In May 2012, members of United and Strong (U&S) staged a historic stand in front of the Saint Lucia government buildings on the Castries waterfront, concealing their faces to bring attention to the continuing stigma and discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons on Saint Lucia. One year later, May 17 is preceded by a storm of anti-gay sentiment fuelled by ill-informed statements. Also in May this year, a young man was subject to a physical attacked because he was perceived as being too effeminate. Government has taken an official hands-off approach to an appeal earlier by U&S Co-Executive Director Kenita Placide for discourse in schools on the subject of LGBT persons.
As people in every quarter of the globe again mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), United and Strong calls on our citizens to treat all fellow human beings equally. Ms. Placide asserts, “As humans we are entitled to all fundamental rights and freedoms, and are endowed equally with inalienable rights and dignity. The outdated sodomy laws and the rampage of the churches legitimise prejudice and stigma and discrimination against all LGBT communities.”
Ms. Placide states, “Education, sensitisation and building life skills are the building blocks of a more accepting and cohesive society. Today I call, we call, the world calls for the end of all forms of gender based violence, homophobia, transphobia and related stigma and discrimination, violence, sexual abuse and other crimes.” The only LGBT representative organisation on Saint Lucia, U&S joins voices in over 100 countries around the world to urge Saint Lucians to choose love over hatred and intolerance.
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) this week released a new two-minute video public service announcement (PSA) highlighting the impact of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination worldwide. Seventy-six countries, including Saint Lucia, retain laws that are used to criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation as “a monumental tragedy for those affected and a stain on the collective consciousness”.
As of 2013, the political, religious and legal gatekeepers in Saint Lucia have shown no interest in seriously addressing the criminalisation of people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and the resulting stigma and discrimination that pervades the system. However, United and Strong continues its attempts to engage policy makers and the public in discourse on the right and freedoms of all, including individuals of all genders and sexualities.
As the world celebrates diversity with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17, United and Strong invites Saint Lucians to support diversity and turn Saint Lucia PINK for IDAHOT by wearing something PINK, the colour of IDAHOT and utilising the IDAHOT logo in social and other media.
The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (“IDAHO”) was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policy makers, opinion leaders, social movements, public opinion, the media, etc… to this issue, and to promote a world of tolerance, respect and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. As much as it is a day against violence and oppression, it is a day for freedom, diversity and acceptance.