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LGBT rights in Haiti

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LGBT rights in Haiti
StatusLegal since 1791[1]
Gender identityNo
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Haiti face social and legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Adult, noncommercial and consensual same-sex sexuality is not a criminal offense, but transgender people can be fined for violating a broadly written vagrancy law. [citation needed] Public opinion tends to be opposed to LGBT rights, which is why LGBT people are not protected from discrimination, are not included in hate crime laws, and households headed by same-sex couples do not have any of the legal rights given to married couples.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Homosexuality laws in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Country subject to IACHR ruling
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but law not enforced

The French Penal Code of 1791, adopted between 25 September and 6 October 1791, extended to Saint-Domingue. When Haiti became independent from France in 1804, no law that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts was introduced, and no such law has come into the penal code since.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Haiti does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or similar institutions.[2] In 2013, Christian and Muslim religious leaders organized a large public demonstration against gay marriage, when a Haitian LGBT rights group announced plans to lobby for a gay rights bill in the parliament.

In August 2017, a bill to jail same-sex couples who get married for three years, with a fine of $8,000, passed the Haitian Senate,[3] but never became law.[4]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Haitian law does not have a hate crimes or bias-motivated crime law to address harassment and violence directed at LGBT people.

On 24 June 2020 a new penal code was decreed by the President of Haiti, to take effect 24 months later unless rejected by a new parliament before then, which would criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation and decriminalize adultery. Many Haitians and religious organizations became angry with this and conservative politicians promised that they will reject the new penal code.[5]

Constitutional protections[edit]

The Constitution of Haiti, ratified in 1987, does not expressly prohibit discrimination on the account of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the Constitution does make certain guarantees to all citizens, including a right to health care, housing, education, food and social security.[6]

Social attitudes and viewpoints[edit]

Most Haitians have strong ties to a religion or denomination that views homosexuality and cross-dressing negatively. Roughly fifty percent of the population is Catholic, and the second and third main religious groups in Haiti, Pentecostalism and Islam, also tend to have negative views about same-sex sexuality and cross-dressing.[2]

As a result of these attitudes and viewpoints, LGBT people often feel the need to be discreet about their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of being targeted for discrimination or harassment. While the Haiti government has allowed an LGBT rights movement to exist, public support is almost nonexistent.

The major social exception is Vodou which, as a spiritual practice and belief, possesses little discrimination against LGBT people.

More than 1,000 people participated in Port-au-Prince in July 2013 to protest homosexuality and a proposal to legalize gay marriage.[7] The protest brought together a mix of religious groups from Protestant to Muslim, who carried anti-gay placards and chanted songs, including one in which they threatened to burn down parliament if its members make same-sex marriage legal. The coalition of religious groups said that it opposed laws in other countries supporting gay marriage.[7]

LGBT culture[edit]

LGBT film festivals and parades do not occur in Haiti, and there are no bars or nightclubs to cater to LGBT patrons. For the most part, the social life of LGBT people in Haiti is still largely low-key and, much like the rest of the country, divided by economic class.

In 2002 a documentary about gay Haitians was released titled Of Men and Gods. The film examines the lives of several openly gay Haitian men and the discrimination that they face.[8] There has since been a significant amount of academic work on LGBT culture in Haiti by Elizabeth McAlister,[9] Erin Durban-Albrecht,[10] Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley,[11] Dasha Chapman, and Mario LaMothe. These speakers were featured at a pathbreaking symposium about LGBT culture in Haiti at Duke University in 2015.[12]

The Massimadi Festival, a Canadian festival of Black LGBTQ arts and culture, was slated to launch an edition in Port-au-Prince in 2016, but it was cancelled after threats of violence from anti-gay protestors.[13]

Kouraj is a Haitian LGBT advocacy group. Its president, activist Charlot Jeudy, was found dead on 25 November 2019. Rumors that he was poisoned are unconfirmed.[14]

Treatment by police[edit]

LGBT Haitians who are victims of a crime often do not receive professional treatment from the police, who often share the negative religious attitudes and viewpoints concerning same-sex sexuality and cross-dressing.

Members of the police have been known to engage in harassment themselves and, through their unprofessional behavior, revictimize LGBT people.[15]

Justification for the abuse and harassment of LGBT seems to stem from traditional attitudes about gender as well as the religious mores.

LGBT people are often seen by police as not only being immoral, but violating "normal" rules about how men and women ought to dress and behave.[15]


As of 2005, as many as sixty percent of Haitians lived in poverty, with roughly two percent of the population infected with HIV.[16] As of 2008, the number of persons infected has risen to 4–6%, with rates increasing to 13% in certain rural neighborhoods.[17]

In 1997, Grasadis was created as an organization that specializes in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among the LGBT minority as well as working to educate the general public about this minority. Former first lady Mildred Trouillot openly expressed support for Grasadis' work.

Government policy[edit]


No evidence exists as to whether or not LGBT people were specifically targeted during the Duvalier dictatorships. The noted artist Richard Brisson was executed by the dictatorship, although it remains unclear whether or not his sexual orientation was a factor in his execution.


More recently, Prime Minister nominee Michele Pierre-Louis was rumored to be a lesbian, thus promoting public condemnation by legislators that she was immoral and thus unfit to hold public office. She was allowed to hold the post, but only after reading a public statement declaring the rumors to be false and an insult to her good character.[2]

In 2007, the New York City-based Haitian Lesbian and Gay Alliance was created to provide social services to the Haitian LGBT minority as well as to campaign for their human rights.[18]

In 2008, about a dozen Haitians took part in the nation's first gay rights demonstration.[19]

2010 earthquake[edit]

Fourteen Haitians were killed by the 2010 earthquake while attending a support group for gay and bisexual men.[20]

In the weeks following the earthquake, many gay men in Haiti heard sermons on the radio and in churches, as well as talk in the streets that blamed the masisi (gay, derogative) and other "sinners" for incurring the wrath of God and causing the earthquake.[21] One gay man reported to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and that a man who has sex with men (MSM) friend was beaten by an angry crowd whose members verbally abused him and accused him of being responsible for the earthquake.[21]

When Paul Emil Ernst, the Director of the AIDS service organization Action Civique Contre le VIH (ACCV) in Port-au-Prince struggled to climb out from under the rubble of his collapsed office, he heard cheers coming from neighbors gathering outside: "Meci Jesus, prezidan an pedo ki mouri." ("Thank you Jesus, the president of the pedophiles is dead.") and "Mo an masisi!" ("Death to the masisi!").[21]

There were also verbal and physical attacks against Vodou practitioners following the earthquake, perpetrated by those who felt that, like homosexuals, Vodouists were immoral and bore some responsibility for the country's catastrophe.[21]

It is common knowledge in Haiti that a significant number of Vodou are masisi, and many LGBT believe that it was easier to be open about one's sexuality and gender expression within Vodou culture.[21]

After the earthquake hit, gay and bisexual men reported that they had taken on a more masculine demeanor since the earthquake, altering their voice, posture, and gait – "mettre des roches sur nos epaules" ("putting rocks on our shoulders") – in order to avoid harassment both inside and outside of the camps and to reduce the chances of being denied access to emergency housing, healthcare, and/or enrollment in food-for-work programs.[22]

In the post-earthquake context, many LGBT people expressed a lack of confidence in the capacity and the willingness of the police to assure protection and adherence to the rule of law when it came to protecting LGBT people.[15] As a case study, a man interviewed said he was threatened and physically attacked for supposedly flirting with a man sitting across from him on a tap tap (local bus). When he found a nearby policeman, rather than explaining that he was being harassed as a result of his sexuality, he told the policeman that he had been a victim of theft because, he said, "I knew that [the police] would only help me if I told them that I had been robbed. If the police knew I was gay, they would have attacked me instead of the man who beat me."[15]

Another gay man interviewed by the IGLHRC reported that "My brother and I were having an argument. I went to the police looking for help. When my brother told them that I was masisi (gay), they slapped me and laughed. They beat me even worse than he did."[15]

A group of lesbian women interviewed by the IGLHRC reported that sexual violence and corrective rape were "definitely a problem" in the refugee camps after the earthquake.[22] The rape of lesbians, gay men and transgender women in or near camps was documented.[22] For example, a 24-year-old lesbian was brutally raped by eight men at the Champs de Mars camp.[22]

Sexual Orientation and Identity[edit]

In June 2017, the Haitian senate launched a bill in attempts to regulate who receives a certification of good conduct. In Haiti, this is called Certificat de Bonne Vie et Mœurs. Many employers and schools require this document. It serves as a background check on the individual it is issued to. Homosexuality is listed as a crime that allows reason for denial of receiving this certificate.[23]

By August 2017, another bill was passed by the Haitian Senate to ban gay marriage. Any individual who are involved in a gay marriage, the newly weds, and any accomplices may be punished with up to three years in prison and a fine of eight thousand dollars US.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1791)
Equal age of consent (18) Yes (Since 1791)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "State Sponsored Homophobia" (PDF). ILGA. May 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Katz, Jonathan M. (30 November 2008). "Openly gay marchers debut at Haiti AIDS rally". USA Today. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Haiti May Ban Gay Marriage, Public Support for LGBTQ Rights". The New York Times. 7 August 2017.
  4. ^ "In Haiti, Slight Progress for LGBT Rights Seen as Victory". Voice of America. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  5. ^ Lemaire, Sandra; Toussaint, Renan (3 July 2020). "Haiti's New Penal Code Under Fire". Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Haiti: Constitution, 1987". pdba.georgetown.edu.
  7. ^ a b "Haiti Anti-Gay Protest Draws More Than 1,000 Demonstrators". HuffPost. 19 July 2013.
  8. ^ Duran, Jose D. (26 May 2008). "Haiti & Homosexuality – Miami News – Riptide 2.0". Blogs.miaminewtimes.com. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  9. ^ Rara!. Retrieved 4 March 2016. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Leigh, Durban-Albrecht, Erin; Leigh, Durban-Albrecht, Erin (1 January 2015). "Postcolonial Homophobia: United States Imperialism in Haiti and the Transnational Circulation of Antigay Sexual Politics". arizona.openrepository.com. Retrieved 4 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Tinsley, Omise'eke Natasha (1 January 2011). "Songs for Ezili: Vodou Epistemologies of (Trans) gender". Feminist Studies. 37 (2): 417–436. doi:10.1353/fem.2011.0022. JSTOR 23069911. S2CID 148877195.
  12. ^ ""Nou mache ansanm" (We walk together): Performance, Gender and Sexuality in Haiti". sites.duke.edu. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  13. ^ "LGBT festival canceled in Haiti amid threats to organizers". CBS News, September 27, 2016.
  14. ^ "Prominent Haitian LGBTQ activist found dead". 25 November 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d e "The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People" (PDF). 2011. p. 5. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  16. ^ "FRONTLINE: the age of aids: country profile: haiti". PBS. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  17. ^ "THE AIDS CRISIS AND HEALTH CARE". Archived from the original on 17 November 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  18. ^ "Welcome to HGLA!". www.hgla.org. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  19. ^ "Gays in Haiti show their Pride during AIDS march". Pink News. 1 December 2008. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  20. ^ Look Who's Talking! (3 Dec). "14 members of Haitian gay support group die in earthquake". Fridae. Retrieved 19 January 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ a b c d e "The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People", Briefing paper produced by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and SEROvie, 2011, p.6.
  22. ^ a b c d "The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People", Briefing paper produced by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and SEROvie, 2011, p.4.
  23. ^ "World Report 2018: Haiti". Human Rights Watch. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]