As Senior Advisor at the Department of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, I help shape U.S. policy by advising on human rights issues that particularly affect vulnerable populations, such as women, children, persons with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. To do this well, it is important for me to understand how these populations are protected across the region. Recently I led a delegation to Jamaica, Barbados and St. Lucia and met with representatives of the LGBT community, activists, non-governmental and community organizations and our government and diplomatic partners. I was accompanied by representatives from the Department of State’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
In Barbados, I talked with academics from the University of the West Indies (UWI), representatives from UGLAAB, CHAA, and members of the media. We had long, interesting, often emotional discussions during which I heard that society often accepts violence against women, children, LGBT persons and other vulnerable groups for cultural or historic reasons, and those who speak up can be seen as having a particular agenda outside established norms. I also heard a call for leaders, educators, religious groups and civil society to speak about the need for an inclusive society that treats all members with respect, and dignity and that offers a life free from violence and discrimination. I was particularly interested to learn about UWI’s work to mainstream human rights into its programs, a much needed approach that can go far to support what human rights mean and who is entitled to them. I also was very impressed with Alex Jordan’s efforts to use her radio show to promote dialogue and raise awareness about violence against women and children, youth, homophobia, and discrimination.
In St. Lucia, I visited the police headquarters and met members of the vulnerable victims unit. I was impressed by the commitment of these police women who provide gender-sensitive attention to victims of sexual and gender-based violence. However, other vulnerable victims, including LGBT individuals, also need support. The police expressed a desire for more training; we are exploring the provision of human rights training for police across the region. I also participated in an international dialogue with members of civil society from across the region who are active on LGBT issues from decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults to documenting human rights abuses and how organizations and governments can work best together to promote the human rights of people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
This trip was instrumental in providing insight into the complexity of these issues in the Eastern Caribbean – the legal and social implications of LGBT issues and the differences between nations. I look forward to continuing these conversations, and to strengthening our cooperation to guarantee that all persons are treated with dignity, no matter who they are or whom they love.
Related Resources: Secretary Clinton’s address on the human rights of LGBT people.
Cross-posted from the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados, blog.