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ECADE welcomes new IACHR commissioners notes Caribbean States’ reservations on human rights

unnamed(Castries, June 22, 2017) On the heels of the 47th General Assembly of the Organisation of American Sates (OAS), the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc. (ECADE) welcomes several positive decisions coming out of the meeting. ECADE notes however, reservations expressed by eastern Caribbean governments in respect of the Resolution on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights.

The 47th OAS General Assembly 2017 was hosted in Cancun, Mexico from June 19 – 21, 2017. Of note is the adoption of the omnibus Resolution on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights; the election of three new commissioners to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); and the decision to double the regular funds assigned to the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on women.

“There is clearly a recognition among the majority of OAS members of the need to strengthen mechanisms to investigate human rights violations, secure justice for survivors of violence and others facing discrimination and ensure the protection of all peoples of the Caribbean,” says ECADE’s Communications and Advocacy Officer Maria Fontenelle, who represented the organisation at the OAS Assembly. “From conflicts in Venezuela and Brazil to human rights violations of marginalised groups in Barbados and Dominica, the IACHR has its work cut out for it.”

The new Commissioners elected to the IACHR are Joel Hernández García of México, Flávia Cristina Piovesan of Brazil and Antonia Urrejola Noguera of Chile. ECADE’s member organisations will seek to engage the IACHR to bring attention in the region to the discrimination against citizens based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex characteristics. This was notably addressed in the 2015 IACHR regional report on violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons or those perceived as LGBTI. The report, notes the IACHR, recognises “there are still high rates of violence in all countries of the region…this violence tends to be extremely brutal and cruel.

Moreover, the everyday violence that affects LGBTI persons is often invisible, as it is not reported to the authorities or covered by the media.” In light of this, ECADE, and the LGBTTTI Coalition at the OAS, is pleased with the adoption of the Resolution on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights but concerned about reservations by countries that include the Eastern Caribbean nations of Dominica, Saint Lucia and Barbados. While it includes important provisions that strengthen the protection of the rights of all people, our governments missed the opportunity to firmly position themselves as leaders on human rights.

ECADE calls on member states to clarify conflicting messages used to deny the protection of all citizens. The claim that it is impossible to commit to the Resolution as many of the terms used are not defined under international agreements and resolutions is in direct conflict to the stated decision to reserve the right to define discrimination according to our culture and our values.

We remind Caribbean governments of the commitments enshrined in all our constitutions that reaffirms equality of all persons, prohibits discrimination and recognises and protects the full human rights of all citizens. These are the stated values of our people that our governments are bound to fulfill for citizens at home. We further note that culture is not static or homogeneous. The OAS is united in the conviction that the human rights of all persons are universal and indivisible. We remind Caribbean governments that they have voluntarily committed to this as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states;

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “All are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law”.

Having noted that governments are commitment to protect the rights of children as stated in the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child, we remind that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations; particularly in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. This includes protection from bullying; the right to education free from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and free of teachings of hatred and intolerance.

As Caribbean States seek to ensure protection for all families, we join in encouraging the necessary protection and assistance to allow all families to fulfill their responsibilities within the community. We note that this includes the families of LGBTQI people, which are often ripped apart by societal stigma fueled by criminalisation.  We agree that “no person should be subject to violence, attack or persecution for any reason” and remind our governments that when they fail to fully commit to the protection and promotion of human rights of all citizens, the consequence is violence and persecution.

ECADE recognises the countries that, through their unreserved support of the resolution, ensure the OAS honours its own values. We welcome the contribution of the government of Canada of almost $2 million to combating discrimination and violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean.  ECADE members commit to continuing to work with the Equal Rights Coalition, a new inter-governmental forum committed to promoting and protecting LGBTI rights, as well as the LGBTI Core Group.

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Click the links below for more information on representation at 47th OAS General Assembly

  1. Declaration of the Coalition LGBTTTI: Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law
  2. Coalition on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
  3. List of Chiefs of Delegation to the 47 General Assembly in Mexico
  4. 2017 OAS General Assembly. Third Plenary Session and Closing Session

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc. (ECADE) is a network of organisations working across the eastern Caribbean. ECADE works to increase the competence of activists and increase knowledge and awareness of the people of the eastern Caribbean for the advancement of LGBTQI and marginalised populations in
the region. Learn more at www.ecequality.org or email info@ecequality.org.

United and Strong’s Human Rights conversation with Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun.

United and Strong delegate meets with Minister Sarah Flood Beaubrun
United and Strong Inc’s Communications and Advocacy Officer – Bennet Charles; Minister with responsibility for External Affairs – Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun; United and Strong Inc Board Secretary- Jessica St. Rose and Permanent Secretary Dr. Alison Gajadhar

On the heels of the 47th regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) taking place on June 19-21 in the city of Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, United and Strong’s request to meet with Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun was accepted.  The meeting sort to provide the Minister with information on the work of United and Strong Inc, discrimination issues faced my LGBT persons and the government’s position on recommendations made at the 2011 and 2015 UPR cycles.

Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun, Minister with responsibility for External Affairs and accompanied by Permanent Secretary Dr. Alison Gadjahdar, hosted the United and Strong’s delegation of the Communications and Advocacy Officer – Bennet Charles and Board Secretary Jessica St. Rose.

United and Strong provided the Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun and her team with our Annual Summary 2016 and a briefing on current projects in 2017.  Both parties agreed  on the unacceptable nature of discrimination targeting women and members of the LGBT community. Conversation related to recommendations made in the 1st and 2nd Cycles of St. Lucia’s Universal Periodic Review saw both parties agreeing to have followup meetings to discuss these recommendations. The Minister and her staff made a commitment to extend an invitation to United and Strong Inc to be part of a national UPR consultation.

The various atrocities experienced by key populations in St. Lucia clearly highlighted the need for advocacy.  There was consensus that major changes in the attitudes of certain sectors of society needs to happen, however the  question still remains, whether such advocacy should be the role of the Government, or whether it should be carried out by organisations like United and Strong Inc?

United and Strong Inc will look to continue it’s consultative process and curtosy visits to other key Ministers within this new administration. We remain adamant in our call to have government state a clear position on the LGBT community, while at the same time recognizing our work and it’s positive impact.

We have FAILED our women and girls

Presentation1United and Strong Inc got the opportunity to view a recent “pornographic video” circulating social media, featuring some level of sexual abuse of a young lady.

While some may seem to have dubbed this a form of “pornography’ we prefer to refer to it as the humiliation, torture and abuse of a young woman.  We are not too concerned with whether this was a recent or past situation but more so the continued objectification, sexual harassment and abuse experienced by our women and girls in Saint Lucia.  Such treatment appears to be part of the fabric of a young woman’s life and seems to be an accepted norm.

Too often such behaviors are described as “normal stuff” that “men do” while at the same time fostering in our women a culture of tolerating what “just happens” and where they are criticized for not successfully maneuvering men’s aggressive sexual behavior.  We somehow accepted a behavior where women play into the myth that “men will be men” and that men are unable to contain their sexual desires the way women do.

As men, we must accept the reality that we have failed and continue to fail our women, our daughters and our mothers.  We have bought into the belief that such behavior is what makes us “men”.  Even crazier is the apparent reality that women themselves are not being each other’s keeper.  Too often victims are belittled by their peers, holding them responsible for their victimization.

What is most disheartening to United and Strong Inc is the fact women in our upper echelons of government are doing very little to curb the impact of such crimes on their fellow women.  We have seen the many comments of being “empathetic” to women during times of crisis or when it’s politically appropriate.

If indeed our elected female Members of Parliament and female Ministers are “empathetic” towards their fellow women then:

  • Why remain muted when a cabinet colleague was involved in an alleged sexual misconduct?

  •  Why make comments that the best place for a new born baby was at a make-shift nursery at the Bordelais Correctional Facility?

  •  Why is that Victoria Hospital can’t have a separate examination room for victims of sexual violence?

  •  Why is it so difficult to have a full-time Social worker/Counselor stationed at the Office of the Vulnerable Persons Unit (VPT)?

United and Strong challenges the female Parliamentarians and Ministers to reflect a difference in how they engage the electorate and not become tangled in the “boy clubs” persona of our political parties.  We urge you to cast aside your political colors and initiate realistic activities that would lend to the safety and security of women within your communities.

We further challenge you to be bold and recognize the work United and Strong has been and continues to do with not just LGBT persons but women.  We open our doors to you, so you can engage the many recipients of our Red Light Project and other initiatives.

As a civil society organisation, we are committed to creating a future free from sexual violence and believe every individual has a role to play in this vision. All forms of bias, prejudice and oppression obstruct the mission of ending sexual violence.  We look forward to your willingness in partnering with United and Strong Inc and creating a conducive environment for national growth and development.

Expanding the Rapid HIV/Syphilis Testing with United and Strong Inc

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Rapid HIV/Syphilis Trainer Ms. Hosier conducting a demo

Expanding Rapid HIV and Syphilis Testing- United and Strong Inc partnered with the Ministry of Health in providing Rapid HIV and Syphilis to staff of the various STI clinics and lab staff within the Ministry of Health. Participants also came from various partner agencies such as the Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood and United and Strong Inc supporters.

The 4 day trianing made possible through the Global Fund Project for the Prevention of HIV/TB was supervised by the Caribbean Med Labs Association and the OECS HIV Project.

This places the various organisations in a better position to provide Rapid HIV and Syphilis testing for key population including pregnant women. Congenital syphilis and HIV continue to be an issue among key populations and such an initiative puts Saint Lucia in a better position to curb the impact of HIV and Syphilis within our population.

Double Grant Award Winners -from Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)

red-lightThe strategic goal of the HIV Elimination Project is reducing the incidence of HIV infection in accordance with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, which United and Strong has dedicated to facilitating among key populations.  Facilitating access to services by key populations is undoubtedly a critical component of the work.  Hence, United and Strong Inc became a double grant recipient towards scaling the HIV response among key populations.

The two grants from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, one of which falls under “Community Capacity Building and Campaigns to promote health and human rights” and funded under the CVC MACAIDS FUND  and other being the “Red Light Outreach Project” under OECS Global Fund HIV/TB Project  the will focus primarily on working with key populations within the LGBT and sex worker communities.

Some primary objectives of these project will be to provide HIV Rapid Test and phlebotomy training for members of the key populations.  Activities will also focus on enhancing the documentation of human rights violations of persons within key populations while also providing a level of security and personal safety training.  A key component of both projects will be the provision of sexual health services within a conducive environment.

Both projects are set to span over a nine month period ending in September of 2017. We anticipate a successful outcome where key populations will be empowered and equipped with the proper skill sets to provide peer education along with related sexual health and human rights services to colleagues.

The first component of the Red Light Project will be a Peer Education training for a cadre of 15 women in the area of Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV.  Mr. Bennet Charles – Communications & Advocacy Officer for United and Strong Inc shared the following comments;

“This is a most timely initiate on the heels on the 1 Billion Rising Campaign as we aim to bring focus and visibility on the exploitation of our women and girls, while enhancing their capacity to be more resilient”

United and Strong will continue to partner with other agencies to increase capacity and strengthen networks with health service provides to ensure the successful implementation of these projects.

United and Strong for “We Shall Not Tire”

United and Strong Inc was founded with the sole purpose of “PROVIDING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR THE LGBTI COMMUNITY IN ST LUCIA”.

The one matchepidemic of HIV in Saint Lucia and the region brought with it the epidemic of Stigma and discrimination fueled by the early myth that AIDS was a “gay disease” along with our uneducated and misguided information of LGBT persons. The presence of anti-LGBT laws within our criminal code made it even easier to turn a blind eye to the social injustice faced by the community.

Our perceived religious practices and beliefs based around persons of sexual orientations different from that of a heterosexual, created an even more anti-LGBT atmosphere. One which has resulted in both physical and psychological abuse of LGBT persons be it that their sexual orientation was perceived or real.

This is the environment which spawned the formation of United and Strong Inc and many other organizations across our region with the same goal. It was realized that governments of the region were not ready to fully address the issues affecting such population even when HIV statistics showed they should be at the negotiating table and given due representation, nationally, regionally and internationally.

Our region has seen a number of initiatives geared at giving a voice to the voiceless, structures such as CRN+, CVC, and PSI Caribbean all targeting the vulnerabilized populations of sex workers, LGBTI youth etc. These initiatives were developed because it was clear that critical groups were either left out of the negotiations when addressing how to curb the impact of HIV in the region. We can also view it simply as fear of a political backlash at the end of the five year term of a government.

Organizations such as United and Strong Inc with support from other international partners have ensured that representation when lacking by our governments, are given at the highest level of international structures. When politicians claim to represent the views of the region, we and our colleagues can paint the true picture at these international spaces.

Saint Lucia and the rest of the OECS region are set to implement the Global Fund for AIDS and Tuberculosis which includes emphasis on: combination prevention to key populations and community systems strengthening.   We as an organization look forward to the views of our government and the working relationship we hope they will establish with the LGBT community. We look forward to hearing our government’s national and international policies in relation to the LGBT community and related human rights issues.

 We have and will continue to express our concerns over such matters like the anti-LGBT/anti-human rights laws contained in our criminal code. It is critical we engage in dialogue with the governance structures of our government that give representation to Saint Lucia at the international level on matters of HIV and Human Rights related issues.

We shall as an organization continue to monitor the comments and views of various government ministers and the international policies of our government in relation to LGBT issues. We shall as an institution of this country continue to strive, for we shall not tire and we shall not remain quiet.

“Condomize De Mas” – U&S Joins Red Rebellion at Red Bikini Affair

Presentation1United and Strong Inc joins Red Rebellion Carnival Band & Mercury on June 19th , 2016 at Pigeon Island Causeway at what is set to be the most untamed beach rave yet.

The Red Unlimited Carnival Band, referred to as Red Carnival is best described as a party band with two distinguishing features – attracting Revelers with Energy to dazzle spectators and demonstrating innovation to keep the band on the cutting edge of the revelers’ experience.

United and Strong Inc is a registered non government organization, focused on LGBT and HIV/STI Health Education for marginalized communities in Saint Lucia and the OECS islands. A major component of the organization’s work is to eliminate stigma and discrimination, reduce inequality, and protect human rights and lives.

During the Red Bikini Affair and other Carnival events, U&S team members’ urges revelers and patrons to “Condomize De Mas”. Peer Educators will disseminate safe sex information, male and female condoms and lubricants to the public. The organization recognizes that persons engage in risky behaviors during the Carnival Season and so felt it necessary to heighten the awareness of safe sex practices.

This Carnival Season U&S urges the public to get tested so you can know your status.  Remember More Condoms, More Love!!!!!  For more information about the organization, visit our facebook page: United and Strong Inc or search for us on Instagram: @unitedandstrong.slu

Orlando Massacre – an act against humanity

11174762_10152913660621312_86357133027865020_nViolence against – denigration of – a person by virtue of their perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is sadly perpetrated by  discriminatory laws, religious and cultural beliefs. Sadly, there are always those willing to by any means necessary to put such beliefs into practice.

“We at United and Strong Inc are deeply saddened by the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, which took the lives of at least 50 people and injured 53 others.  This act of terror and hate was not a crime against Americans or LGBT persons, but against humanity”.

So how can we tolerate, for even one more minute; those norms, practices, laws or policies that render our most intimate selves and identities, a basis for ostracizing, a reason for exclusion, an excuse for violence.

We must begin to realize that the impact of such acts of terror and violence are felt beyond the country of origin.   We as Caribbean people often see the United States, Canada and other metropolitan countries as our place of refuge.  Simply because being able to freely express our identity or reach our full potential at home is suffocating.  Hence a number of LGBT persons make this journey towards a better life across the ocean while at the same time unknowingly increase their risk to violence and other discriminatory acts.

What is scarier with this most recent act of terror is the proximity of the State of Florida to the Caribbean region and its preparation to host some of the 2016 HERO Caribbean Premier League (CPL) matches in Central Broward Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We call on our local and regional governments to express their feelings about such heinous crimes against humanity as they can’t afford to remain silent on such an issue.  These are matters of human rights; the rights of our people; and when we fail them in providing the support or listening ear, it is they who are paying for it with their future and their lives.

U&S congratulates Hon. Allen Chastanet and the United Workers Party

us-logo-lowqualityUnited and Strong Inc would like to extend congratulations to the Hon. Allen Chastanet and the United Workers Party on the impressive victory at the June 6th 2016 Polls.  We extend further congratulations to Hon. Allen Chastanet on his appointment as the 11th Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and to the members of his Cabinet.

Good governance and effective-ethical leadership are the essential requirements for any Country or government to be considered successful in the 21st century. United and Strong understands these are difficult times, with an economic crisis at home and abroad coupled with unemployment and the seeming upsurge in suicides and other related crimes.

We are confident that the trust placed in the Government by the citizens of Saint Lucia will inspire members elect to continue important efforts in promoting the unity of our country, leading it on the path of prosperity, further well-being and security for our people.

We firmly believe that our country will continue to develop dynamic, mutually beneficial relations, and that joint initiatives in the fields of security, economy and health will strengthen our island.

Congratulations are also in order to every elected Member of Parliament on the Opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party.  We are delighted that you will continue to work for the good of the people of your constituency and all Saint Lucians.

Mr. Bennet Charles – Advocacy and Communications Officer for United & Strong added his voice to the message “We look forward to making a courtesy call on the new Prime Minister as we seek to further enhance our relationship with him and his Cabinet colleagues towards a more LGBT friendly Saint Lucia”

United and Strong Inc looks forward to a most productive working relationship with this new Government as we continue to advocate on behalf of LGBT Saint Lucians.  We sincerely congratulate the Hon. Allen Chastanet and wish him every success and wisdom in discharging the important and responsible duties of his new post.

 

United & Strong Inc. says “stick to the issues”

 

Presentation1Call it the “Silly season,” and it has began to descend upon us in the lead-up to the next general election on June 6th 2016.

While Easter might have instilled hope for a better Saint Lucia, the recent announcement of the date for general election, has inevitably resurrected negative campaigning in ways that reminds us that we are in the carnival season.

Hyper-partisanship reaches its apex at the national level and its potential for destructiveness is worrying to United and Strong Inc. The organization understands too well the impact that stigmatizing and discriminatory words have on persons of the LGBT community. Sadly, during an election season or what we call the “silly season” words are used back and forth between various political parties, more with the intent of detracting the electorate from the true issues.

Our political candidates have historically embraced a culture of mud-slinging and “mepwe”, where the electorate themselves get caught in the “bacchanal”. United and Strong believes that such behavior serves more to detract citizens from national issues that they are faced with on a daily basis.

During this election campaign we’ve only had one other mention of anything related to the LGBT issues, when LGBT persons were referred to as being “demon possessed”. However all the issues that affect LGBT persons, have never been discussed on a political platform by any of the political parties and that is indeed very concerning to the organization.

It is rather easy for negativity to go viral via social media, hence we call on the political candidates to be more concerned about how language is used during this 2016 election campaign. We call on the various political candidates who are the future government of this country to openly speak on the issues being faced by our LGBT citizens. If policymakers are truly supportive of the LGBT community, we call on them to engage their colleagues to explore the repelling of discriminatory laws such as Criminal Code Section 132 Gross Indecency Act and Section 133 Buggery Law.

If we’re truly concerned as a nation about the social stigma and discrimination faced by our LGBT persons, then help in creating an atmosphere that embraces persons no matter their sexual orientation or perceived orientation. We at United and Strong are well positioned to understand the many faces of stigma and discrimination experienced by persons at their various places of employment, within their congregation, by unemployed young LGBT persons, at schools and within their communities. We are too familiar with the myriad of situations where our community members are verbally and physically abused.

No political candidate has stood up openly on a political platform and supported the work that United and Strong has been doing over the past fifteen (15) years. We call on our political hopefuls, to address the relevant national issues affecting our nation such as those of HIV and AIDS and related increasing rates of infection among our males.

We do hope as the campaign continues that our various political candidates speak out on matters of substance that affect LGBT persons and every other Saint Lucian. We ask them to acknowledge United and Strong as an organization that has enhance the quality of life for our LGBT community both nationally and regionally.