI also reports that, following the protest, the house of two gay men was looted and that they were forced to flee (AI 26 July 2013). AI also reports that, since the protest, many LGBT persons living in Port-au-Prince have left the city for the countryside, fearing for their safety (ibid.).

According to sources, the Ministry of Justice condemned the violence that followed the protest (Gay Star News 31 July 2013; 360° 1 Aug. 2013), but [translation] "the police have not made any arrests" (ibid.). The President of Kouraj echoed this and added that [translation] "police officers in uniform even participated actively in the protest" on 19 July (18 Sept. 2013).

Further information on these events could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Treatment of Sexual Minorities by the Authorities

According to the SEROvie data from the Supplementary Information on Haiti Regarding the Treatment of LGBT Individuals, LGBT individuals "are frequently harassed by police and arrested for what appears to amount to criminalization of their basic identity" (SEROvie et al. 18 Sept. 2013, 4,5).

According to the Director of the Observatory on Regional Development and Gender-based Analysis (Observatoire sur le développement régional et l'analyse différenciée selon les sexes, ORÉGAND) at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, an organization that has been working with the women's movement in Haiti for decades (Le Savoir n.d.), [translation] "the [Haitian] police do not really take a position" on homosexuality in the country, since it is not illegal (Director 24 Sept. 2013). She reported that LGBT persons do not file complaints because their aggressors are [translation] "often" family members (ibid.).

According to the SEROvie representative,

[translation]

sexual minorities do not systematically file complaints against their aggressors for fear of retaliation. It is difficult to trust the public servant who is being given the complaint. However, in rare cases, survivors of violence find organizational support to take legal action. Since the system is not entirely reliable, cases are never easy to win (13 Sept. 2013).

The President of Kouraj explained that LGBT persons do not file complaints against their aggressors for two reasons: the first is because their relatives are not aware of their sexual identity and [translation] "they do not want them to know," and the second is because the system is not [translation] "receptive and is corrupt" (Kouraj 18 Sept. 2013). He reported that, when a member of a sexual minority goes to the police to file a report, [translation] "the police mock the LGBT person" (ibid.). He added that, [translation] "when someone is accompanied by a lawyer, the complaint is considered. However, not every lawyer wants to represent LGBT persons" (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The President of Kouraj also reported that, when two homosexual people kiss in a public place, they can be arrested by the police for [translation] "offending public decency," even though there is no legislation to that effect (18 Sept. 2013). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Protection and Support Services

According to its website, SEROvie is the sole institution in Haiti that provides [SEROvie English version] "services to MSM, bisexual men and women, lesbian and transgender individuals (LGBT)" (SEROvie n.d.).

According to the SEROvie representative, survivors of violence are referred to the SEROvie Foundation and to Women in Action Against Stigma and Sexual Discrimination (Femme en action contre la stigmatisation et la discrimination sexuelle, FACSDIS) (SEROvie 13 Sept. 2013). FACSDIS is [translation] "the only organization of lesbians in Haiti" and also works with marginalized women and women with HIV (FACSDIS n.d.). The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) also reports that FACSDIS [AJWS English version] "address[es] the discrimination, stigma and sexual violence experienced by LBT people and sex workers in Haitian society" (AJWS n.d.). SEROvie and FACSDIS provide the following services:

[translation]

Legal assistance; medical care; psychological counselling; temporary accommodation and relocation; social rehabilitation by strengthening economic independence (income generating activities, job searching); and vocational training (SEROvie 13 Sept. 2013).

The SEROvie representative also reported that [translation] "these services must be reinforced in order to provide the same range and quality at all the existing sites in the country: the Port-au-Prince site is currently the best equipped with equipment and facilities" (ibid.). He also stated that the SEROvie Foundation provides its services in eight of Haiti's ten geographic departments, namely:

  • Nord (Cap-Haitien, Limonade, Trou-du-Nord),
  • Artibonite (Gonaives, L'Estère, Petite-Rivière, Marchands Dessalines),
  • Nord-est (Ouanaminthe, Fort-Liberté, Malfeti),
  • Nord-ouest (Port-de-Paix),
  • Sud (Cayes, Cavaillon, Port-Salut, Camp-Périn),
  • Sud-est (Jacmel, Cayes-Jacmel),
  • Centre (Mirebalais),
  • Ouest (Port-au-Prince, Pétion-Ville, Léogâne, Petit-Goâve, Grand-Goâve, Croix-des-Bouquets, Arcahaie) (ibid.).

He added that some services are much more concentrated in the western part of the country because of the organization's accessibility in that region (ibid.).

The President of Kouraj reported that his organization is small and that it does not have the means or the skills required to help everyone who needs it (Kouraj 18 Sept. 2013). He stated that the organization employs 144 individuals, who work in seven cities, namely: St-Marc, Gonaives, Jacmel, Cabaret, Léogâne, Port-au-Prince and Tabarre, and that the organization mainly works on HIV/AIDS prevention (ibid.). With the help of its partners, including the Office of International Lawyers, the organization can, however, provide legal, medical and psychological support, relocation and screening (ibid. 12 Sept. 2013). He added that these associations are located mostly in Port au Prince and that they have representatives in some major cities in Haiti (ibid.).

When asked about other services available in Haiti, such as a hotline or a shelter to help LGBT individuals, the President of Kouraj responded that these services are not offered in Haiti (18 Sept. 2013).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

360°. 1 August 2013. Antoine Gessling. "Haïti : Des rumeurs de mariage gay déclenchent une flambée de violence." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2013]

_____. N.d. "Présentation." [Accessed 27 Sept. 2013]

American Jewish World Service (AJWS). N.d. "Femme en action contre la stigmatisation et la discrimination sexuelle (FACSDIS)." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2013]

Amnesty International (AI). 2 August 2013. "Haïti. On redoute de nouvelles violences lors d'un prochain défilé anti-LGBTI." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2013]

_____. 26 July 2013. "Haiti. De nouvelles violences possibles lors d'un prochain défilé anti-LGBTI." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2013]

_____. 19 July 2013. "Des militants LGBTI en danger en Haïti." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2013]

Associated Press (AP). 19 July 2013. "Haiti Anti-Gay Protest Draws More Than 1,000 Demonstrators." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

L'autre Haïti. 20 July 2013. Osman Jérôme. "Haïti à l'heure des manifestations contre l'homosexualité." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

Director, Observatoire sur le développement régional et l'analyse différenciée selon les sexes (ORÉGAND), Université du Québec en Outaouais. 24 September 2013. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

Femmes en action contre la stigmatisation et la discrimination sexuelle (FACSDIS). N.d. "Présentation FACSDIS." [Accessed 25 Sept. 2013]

Gay Star News. 31 July 2013. Tris Reid-Smith. "Haiti Gangs Beat 47 Gays with Machetes, Sticks and Cement Blocks." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

_____. 20 July 2013. Jean Paul Zapata. "Death Threats Captured on Video at Haiti Anti-gay Demonstration." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). N.d. "Haiti (Law)." [Accessed 16 Sept. 2013]

Kouraj. 18 September 2013. Telephone interview with the President.

_____. 12 September 2013. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the President.

_____. N.d. "Le projet Kouraj." [Accessed 16 Sept. 2013]

Le Nouvelliste [Port-au-Prince]. 17 May 2013. Amos Cincir. "Des homosexuels haïtiens réclament leurs droits." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

_____. 22 May 2012. Claude Bernard Sérant. "Premier congrès national contre l'homophobie en Haïti." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

_____. N.d. "Contactez-nous." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2013]

Radio France internationale (RFI). 17 May 2013. Amélie Baron. "Journée mondiale contre l'homophobie : l'homosexualité en Haïti." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2013]

Le Savoir [Gatineau]. N.d. Direction des communications et du recrutement de l'Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO). "La relation privilégiée entre Danièle Magloire et l'UQO." [Accessed 26 Sept. 2013]

The Sentinel. 19 July 2013. "Haiti: Two Assumed Homosexuals Beaten to Death by Protest Mob." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

SEROvie. 13 September 2013. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by a representative.

_____. N.d. "About us." [Accessed 16 Sept. 2013]

SEROvie et al. 18 September 2013. Supplementary Information on Haiti Regarding the Treatment of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuel and Transgender Individuals (LGBT). [Accessed 25 Sept. 2013]

Tout Haïti. 19 July 2013. "Haiti- Deux présumés homosexuels tués après la manifestation homophobe organisée par des églises protestantes." [Accessed 11 Sept. 2013]

United States (US). 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Haiti." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. [Accessed 13 Sept 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following individuals and organizations were unsuccessful: Bureau des avocats internationaux; Promoteur Objectif Zerosida; International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Representatives of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition and Femmes en action contre la stigmatisation et la discrimination sexuelle were unable to provide information for this Response.

Internet sites, including: Agence haïtienne de presse; Carib Creole News; Defend Haiti; ecoi.net; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme; Factiva; Global Forum on MSM and HIV; Freedom House; Haiti – Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population; Haiti Observer; Haiti Press Network; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Le Matin; National Human Rights Defense Network; Radio Anse-Rouge; Radio Kiskeya; Radio SignalFM; Touristiquement Gay; United Nations – Refworld, ReliefWeb, Integrated Regional Information Networks, United Nations Development Fund, UNAIDS, UNICEF; World Organization Against Torture.