Combatting Gender-Based Violence against LGBTQI and Women In The Caribbean

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a reality affecting women, LGBTIQ people who do not fit within the narrow parameters of the assigned societal gender roles, and even men, across the world. Archaic perceptions of gender roles and appearances, toxic masculinity and other factors, lead to shocking violence. The prevalence of GBV in the Caribbean on a regional level has been of great concern. Though often the instances of violence that have received media attention and have been the focus of public discourse have centered around cisgender heterosexual relationships, more conversations are also emerging around the impact of GBV on LGBTIQ people as well. GBV against LGBTIQ people is exacerbated by the existence and legacy of colonial-era so-called buggery laws, which not only criminalize same-sex relations, but perpetuate negative societal attitudes towards LGBTIQ people, and result in LGBTIQ victims of GBV not reporting or seeking help for fear of outing, or even imprisonment.

Earlier this year OutRight and local partners founded the Frontline Alliance: Caribbean Partnerships Against Gender-Based Violence. Within the parameters of this project OutRight Action International recently hosted training of trainers sessions in Haiti, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago to address gender-based violence against women and LGBTIQ people in the Caribbean.

Facilitators Kennedy Carrillo and Neish McLean with support from the local partners and consultants across the region engaged key service providers in applying a human rights based approach that focuses on various universal principles such as non-discrimination, the right to healthcare, equality of access to the provision of quality protection and care services to address gender-based violence. Key service providers and frontline workers are in positions to improve the provision of essential services to women and LGBTIQ persons but also to serve as allies in advancing policy and legal reforms to promote the rights of the LGBTIQ community in the Caribbean region.

The sessions’ objectives were to:

  • Provide an overview of GBV, how it affects LGBTIQ while framing the policy and legislative environment.

  • Provide participants with an opportunity to learn about advocacy planning and lobbying for institutional and legal change.

  • Provide participants with the knowledge necessary to engage in discussions on how to guarantee access to quality services for LGBTQI persons and women who have suffered from GBV.

The workshops discussed the needs of LGBTIQ persons and women affected by gender-based violence. In particular, they explored different triggers of gender-based violence relating to sexual orientation vs gender identity, international human rights standards of protection and national policies and legislation pertaining to GBV against LGBTIQ people. Several workshops also dove into attitudes and behavior linked to stigma and discrimination, as well as advocacy planning for action to tackle GBV against the LGBTIQ community. The curriculum was drafted to highlight these key modules in order to provide an understanding of the various topics and how collectively they are interrelated and can provide the necessary insights and knowledge to improve service and support to women and LGBTIQ people.

Kennedy Carrillo, OutRight’s Caribbean Researcher, comments on how the sessions also created a space to discuss the current state of gender-based violence against LGBTIQ people and women on a local level, and how such information can be used to advocate for more protection and prevention measures:

“Making essential gender-based violence services available to LGBTQI persons and women is equally as important as ensuring that proper policies and protocols are in place to address barriers that prohibit and discourage LGBTIQ people from accessing these services due to fear of re-victimization by the authorities that should be protecting us. Participants had the opportunity to become familiar with the policy environment in their respective countries and to discuss gaps and opportunities that can be addressed through advocacy efforts of local organizations.”

Neish McLean, OutRight’s Caribbean Program Officer, explains future plans for more sessions and follow up:

“With Antigua to go, the training of trainers series is the initial stone setting off a ripple effect of follow up trainings that will be coordinated by local partners, the newly trained service providers and first responders in a few months. At this stage we can already see the immediate impact of more sensitive and responsive support being available for LGBTIQ people and women who are affected by gender-based violence. But this is only the beginning. In addition to implementing what they learned in their immediate work, the trained service providers and first responders will be able to use their influence to contribute to much needed policy and legislative changes needed to better support LGBTIQ people and women impacted by gender-based violence”.

Training of trainers sessions is one component of OutRight’s advocacy work and research in the Caribbean to advance human rights for LGBTIQ people. This training directly falls under the work of the Frontline Alliance: Caribbean Partnerships Against Gender-Based Violence with support from our partners in Antigua (WAR and MESH), Haiti (Serovie Kouraj and FACSIDS), St. Lucia (United and Strong St. Lucia and Raise Your Voice St. Lucia), and Trinidad and Tobago (WOMANTRA, GrootsTT and IamOneTT) Trainings in Caribbean