A recent bill adopted by the Haitian Senate last month discriminates against the LGBTQ community and violates the Haitian constitution, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) said in a recent release. The Bill on the Reputation and Assessment of Good and Moral Conduct, which was adopted on June 29, criminalizes homosexuality and classifies it along with other crimes such as child pornography, prostitution, and child abuse.
“The Haitian government must respect its obligation to protect disadvantaged populations instead of persecuting them,” said Mario Joseph, an attorney at BAI. “Contrary to the interpretation of Senator Jean-Renel Sénatus, the Haitian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee equal protection for LGBT people. We must accept that LGBT people need and have the right to the same protection as other marginalized Haitians such as women, children, the poor, and handicapped persons.”
Although consensual homosexual relationships have been legal since 1986, the subject remains largely taboo in the deeply religious-based culture. For example, a festival celebrating Haiti’s LGBTQ community was slated for last year, but was later cancelled after threats of violence and government opposition.
According to Charlot Jeudy, President of the organization KOURAJ (Courage in English), “Homosexuality and transsexuality remain taboo subjects in Haitian society, and as a result, the lives of many LGBT people are characterized by secrecy, isolation, discrimination, fear of retaliation, and violence.” Community organizations like KOURAJ, which work with the LGBT community, are often the victims of threats and attacks because of their work.
Article 2 of the Declaration states that, “anyone can invoke all the rights and liberties proclaimed in the current Declaration, without discriminating against race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinions or other viewpoints.” Article 16 expands the right to marry by reducing discrimination, and increasing the equality of the sexes in accordance with this law. The General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) clarified in 2006 that this non-discrimination principle applies to LGBT people as well.
Similarly, Article 17 of the Constitution guarantees civil and political rights for all Haitians, and Article 18 guarantees equality under the law. Interpreted together, these articles create an obligation for the Haitian government to act to protect all Haitians whose rights could be violated by the actions of other groups, including LGBT persons.
Attorney Joseph explains that, “Everyone, independent of their sexual orientation and gender identity, can claim and enjoy their right to privacy without there being arbitrary or illegal interference to them, their family, their residence or communications, as well as protection against all illegal infringements on their honor and reputation. Consequently, the law further standardizes the stigmatization and the persecution of LGBT people.”
The Haitian Government was censured in 2014 by the Human Rights Committee, which reinforces the obligations of countries who are members of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), for not guaranteeing that, “all forms of discrimination in regards to LGBT people be recorded, that all forms of violence be accounted for and addressed, and that the victims be compensated for the violations they sustained.” The ICCPR, signed and ratified by Haiti, is part of Haiti’s law according to article 276-2 of the Constitution. The Committeedetermined that references to gender in Article 2 of the ICCPR validate sexual identity and orientation to combat discrimination and inequality in the law. According the Committee, having ratified the ICCPR, the Haitian government has an international/universal responsibility to, “challenge stereotypes based on sexual identity…and to adopt a national awareness campaign incorporating first the police and judicial staff, then in a second phase, the greater public.”
Other committees of the UN also concluded in 2016 that Haitian government has failed to protect LGBT individuals from violence and discrimination as required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Jeudy of KOURAJ warns that, “If this law is passed in the Chamber of Deputies, it would constitute an infringement and a threat to human rights, and to the fundamental liberties of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Haiti.”
Attorney Joseph urges the government to delete the inclusion of “recognized homosexuality” from the law on reputation and to protect the constitutional right to life and dignity of LGBT individuals without discrimination.