Kenita Placide is the co-executive Director of the organisation from St Lucia ”United and Strong Inc”, created in 2001. She is an activist and advocate for human rights especially of LGBTI persons in her country and since 2010 the co-secretary general of CARIFLAGS, the Caribbean regional LGBTI network. She has also done advocacy for persons living with HIV as well as participated in programs of HIV prevention. In December 2010 she was elected alternate for the position of ILGA co-secretary general (Interview by Patricia Curzi)
What convinced you and your organisation “United and Strong” to participate in the UPR process and prepare a report on the situation of LGBT people in your country?
United and Strong Inc has been working in the shadows of AIDS Action Foundation for a number of years. We commenced looking at other mechanisms which are in place to hold the country accountable. The UPR sessions was just being called for submission when I brought it to the board attention for the go ahead. I felt we needed to participate in such mechanisms to highlight the situation in the country and make it known that there is a Local and National NGO monitoring country standing.
Like most English speaking countries in the Caribbean region, Saint Lucia’s legal system is based on the English Common Law, with most of its statute law originating from the United Kingdom. However, it still includes the reference to gross indecency and the buggery laws which have been removed from the British Constitution. Is the UPR really the right mechanism to claim for a change in constitution?
The role of the UPR process is to bring human rights violations to the attention of governments, in hope that they will do everything in their power to rectify them. Many people and governments in St Lucia and the Caribbean do not yet recognize the importance of removing sodomy laws and ensuring protection from discrimination in order to ensure the human rights of all people – including lesbians, gays and bisexual people. The shadow report that we produced is only one way in which we strive to bring these issues to the attention of the government.
Saint Lucia’s constitution does not explicitly refer to female same sex criminalisation. Would you say that in this case lesbians are more protected than their male counterparts?
Although lesbians face the same stigma and discrimination as their male counterparts, there is nothing in the laws which state anything against sex between two women. In a way it could be said that the focus in the legislation on male-male sexuality contributes to the invisibility of female sexuality and of lesbians. Women generally display more emotional attachment and therefore get off with being themselves most times. Also there is perceived acceptance because most heterosexual men are open to being the third party in intimate sessions. We need to combat the day-to-day stigma and discrimination of the lesbian and bisexual women. Women who don’t adhere to gender stereotypes or who simply love other women risk losing their jobs and face harassment. There is now an increase visibility of lesbians especially with the younger generation. The older generation is on the down low and gives advice of personal safety.
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