A gay British man has been attacked by angry locals hurling rocks and homemade bombs as he celebrated his engagement to his partner in Haiti.
Several people were reportedly injured during the homophobic attack, which occurred in the Caribbean nation’s capital Port au Prince over the weekend.
Cars were said to have been set on fire and windows smashed as an angry mob brandishing improvised weapons, including Molotov cocktails, descended on the party.
According to the French news agency AFP, it was only a last-minute intervention by police that prevented the couple and their guests from being killed. Charlot Jeudy, from the Haitian gay rights group Kouraj, said: “This is a criminal act and homophobic. There is no justification for this kind of attack on people in a private residence. Hopefully the justice authorities will react to the perpetrators of this act.”
The British man was identified locally as a Red Cross worker named Max. He is reported to have been unharmed in the incident, but has refused to speak about it publicly for fear of repeat attacks on his Haitian partner.
Although gay people in Haiti are not penalised by the law, there is little visible support for the lesbian and gay community, and no formal recognition of same-sex couples. There are few openly homosexual Haitians, with most keeping a deliberately low profile to avoid losing their jobs or facing violent attacks.
After a gay rights group announced in July that it planned to submit proposals for a law permitting gay marriage, more than 1,000 members of a group styling itself the Haiti Coalition of Religious and Moral Organisations – a group of Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Voodoo believers – took to the capital’s streets to protest.
One of the protesters, a Protestant named Eddy Jean-Pierre, told Associated Press: “I believe in God and God condemns homosexuality. Haiti is not going to accept this, and God will punish us further if we allow this to pass.” Unconfirmed media reports claimed that two unidentified people assumed to be gay were beaten to death during the demonstration. Haiti’s gay community has fought against persistent discrimination for years and 2010’s disastrous earthquake made the situation worse, according to a report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
The gay community in Haiti claims that the earthquake worsened discrimination against it by fellow Haitians who blamed their “sinfulness” for bringing down the wrath of God. When the office of an Aids organisation in the capital was destroyed in the quake, a survivor heard neighbours cheering and shouting: “Thank you, Jesus, the president of the paedophiles is dead!”
The commission’s report said: “Prior to the earthquake, the lives of many LGBT people in Haiti were characterised by secrecy, isolation, discrimination and violence. According to one Port au Prince lesbian, ‘loneliness, invisibility and social isolation are persistent problems for us’.” With the spread of gay marriage in the US, Europe and even Latin America, Haiti’s gays have recently tried to seize the initiative. In May, 300 attended a congress demanding an end to discrimination against them. But reports of attacks since then indicate that little has changed.
Members of the community say that rights violations often go unreported from fear of reprisals.