Now Reading
Haitian LGBTI festival gets canceled by government

Haitian LGBTI festival gets canceled by government

A LGBTI festival in Haiti has been canceled due to governmental prohibition and its organizers receiving numerous threats of violence.

Massimadi, a four-day film, art and performance festival by LGBTI Haitians, was slated to start yesterday in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince – but organizers celebrating the Afro-Carribean LGBTI community were threatened with arson and other forms of attack.

Among them is FOKAL, a prominent Haitian cultural institution.

According to Lorraine Mangones, Executive Director of non-profit group Knowledge & Freedom Foundation, the institution has been ‘receiving threats of outrageous violence’.

This was the first year Massimadi was scheduled to take place in Haiti – it was launched in 2009 in Montreal, and had also previously been held in Belgium without any problems.

‘There are very homophobic people who are against it,’ said Juedy Charlot from Kouraj, the LGBTI rights group responsible for organising the event.

Charlot added: ‘The government official who is responsible for the jurisdiction of Port-au-Prince has also taken a decision to prevent the festival for now.’

A check with Capital Commissioner Jean Danton Leger confirmed that he had issued an order to cancel the festival. In an interview with a local station, Leger also cited the need to protect Haiti’s ‘moral and social’ values and revealed he had recently received a complaint from the country’s Senator Jean Renel Senatus – who sees the festival as a form of provocation to the traditional family model.

Although there are currently no laws criminalizing same-sex relations in Haiti, the country’s LGBTI community has remained largely underground because of social stigma. Gay Haitians have been beaten up, and two have died under the hands of hundreds of protestors.

‘Unfortunately the situation is getting more and more dramatic,’ said Anthony Manuel Plagnes Paya, the festival’s spokesman in Montreal.

‘Kouraj members are threatened (with) death and are scared to go out,’ added Paya.

Charlot, his staff and volunteers believe, though, that more Haitians are tolerant of LGBTIs these days – and are determined to hold Massimadi at a later date.

‘More LGBT people are coming out and accepting themselves more these days,’ said Charlot.

‘They walk on the streets very proud,’ Charlot added.