The aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti

Activists have highlighted the plight of LGBT Haitians following the January 2010 earthquake which devastated the nation.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and local group SEROvie, violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has increased since the earthquake.

“UN Agencies, private organisations, and governments must recognise the horrible impact of the Haiti disaster on LGBT people,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC’s Executive Director. “While the needs of some marginalised groups are at least acknowledged, LGBT people are completely ignored.”

Perhaps most shocking, conservative religious leaders in Haiti even blame LGBT people for the earthquake, leading to increased stigma and violence, claim the groups in a new report.

“In the days and weeks after the earthquake, we were shouted at in the streets… ‘you gay people, take your sin and go, you are responsible for this tragedy’” said Reginal Dupont, Program Manager at SEROvie. “Many masisi [gay men] were attacked, verbally and physically.”

According to Reginald DuPont, SEROvie’s Program Manager, “Our centre was a place for LGBT people to relax, obtain services, and find acceptance. The earthquake destroyed our offices, took the lives of fourteen young men, and deprived the community of a safe haven.”

IGLHRC and SEROvie acknowledged the devastation suffered by all Haitians but said that it is important to note that LGBT Haitians suffered a range of human rights violations, including those related to their right to security, in particular ways.

“LGBT people rely on friends, family and trusted neighbours for security,” said Johnson, “The earthquake disrupted regular patterns of movement, scattered friends, families, and neighbours, and damaged or destroyed the doors, windows, and walls that had previously provided some measure of safety.”

The report notes, as an example, that the well-intentioned policy of distributing emergency food rations to female heads-of-households had the unintended side-effect of excluding many gay men and transgender people living in families without an adult female.

This increased vulnerability of LGBT people in disasters and emergency response situations is not unique to Haiti, said the groups.

“While earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes and other natural phenomena will continue to occur, there is nothing natural or inevitable about the ways in which LGBT people are denied equal access to housing, food and security that could mitigate the impact of such disasters,” said Johnson.

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