Generation Change: Speaking about LGBT Rights in the Caribbean


British High Commissioner Arthur Snell; Lance Price, founder of Kaleidoscope Trust; and other prominent supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community spoke in a recent summit in Trinidad this past weekend in support of the launch of Generation Change—a Caribbean initiative to gain more rights for the LGBT community. Hosted at Kapok Hotel in Port-of-Spain, regional leaders in the LGBT community representing Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, gave detailed accounts of the discrimination and stigma they face on a daily basis. Under the banner ‘Generation Change,’ Caribbean LGBT youth said they are not prepared to wait for equality and demand that politicians “stop talking and start delivering.”

[. . .] ‘We have heard fine words from some of our prime ministers and people with the power to make change happen but so far we see nothing being done,’ said Jeremy Steffan Edwards, one of the event organizers. ‘The younger generation of LGBT people are not prepared to wait forever to be treated equally. ‘We are not asking for any special rights, just the same rights as every other Caribbean citizen. It’s our future and it’s time for those who can make change happen to do so.’ [. . .]

Here are summaries of the country-by-country reports they heard:

Barbados: In response to an appeal from the local LGBTI group B-GLAD, Prime Minister Stuart declared he will remain dedicated to lobbying, both regionally and internationally against discrimination against any Barbadian citizen, including LGBTIs. [. . .]

Trinidad and Tobago: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisessar said in 2012 she wants the National Gender Policy to ‘forge the way forward for Trinidad and Tobago as my government seeks to put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation’. [. . .]

St Lucia: Same sex intimacy can be punished by up to 10 years in jail. Christian fundamentalists continue to fight every effort to change attitudes and the law. Jassica St Rose from United and Strong in St Lucia said she believed change was driven by the actions of youth who by their very nature are revolutionary, always challenging norms and values.

Jamaica: Often described as one of the most homophobic nations in the world. The summit saw footage of LGBTI youths forced to live in drains under the city. Jae Nelson of the Jamaica Youth Network said: ‘Young people are visibly defiant to status quo – a kind of way being that says there is only one way of being; that some of us are more equal than others and that those who are LGBT do not belong in our society. [. . .]

Belize: Caleb Orozco, who is challenging the discriminatory laws in his country was unable to attend the summit. In a speech read on his behalf he reported LGBTI youths had been physically attacked and faced mockery, ridicule and a denial of their rights to free expression. He said: ‘The struggle of the Caribbean LGBT youth is a struggle of invisibility, quiet resistance and passive protest that has its foundation in the need to protect individual expression and dignity.’

Guyana: The conference heard testimony from Ceara Roopchand of Caribbean American Domestic Violence Awareness (CADVA). She said same sex couples and transgender people were able to enjoy the freedom to socialize in some parts of Georgetown and other areas, but abuse and harassment were still common, including from police officers.

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