In the past week, the gay and lesbian lobby in the Caribbean has raised its profile to its highest level yet, demanding that Caribbean governments negotiating with the European Union for aid funding set aside some for its members and other so-called vulnerable groups.
The group, via the Caribbean Vulnerable Coalition, say they are angry with consultants hired by the region for ignoring their plight in talks for grant aid from the EU. They say the consultants have a narrow definition of who is considered vulnerable and who is not.
The coalition has sent two of its top representatives on a run through the region to lobby for a stake in the over $5.5 million the EU’s Development Fund is offering to the region to help integrate vulnerable groups, including women and children. The gay and lesbian lobby say they are not considered vulnerable, despite protracted pleas to the contrary.
The money is to be shared by 15 Caribbean countries, including the Dominican Republic.
“We are asking the press to partner with us on this,” said Ian McKnight, a Jamaican HIV/AIDS activist, as the regional gay and lesbian lobby steps up pressure on authorities for greater acceptance and tolerance of their lifestyle. “There is an emerging threat to civil society that might have the strong possibility of excluding those who we call a vulnerable population from a very large grant that will benefit the Caribbean region,” he said.
To bolster its case and win supporters, the coalition says that drug addicts, deportees, “youths in dangerous circumstances” and children should also be catered to by the EU aid; under the current criteria, this is not the case.
The gay and lesbian lobby has been slowly chipping away at colonial-era prejudices against their lifestyle in the region, strategically taking up a place in every facet of society, and in drama, television and radio in particular.
They have not been discouraged by plans in Guyana to hold public hearings on whether to decriminalize buggery and cross-dressing. Recent statements from Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller say they are welcome to take up their rightful place in society, despite Jamaica being one of the most homophobic places on the planet.
Public hearings in Guyana could begin as early as August, even as the government plans to table a motion in Parliament for special committees to begin public hearings on the issue.
The Christian church lobby and other groups have already signaled plans to oppose the change. Authorities say they will go with whatever emerges from the hearings; a previous attempt failed miserably.