A four day festival celebrating the LGBT community has been canceled in the wake of threats of violence and an official prohibition by a city commissioner.
“[We've] been receiving threats of outrageous violence,” said Lorraine Mangones of the Knowledge & Freedom Foundation (FOKAL).
The four-day Massimadi Festival, which would have started Tuesday in Port-au-Prince, was to include film, art and performances.
But after receiving a complaint from Senator Jean Renel Senatus, Port-au-Prince Capital Commissioner Jean Danton Leger blocked the event. He told a local radio station he needed to protect Haiti’s “moral and social” values.
"There are very homophobic people who are against it, and the government official who is responsible for the jurisdiction of Port-au-Prince has also taken a decision to prevent the festival for now,” said Jeudy Charlot of the gay rights group Kouraj.
"But we still plan on holding Massimadi in the future.”
While homosexuality is legal in Haiti, many members of the LGBT community live in fear. If victimized, they are hesitant to go to police, who often share the negative religious attitudes of their countrymen.
In 2013, thousands of Haitians marched against same-sex marriage—gays have even been blamed for earthquakes in the Caribbean country.
“Unfortunately the situation is getting more and more dramatic,” said one organizer. “Kouraj members are threatened [with] death and are scared to go out.”
Others, however, refuse to stand in the shadows.
“More LGBT people are coming out and accepting themselves more these days,” says Charlot. “They walk on the streets very proud.”
Below, a member of Kouraj shares his story.
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