Caricom leaders urged to ‘guarantee’ rights of gay, lesbian persons

SASOD supported a statement drafted at the 41st Organisation of American States (OAS) General Assembly urging Caricom leaders to guarantee the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons and address homophobia in the region.

According to a press release, Jermaine Grant represented the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrim-ination (SASOD) at the June 5-7 meeting held in San Salvador, El Salvador. Grant and other human rights defenders from the Anglophone Caribbean drafted a statement which was issued to government officials from the sub-region, on the human rights situation of LGBTI persons and which called for “leaders of Caricom to guarantee the rights of all citizens… and aggressively address the scourge of homophobia that undermines our collective security.” Support was also given to the Inter-American system for human rights protection of persons in issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Grant along with other members of the coalition of LGBTI organisations from 21 countries in the hemisphere participated in peripheral meetings with Dr Irene Klinger, Director of the Department of International Relations of the OAS and Vanda Pignato, First Lady of El Salvador and the country’s Secretary of Social Inclusion who both conveyed support and appreciation of the work of the coalition in its human rights advocacy.

SASOD also participated in the informal dialogue session with OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza on June 4, along with other members of civil society. Discussions were held under the General Assembly’s theme ‘Citizen Security in the Americas’ and highlighted the human rights situation of LGBTI persons in the Americas in strengthening transparency and inclusion of human rights defenders participating in the decision making process of the organisation.

The session also recognised the concept of security is multi-dimensional and that any threat made to the survival and livelihood of all human kind compromises citizens’ security. Participants from the Anglophone Caribbean LGBTI civil society, also posited that laws criminalizing same sex intimacy creates an insecure environment and brings about discrimination in various forms, such as harassment, abuse and violence of LGBTI persons. It was noted that the majority of member states of the OAS from Latin and North America have made notable steps both in promoting and protecting human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression while those in the Anglophone Caribbean are lagging behind.

Grant opined that by not taking legislative strides in revoking laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy and cross dressing along with endorsing legislation that wilfully exclude rights of LGBTI persons, Anglophone Caribbean countries contribute to the ongoing discrimination and intolerance.

In this way, they also legitimize human rights abuses and violence against LGBTI persons who are compounded by an unsafe environment, creating social vulnerabilities. He said these laws embrace state-sanctioned homophobia which undervalues human life and challenge citizens’ security.

The General Assembly also approved the fourth resolution on ‘Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’ which encouraged member states to consider “adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity”.

This is the fifth year that SASOD has participated in the General Assembly. It noted that it emphasized the realities and challenges faced by LGBTI persons in Guyana to the OAS and member states and insisted on authoritative action in the legal and policy changes.

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