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Saturday, 1 October 2011

In Haiti, the United Nations finally pledges protections for LGBT

Rafael Renold, SEROvie Peer Educator providing HIV Prevention Counseling and Training at the SARTHE Displaced Persons Camp
By Paul Canning

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has won an important comittment for Haitian gay and HIV+ people, its Executive Director, Cary Alan Johnson, has said.

Johnson said that Nigel Fisher, humanitarian coordinator for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti has "pledged to help elevate the voices" of LGBT and HIV-Positive Haitians, "so their demands are met in the rebuilding process."

Fisher was speaking to hundreds of AIDS policy experts at the North American Housing and HIV/AIDS Research Summit, 22 September.
“People living with or affected by HIV and AIDS, or gay and transgender minorities, they are still left out in the cold,” said Fisher.

“So I can say to the summit organizers: You’ve already done two things in bringing me here. One, you’ve raised my awareness by inviting me. But, two, you’ve allowed me to meet with . . . Haitian advocates here. And we’ve already come up with some ideas about how we can work together once we return to Haiti.”
Following the January 2010 earthquake rhetoric blamed LGBT people for bringing the “wrath of God upon Haiti.”

IGLHRC worked with SEROvie, Haiti’s men who have sex with men (MSM) Community Organisation, extensively in the months after the earthquake to document the secrecy, isolation, discrimination and violence that Haiti’s already vulnerable LGBT population was facing. With them they produced a report titled 'The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery programs on Haitian LGBT People', which proposed guidelines for the UN, governments, civil society organizations, and human rights groups to protect the human rights of LGBT people in disaster situations.

In March last year Johnson wrote of a visit to Haiti:
"Many in this community have been left without food, shelter or identification—and more still have lost close family members and friends. SEROvie has distributed food and medication to LGBT people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s devastated capital, and have begun to re-launch their important work in 5 regions (Le Nord, L’Ouest, Le Sud-Est, Artibonite, le Sud) around the country. They are also trying to help LGBT people in the makeshift camps for the displaced in Port-au-Prince, distributing condoms and lubricant (some of which was provided by Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) ) and by offering encouragement and understanding to a marginalized group of people that, in the span of 37 seconds, was rendered substantially more vulnerable."
In March this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a thematic hearing on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Haiti.” [See video of the hearing] Petitioners in the hearing included the IGLHRC and SEROvie.

Said Johnson of Fisher's pledge:
"We are happy to see this important pledge of support from the UN. As a supporter of our organization, I wanted to share with you this example of the real impact of our work and of your support."
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