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Youths reveal what’s really happening to LGBTIs in Caribbean

Youths reveal what’s really happening to LGBTIs in Caribbean

Young Caribbean LGBTI youths are not prepared to wait for equality and have told politicians to stop talking and start delivering.

That was the message from a unique summit in Trinidad on the weekend.

It saw young LGBTI people from around the region coming together in the capital, Port of Spain, under the banner ‘Generation Change’.

‘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.’

Activists from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia and Jamaica came together at the conference at the Kapok Hotel. Contributions were heard from Belize and Guyana and the British High Commissioner Arthur Snell also spoke to express his support.

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.

Yet Donnya Piggott from B-GLAD says: ‘The laws still discriminate and sometimes the police do not take attacks or threats against LGBT people seriously. The situation causes great physical, emotional and psychological damage.’

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’.

Rian Merrick of the Silver Lining Foundation said: ‘Despite the PM’s words young LGBT persons and LGBT advocates were compelled to argue before a National Constitutional Reform Commission that their recognition under the law should not need to be up for discussion.

‘The priority is to find ways in which discrimination and prejudice can be reduced.’

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.

‘Many young people are doing this by just embracing their lesbian and gay friends, being open about their sexuality and declaring they believe in equal rights and justice for all.’

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.