STUDY FINDS DISCRIMINATION, EXCLUSION TAKING A TOLL ON LGBTI
By Jenique Belgrave
A significant number of persons living in this island who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Inter-Sex (LGBTI) have had thoughts of committing suicide.
In fact, a recent survey found that 67 per cent of the 338 respondents in the survey who self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or plus, admitted to experiencing suicidal thoughts, while 27 per cent actually attempted the act.
Presenting the preliminary results of the National LGBTI Survey for Barbados, HIV, Health and Human Rights Specialist from the UNDP’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean Juana Cooke Camargo revealed that the situation is even more dire for those identifying as transgender or non-binary. Ninety per cent of them said they experienced suicidal ideation, with 62 per cent having attempted to take their lives.
Noting that many of these individuals reported living in a constant state of alert and self-censorship, Camargo said many of them “code-switched” throughout the day depending on their surroundings and audience.
“Can we envision for a moment living lives in which dipping and dodging and hiding is something that occurs every day, in some cases many times over a day? This constant hide and unhide, show, don’t show, has a toll on LGBTI persons’ ability to experience safety in the ways they can claim their rights, freely mobilise and negotiate life in general, from renting a house, deciding to or not to have a family, going out to a restaurant, or deciding whether to attend or not the funeral of a loved family member,” Camargo explained.
Her comments were made on the second day of a crime prevention symposium at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business.
A collaboration of the UNDP and the Being LGBTI in the Caribbean project, the self-administered online survey collected responses from Barbadian residents between the ages of 18 and 67 from December 2022 to February 2023.
Camargo stated that many of these individuals disclosed that they experienced challenges in the workplace because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, with 40 per cent encountering exclusion or discrimination and 20 per cent reporting having someone other than themselves disclosing this information without their consent.
“Lack of inclusive and protected public policies and legal environments may render LGBTQ-plus people uncomfortable in their interactions with institutions. Results of the survey highlight issues that may point to distrust in government actors. Roughly 55 per cent of survey respondents do not believe that government officials support and protect LGBTI-plus people. Only six per cent feel protected under the Barbados Constitution and laws,” she stated.
Noting that it was only a few months ago that sections of the Barbados Sexual Offences Act which provided for “buggery” to be punishable with up to life imprisonment and “serious indecency” with up to 10 years, were struck down, she stated that the impact was clearly felt.
“While these laws were selectively and rarely enacted, they provided fertile ground for social disapproval, fueled violence against LGBTI persons and found its way to music, media, humour, amongst others. Change, however, is coming thanks to strategic litigation led by judicial rulings coming from courts such as the case in Barbados. However, legislation is open for subjective interpretation and anchored on vague concepts around morality,” she added.
The full report will be made available to the public next month.