Yesterday and Today
The Cayman Islands (3 in number) have been a British possession since the 1670s and were a dependency of Jamaica until July 1959 and are now a British overseas territory. This means that while they have their own legislative assembly, there is a Governor appointed by the British government with a duty to oversee the overall running of things, including the approval of legislation and immigration matters on behalf of the Crown. But where authority actually lies is a gray area.
Same sex activity was forcefully decriminalized in 2000 by a British law order imposed on the Cayman Islands–and many conservative locals did not appreciate that royal command. As a result the subsequent constitution of the Caymans, enacted by the local government, deliberately excluded sexual orientation as a prohibited status for discrimination. London protested the action as “deplorable” and expressed the opinion that it violated human rights laws. But since homophobia is irrational and obeys no rules of civility the Cayman parliament ignored the protest and today expresses its discriminatory policies in their constitution and in its official attitudes. Same sex couples have no legal standing and the age of consent is different for hetero (16) and homo (21) behavior.
To make matters worse, in 2006 the right-wing Cayman activist group People For Referendum protested against all LGBT rights fearing same-sex marriage would be the next imposition of London. Their conservative influence, along with midstream churches, has been felt in the persistent media and gossip campaign against gays.
As in much of the Caribbean, public displays of affection (both gay and straight) are not acceptable here as well. LGBT visitors can expect resentment from older Caymanians but one observer claims that young Caymanians are more liberal and “for the most part, don’t care either way. Overall, Caymanians are very respectful.”
Nevertheless, Frommers Guide to the Caymans has published this opinion: “the government of the Cayman Islands has been particularly vocal and unapologetic in expressing its anti-gay attitudes. In 1998 the Cayman Islands tourism office turned away Norwegian Cruise Lines Leeward, which was carrying 900 gay passengers. The tourism director in Georgetown stated at the time: “We cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behavior expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands.” The decision drew massive protest in America, with many groups, even travel agents, discouraging travel to the Cayman Islands or calling for a complete boycott of the Cayman Islands.
Although the government approved the ban on the ship, such intolerance is usually not endorsed by many individual hotel owners, who have said that they welcome gay and lesbian patronage. Obviously, for them, the pink dollar has much stronger influence than political pandas.
There are no gay bars or clubs and the local gay and lesbian community socializes privately in homes. Read more.
Another negative event that happened in 2008 and went viral on the Net is the Amherst. MA (USA) man who got busted for kissing his boyfriend. After several requests and warnings not to do so, the defiant (or drunk?) tourist was finally arrested and later released.
Needless to say there was a backlash as supporters of gay rights protested. “The most recent stupid, idiotic, moronic, dumbass show of homophobic and discriminatory behaviour against another human being,” wrote one irate blogger. “This little incident only serves to reinforce the attitude that the Cayman Islands hates gay people and they will stop at nothing, including ruining an already expensive evening, to impose archaic, homophobic and just plain idiotic ‘laws’ against people who so brazenly disregard the law by showing affection for their loved one.”
The Caymans are very conservative, quiet and upscale. No casinos, no wild nightlife, no nude beaches and they do not encourage college ‘spring breakers’ or gays.
“If you can separate the politics from the people, and separate being gay from enjoying a beautiful island, then go! You will love the islands. Just do not show too much public intimacy. Do not go on the main streets without a T-shirt or cover-up. The island has many religious people (or who pretend to be) who influence the bars to close at midnight on Saturday–before church. More night life happens on Thursday and Friday nights.”
Serious Debate About Homosexuality and Human Rights
This Cayman culture war between right and left, conservative and progressive thinking is best exemplified in the 2010 commentary—and subsequent hundreds of responses–posted on Cayman News Service in January and February 2010 by Danielle Coleman, a former member of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee from 2006-2009. Her criticism is aimed at a then-current right-wing religious bigoted board member and his hypocrisy in dealing with human rights. Subsequent to Coleman’s published essay, readers sent in many lively and vehement reactions, mostly pro and many con.
The essence of the hot debate boiled down to the modern struggle between secular civil rights urging equality for all and religious faith-based beliefs that ‘God’s Word’ is the ultimate arbiter of truth among people, especially when it comes to sexuality.
Danielle Coleman again: “… one recently appointed member to the Human Rights Commission, Reverend Sykes, has on several occasions and over a period of many years acted and preached for the exclusion of homosexual citizens… when Cayman laws banning homosexuality were abolished in 2001, Reverend Sykes complained that this was ‘totally unacceptable’… his claims to defend a fundamental moral and biblical stance is little more than a matter of his own personal opinion… while religion’s stance on homosexuality may be a matter for interpretation, human rights law is without ambiguity.
“The universal declaration of human rights is founded on the principle that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. The abolition of Cayman’s anti-gay laws (imposed by the UK) was based on the fact that they were in violation of international human rights law… Reverend Sykes’ lack of tolerance of minorities may be viewed as inconsistent with his role as a Christian leader; however I (Coleman) would argue that it is utterly and undeniably incompatible with his role on the Human Rights Commission whose primary responsibility is to promote understanding and observance of human rights in the Caymans.”
An anonymous opposition hand wrote: “It seems to me that there is a big gay rights lobby in this country, trying to hide itself under the human rights umbrella, for no other purpose than to try to guilt us into submission… by making us believe that we are backward and hateful because we hold true to our convictions… the Bible is very clear on God’s stance towards the practice of homosexuality. It states that these acts are sinful, just like adultery and fornication and other sexual immorality. I don’t say that to offend anyone or to pick a fight. If you are a Christian, you must recognize that the practice of homosexuality is a sin.”
Followed by this: “Danielle Coleman has hopefully started a trend; she stood up and wrote a letter about an issue which is in Cayman very controversial, I applaud her for that. Cayman still today is not willing to address uncomfortable issues which have been accepted globally in affluent countries. Cayman is not this little Caribbean Island time has forgotten, Cayman has a global presence in finance and is a wonderful vacation destination. We need to address many issues, may it be Crime, Drugs, Human Rights or Domestic Violence. We tend to brush them under the carpet, the problems will not vanish, lets address them with open minded people and fix the issues. Cayman has brilliant minds, place does people on the boards with a vision for the future and establish tolerance and teach to accept and respect all humans of all walk of life. Cayman deserves only the best, lets stand up and make it happen.”
Then this: “A Human Rights Act is there to protect everyone’s rights as human beings, regardless of being black, white, heterosexual, homosexual, Christian, Muslim or all of the above. The Act isn’t there as a judgment call but rather a protection from being ridiculed by individuals, claiming their own personal beliefs. Human Rights is a more Godly Act than the acts of people making judgment calls. It sets aside religion and differences in our world and acknowledges and embraces love and compassion for people as individuals. Who can say that not everyone deserves the same compassion for being a human being? How I live my life should be of no one’s concern unless I am physically in another’s space. I know that I practice love within myself and others, isn’t that a godly act? I love my straight friends, my gay friends, my black friends, my white friends, my Christian friends and my Muslim friends. The beauty is… I see love within each soul rather than a societal label! Human Rights is simply about seeing rights rather than one’s perspective of wrongs.”
It’s doubtful anyone from either side was converted by this debate, but social paradigms shift slowly and public discussions like this help loosen up locked-in attitudes as well as help educate younger minds so they do not blindly follow their leaders.
The Island Demographics
There are three Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman is the largest island and home to most of the population and tourist facilities. The other two islands 75 miles away are called the Sister Islands by locals and are also tourist destinations. They are Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The islands are basically low lying and lack the dramatic mountains and volcanos seen on other islands. This is a resort and beach destination with white sand and luxury hotels along the water.
Capital town Georgetown
Government British Overseas Territory
Area 264 sq km/102 sq miles
Population 55,456 (2010 census)
Religion United Church (Presbyterian and Congregational), Anglican, Baptist, Church of God, other Protestant, Roman Catholic (photo right: Seven Mile Beach)
The islands are a major international financial center. The biggest sectors are “banking, hedge fund formation and investment, structured finance and securitization, captive insurance, and general corporate activities. This is the fifth-largest banking center in the world, with $1.5 trillion in banking liabilities. There are at least 280 banks, 19 of which are licensed to conduct banking activities of simple and complex matters. It has branches of 40 of the world’s 50 largest banks. The Cayman Islands are the second largest captive domicile (insurance agencies) in the world with more than 700 companies, writing more than US$7.7 billion of premiums and with US$36.8 billion of assets under management.
In addition to banking, tourism is a mainstay, aimed at the luxury market and catering mainly to visitors from North America. Total tourist arrivals exceeded 2.19 million in 2006, although the vast majority of visitors arrive for single day cruise ship visits (1.93 million). About 90% of the islands’ food and consumer goods must be imported. The Caymanians enjoy one of the highest income per capita and one of the highest standards of living in the world. The Cayman Islands are one of the richest islands not only in the Caribbean but in the world.
The Cayman Islands in the Caribbean attracts tourists, beach enthusiasts, and divers from all over the world with its endless pristine white beaches and spectacular dive spots. The wealthiest and most influential people also flock to the islands because of its highly advanced and favourable banking system that values privacy, confidentiality and absolute security. Through its perfect combination of majestic natural wonders and secure financial system, the Cayman Islands is nothing less than a piece of paradise on earth.
Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach is the Cayman Islands’ premier beach resort district and one of the most beautiful and beloved beaches in all of the Caribbean. Actually more like 5.6 miles long, the beach is lined with luxury resorts, restaurants and shops and dotted with beach bars and water-sports centers offering snorkeling, kayaking, and para-sailing rentals. The beach, on the west coast of Grand Cayman, also is a magnet for a variety of beach sports, particularly volleyball. Overall, Seven Mile Beach fairly bustles with activity, which cannot be said of most Cayman Islands beaches. The surf is calm and there are some small reefs that are good for snorkeling.
Protest against gay tourists 2010