In Haiti, violence erupted in mid-July, with one regional Caribbean LGBTI advocacy group, CariFLAGS, reporting a human rights emergency for LGBTI people has developed in Haiti. The group reported that Haitian LGBT activists received violent threats and that a violent anti-gay march was organized on July 19th by a coalition of religious fundamentalists. The anti-gay march mobilized over a thousand people and resulted in several severe attacks. In response, Astraea Foundations grantee partner Femme en Action Contre la Stigmatisation et la Discrimination Sexuelle (FACSDIS) signed a civil society statement along with 19 Haitian and Dominican civil society groups who work on human rights and support the LGBT community. FACSDIS and other signatories are demanding an end to the violence, accountability for the perpetrators, and calling on the Haitian government to take concrete steps to protect LGBT human rights defenders.
Violent attacks on LGBT activists and people have recently resulted in tragic deaths as well. On July 15th, LGBT and AIDS activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was found tortured to death in his home in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Executive Director of Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Lembembe was a leader in the fight against AIDS and for the human rights of LGBT people in Cameroon. His murder came weeks after Lembembe spoke out against recent break-ins at offices of local gay rights advocacy groups. The office of one organization, Alternatives-Cameroun, was set on fire on June 26th. LGBT and sexual health and rights groups in Cameroon issued a joint statement calling on the government of Cameroon to investigate and condemn Lembembes murder and take strong measures to stop this wave of violence. They are also calling on religious groups and the media to work with the LGBT community to build a constructive dialogue on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lastly grantee partner Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) reported on July 23rd that a gender non-conforming young person, Dwayne Jones, in Montego Bay, St James was mob killed. Jones, also known as Gully Queen, was displaced at an early age and was one of the many LGBT youth who live and work on the streets. J-FLAG calls on the community to support the Jamaican police in their investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In this moment of heightened hostility, extreme threats to safety, and human rights violations against LGBTQI people in these regions, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice adds its voice to the widespread call to the Haitian, Cameroonian, and Jamaican governments as well as the international community to ensure the safety of LGBTQI people and human rights defenders in these countries. We urge legislative bodies to respond promptly to these attacks in due respect of the rights of LGBTQI community members and human rights defenders to safety and dignity. As the attacks and deaths have created heightened environments of hostility, we urge these countries and the international community to speak out against the discrimination, criminalization, and persecution of LGBTQI people in these regions and around the world.