LGBT members in SVG say they want to leave – Human Rights Watch report
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August 4, 2023

LGBT members in SVG say they want to leave – Human Rights Watch report

More than 20 members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender (LGBT) community in St Vincent and the Grenadines who were interviewed by the international Human Rights Watch (HRW)group, have all said that they wish to leave the country immediately to live abroad as homophobic attitudes, violence and discrimination were making their lives miserable.

The July 2023 HRW report, which included interviews with gay men, lesbian women, bisexual men and women, and one transgender woman, detailed incidents of stonings, verbal abuse, death threats and sexual assault which were suffered by LGBT people and painted a concerning picture for the response by law enforcement.

“The police don’t care about gays. I tried to file a complaint multiple times. They shout at us, make jokes [at our expense], laugh at us. That’s why people [are] beating us. I’ve tried to file more than 10 times,” a 27-year-old transgender woman told the watchdog group.

A 22-year-old gay man shared the account of a 2019 attack he suffered in his neighbourhood where an attempt was made to stab him.

“Two men tried to stab me. These were random people. It happened while I was walking home … After it happened, I ran to the police station. At first, [the police] laughed at me, then they went on the scene, and didn’t see anything. They asked me to identify [the perpetrators], but I couldn’t.”

One month before the release of the HRW 58-page report entitled “They Can Harass Us Because of the Laws”, SVG marked a historic Pride Month celebration which included luncheon, held in collaboration with the British High Commission, a panel discussion on the topic “Violence and Discrimination Affecting the LGBTQIA+ Community in SVG”, and a social media campaign aimed at educating the public on issues affecting LGBT rights.

In addition to the problematic response by police as outlined by the interviewees, the report also spoke to instances of family violence as well as discrimination in the workplace and unfair hiring practices.

A 29-year-old gay man told HRW that he was fired from a local supermarket in June, 2021.

“She [supervisor] told me that it was because I was gay.”

Most lesbian and bisexual women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they faced sexual harassment in the workplace, on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, or both.

The HRW report detailed the account of a 28-year-old lesbian who said she believed she was fired based on her sexual orientation after a supervisor accused her of “wanting all the women in the company”.

Outside of the work place, many lesbian and bisexual women described to the HRW their experiences with sexual violence and sexual harassment related to their sexual orientation, gender, or both.

A laundry-list of recommendations to the Office of the Prime Minister, legislators, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and other ministries including National Mobilization, Education, Labour and National Security were outlined in the report.

These included the repeal of laws relating to buggery and gross indecency in the criminal code which penalize consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex, and enacting laws that define the crime of rape in a gender-neutral way. As it relates to law enforcement, the HRW made a call for police who handle complaints made by LGBT members to be trained on sexual orientation and gender identity to assist them in identifying bias-motivated crimes.