Target: Michel Martelly, President of Haiti
Goal: Ensure anti-gay violence is punished.
In the United States, the progress achieved in gay rights has made it possible for many same-sex couples to marry. At the very least, regardless of the legal availability of gay marriage in a U.S. state, many American homosexual couples can take it for granted that their day-to-day existence won’t be threatened. In Haiti, however, same-sex partners don’t enjoy those same benefits as they can be attacked in their private households just because the local community finds their homosexuality abhorrent and worthy of punishment.
The terrible reality of gay hate hit home for two Haitian men whose engagement ceremony was invaded by a violent mob made up not of some far-away strangers but of neighbors. Locals learning of the “vice against nature” decided to take action by hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at a private residence of a British Red Cross worker and his Haitian partner in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince. They smashed windows, burned cars, injured several guests, and could have ended up killing either the couple or their guests had the police not intervened.
Such attacks on gays occur frequently because the assailants don’t have to worry about incurring negative consequences for their despicable actions. Because the country at large has a hateful attitude towards same-sex relationships, homosexuals will often not take the risk of reporting cases of harassment and assault to the police to avoid drawing the ire and further abuse of the many who hate them. Unless the Haitian government takes action to pursue and prosecute such attacks, they will continue unabated.
In a more tolerant country, a vicious attack on two people meant to single them out for their sexual orientation would generate a backlash against the hateful mob and rally support around the victims. But it’s a different story in Haiti. Sympathy for gays and lesbians is hard to come by in this country where a religious population has blamed this minority for a host of evils, including the 2010 Earthquake. Viewing homosexuality as a sin that provokes the wrath of God, protestant Eddy Jean-Pierre, one of the thousands of Haitians congregated on the streets of Port-au-Prince on July 19th to protest against a proposed gay marriage law, said that legally accepting such unions would mean that “God will punish us further.” (The word further might be taken to imply that God has already punished Haiti for the “sins” of its homosexuals.)
Aware just how much they are reviled by the religious zealots, gays and lesbians who become victims of discrimination and violence often choose not to report the incidents to the police because they are anxious about reprisals. Figuring that the best way to stay safe is to avoid being in the spotlight, they choose to keep their sexual orientation secret. After all, revealing it might motivate some opponents of homosexuality to harass or physically hurt them. For that very reason, the British victim of the attack wasn’t eager to discuss the case with reporters and refused to release the name of his partner.
The quandary that Haitian gays and lesbians find themselves in is overwhelming. Not only must they constantly put up with physical aggression and hostile rhetoric about homosexuality, they also can’t permit themselves to fight back for fear of being hit again. Beaten down, humiliated, and cowering in silence, the homosexual community in Haiti desperately needs our support. Please sign this petition to urge the Haitian president to propose legislation with harsh punishments for acts of violence against gays and the hate speech that encourages them. No president should tolerate segments of his population that insist on blaming and punishing homosexuals for the country’s natural disasters and misfortunes.
Dear Michel Martelly, President of Haiti
We ask you to introduce legislation that would punish anti-gay rhetoric and violence. The acts of physical aggression against Haitian homosexuals are widespread precisely because they have become the norm in a society that treats gays and lesbians as degenerates and sinners that supposedly deserve the mistreatment that comes their way. Your government must take a stand to stop the suffering and humiliation of perfectly harmless individuals who have not done anything wrong other than love someone of the same sex.
While the cultural heritage of Christianity plays a major role in the life of many Haitians, it is crucial to recognize that religious beliefs can never justify violence against innocent people who go against some of the tenets of the faith. Please elevate Haiti to a position of respectability by imploring your citizens to carry out the debate over homosexuality with reasoned words, whether in newspapers, television studios, or meeting halls, rather than with rocks and Molotov cocktails. The Haitian people can find the humanity in their hearts to remember that gays and lesbians are just ordinary real people of flesh and blood who deserve respect despite their “controversial” sexual orientation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons