Homosexuality in Saint Kitts and Nevis is like homophobia—hidden and disguised behind smiles, dollars, pretty beaches and friendly hotels and restaurants. But the shadow side of gay life in Saint Kitts & Nevis is not so pretty or nice.
Not unusual for a homophobic nation dependent on tourist dollars, Saint Kitts and Nevis (also known as St. Christopher and Nevis) in the Caribbean is two-faced about their anti-gay laws and their toothy welcome smiles.
The official line is: Section 56 and 57 of the ‘Offenses Against the Person Act’ criminalizes male same-sex behavior. But in typical reverse sexist discrimination, female to female sexual relationships are legal. The government claims that it received no official reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation.
However, more truthful unofficial reports indicated that this remains a problem. An LGBT minor was attacked (United States Department of State; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and LaborCountry; Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011) multiple times during the year, resulting in serious injury. Anecdotal evidence suggested the attacks were a result of LGBT status.
Such duplicitous comments ignore the more injurious offense to homosexual people, that such a statute encourages the social disease of homophobia among many of its citizens. Needless to say, there are no laws that prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation.
It’s easy to find tourist comments such as these: “My partner and I and another gay couple just returned from St. Kitts in Feb 2011. We stopped as one of the ports on our Cruise, and we had a great time on this beautiful island. Everyone seemed very friendly and no one made us feel uncomfortable in any way.” (Trip Advisor)
“I work at a beach bar on St.Kitts and have had many gay couples as customers. I have never heard any of them say anything bad about the reception they have received on St. Kitts. There are more than several gay local citizens living here and there is no gay bashing that I have ever heard of. We once had a gay cruise ship dock here and everyone had a great time.” (Trip Advisor)
However, the deeper truth of what gay life is like on the paradise island is shaded by this 2008 report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in it annual reports about human rights around the world: “The Saint Kitts and Nevis Ministry of Health states that “homophobia is rampant”. The stigma associated with male-to-male sex leads some homosexuals to have a female partner as an alibi. Also, the illegal status of ‘buggery’ drives MSM underground, thus impeding access to health education and STD/HIV treatment. Cultural taboos around HIV, sex and sexuality are barriers to access sexual health.”
This latter description is closer to the ‘mixed reality’ of gay life in the country. Some LGBT folks are out and accepted by their friends and family, others are quietly left alone, others are harassed and bullied, still others with strong self-confidence are amused and catty to their offenders.
As for tourists, again, most are ignored and unharried but occasionally ignorant or drunk or angry natives feel the need to lash out at gays who they fear or feel are sinful or diseased.
Here is a sad report about a homophobic event that happened to two gay guys one evening in St Kitts port, in 2010, as they tried to walk through customs on their way back to their cruise ship. They were taken by complete surprise by three customs staff members who harassed and humiliated them for being ‘faggots, queers and poofs’ and refused at first to accept their ID cards which kept them at the gate to endure the abuse. “The workers accosted me (and my partner), laughing, heckling and again asking who I sleep with, continually calling me every slur in the book in both English and whatever tongue they speak.” They also tried to confiscate the gay men’s camera, personal belongings and items purchased while ashore. Needless to say the two passengers felt terrified, helpless and humiliated. (Read the complete story)
Such occurrences are rare. Another one happened in 2005 when a gay cruise ship was turned away from St Kitts port for which an apology was later issued by the authorities. But it’s very difficult to keep deep-seated hostility under constant control especially among poorly educated locals who have no thoughtful appreciation or tolerance for human sexual diversity. (Violence against women was also a serious and pervasive problem on the island.)
This is the dark side of homophobia (as if there is any light side!) that is reinforced at the local level by the law that criminalizes same-sex contact, along with Christian churches that condemn homosexuality as sin, as well as politicians who use the issue to whip up support at election time.
To make an unfortunate story shorter, here is the Saint Kitts and Nevis government’s response to a recent UN recommendation that was presented to them: take effective measures to effectively combat discrimination on all grounds, including on grounds of sexual orientation or identity; repeal legal provisions that criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex.
Status of this recommendations: Rejected.
End of this story–but the continuation of the long and arduous struggle to bring intelligent correction to human rights abuses world wide,
Compiled by Richard Ammon
Read more about LGBT Saint Kitts & Nevis (natives are referred to as ‘SKNERS’):
Anyone interested in the condition and circumstance of LGBT people in the Caribbean should read the report issued by the International Lesbian and Gay Association in 2011. (http://transitionsunshine.info/2011/05/homophobia-in-the-caribbean-varies-widely/)
It is a complete report that lists the gay-friendly as well as homophobic states in the Caribbean. In the following nine countries homosexuality is criminalized:
Antigua and Barbuda, (photo right)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Saint Kitts and Nevis,
Trinidad and Tobago.
Fortunately in the Caribbean there are more countries in which same-sex activity is legal. These are:
Bahamas (although with high homophobia),
British Virgin Islands ( Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada, + others), since 2000
Cayman Islands, since 2000
Cuba, since 1979
Montserrat, since 2000
Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao (off the Venezuelan coast)
Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius (southeast of the Virgin Islands)
French West Indies (Guadeloupe, since 1791, St Barths, Martinique, since 1791, St Martin)
Haiti, since 1986
Turks and Caicos Islands, since 2000
US Virgins Islands (St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, Water Island), since 1984
Also, see this LGBT report on eleven Caribbean destinations that includes some gay owned and gay-friendly venues: