(PUNTA CANA, D.R.) LGBT Haitians have been largely ignored by international aid organizations and the government in post earthquake Haiti—resulting in increased discrimination, violence and the rape of gay men, lesbians and transgender women.
Those are the findings of a damning new report (PDF) released this week by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and SEROvie, a Haitian community organization that helps LGBT individuals. It is just the latest chapter in the massive humanitarian crisis that emerged after the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, which flattened much of Port-au-Prince
R20 readers may recall that several HIV clinics and their staff were quake casualties. At least 14 gay HIV positive activists were killed after the collapse of SEROvie, Haiti’s largest organization serving gay and transgender people with HIV. Thousands of HIV positive Haitians were cut off from their life-saving anti-retroviral medications. Sadly, that was just the beginning.
When asked to identify the greatest impact of the earthquake on their lives, the majority of LGBT people interviewed for this paper indicated that it decimated the already limited physical spaces, social networks and support services available to them. According to one Port-au-Prince lesbian, "Loneliness, invisibility, and social isolation are persistent problems for us." ...
Overcrowding, flimsy structures, inadequate lighting, public bathing facilities, and general insecurity in IDP camps have increased the risk of gender-based violence for all women and people viewed as gender non-conforming, including LGBT people. SEROvie has documented the rape of lesbians, gay men and transgender women in or near camps. In August, 2010 for example, Sandy, a 24-year-old lesbian was brutally raped by eight men at the Champs de Mars camp. Additionally, SEROvie documented more subtle forms of sexual exploitation in which LGBT people were coerced into engaging in sexual relations with straight-identified men for food or money. A group of lesbian and bisexually-identified women interviewed by SEROvie and IGLHRC reported that sexual violence and corrective rape were “definitely a problem” in the IDP camps.
Rape was already a very serious problem in Haiti before the quake. The situation for women has become worse, human-rights groups say. Reported rapes have more than tripled in Port-au-Prince, according to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which has been monitoring HIV/AIDS in post-earthquake Haiti.
Even some well-intentioned policies have led to the suffering of LGBT people. International relief organizations distribute emergency food to female heads of household, but that excludes many gay men and transgender people living without families. "One man reported dressing as a woman to receive food. He was later beaten by people standing nearby," adds the report.
Download the full report HERE.