On Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019, a mob of people in South Rivers, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Eastern Caribbean -- described online as a “whole village” -- attacked a man whose sexual orientation they perceived to be gay.
A video that surfaced on social media shows people in the street harassing, pushing, assaulting and verbally and physically attacking a young man.
The Police Public Relations and Complaints Department in a statement said: “Consequent upon the circulation of video on social media/Facebook on Sunday April 21, 2019 where a young man was seen being physically attacked in South Rivers; the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force launched an investigation into the incident. As a result, one man is currently in custody assisting the police with its investigations.”
Whilst recorded incidents such as these are far and few between in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, LGBTI+ people remain vulnerable to violence, bullying and isolation both at home and public spaces, with little societal or governmental support.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines criminalises same-sex intimacy in its penal code, under s.146 and s.148 which pertain to Buggery and Gross Indecency, respectively. During Saint Vincent and Grenadines’ May 2016 Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council, the government indicated that “. . .there was currently no public or legislative appetite to revise any of the laws that prohibited sexual activities between consenting adults”.
TCEN’s Regional Representative for the Americas and Executive Director of The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc (ECADE), Kenita Placide said: “The attack comes weeks after a convening of civil society organisations from countries in the Eastern Caribbean was held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on 21-23 March 2019. The meeting sought to discuss and develop an intersectional advocacy plan to reform colonial laws and advance an equality and non-discrimination agenda for LGBTI+ people and women and girls.”
Discussions during the convening reflected on years of colonial rule which was instrumental in shaping current homophobic and transphobic attitudes in the Caribbean and the need to ensure public sensitisation is at the forefront of advocacy plans to change hearts and minds, as well as laws. Anti-discrimination, mental health and well-being were among three areas of collective advocacy selected.“
The Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) project is funded through the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of the Commonwealth 18-20 Fund and was set up as part of the UK’s current leadership role as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth. It came after Prime Minister Theresa May’s apology during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018, during which she acknowledged the UK’s role in the existence of “discriminatory laws made many years ago [which] continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same-sex relations and failing to protect women and girls”.
TCEN welcomes that an individual has been arrested. We request the government to ensure a fair and transparent investigation is undertaken and justice is delivered for the individual who was attacked.
Moreover, we recognise that such incidents are not isolated crimes and are an indication of attitudes and norms against the entire LGBTI+ community in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. We call on the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to stand against all forms of violence, regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and to reform laws that prevent LGBTI+ people from living a life of dignity.