Gov’t says it protects the LGBTI community

Melford Nicholas (OBSERVER media photo)
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Fear of damage to the country’s international reputation has forced the government to issue a statement in which it says that it does and will continue to protect and uphold the human rights of Antigua & Barbuda’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual , Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

According to the Minister of Information Melford Nicholas, the need for the statement and a further diplomatic note to Toronto, were spurred by comments of Canada-based LGBTI activist Tasheka Lavann.

In a public statement read at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press conference by the government’s Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst, it was stated, “All persons irrespective of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity are entitled to enjoy in Antigua & Barbuda the protections provided for by our constitution and by international human right law.”

In a three-minute Huffington Post interview, Lavann, who once resided in Antigua and identified herself as a lesbian, said she feared violence as a member of the LGBTI community.

She later clarified that some of her stronger statements were taken out of context and she was not referring to the twin-island state when she made them. Nonetheless, her statements garnered a harsh public backlash from residents who felt she had tarnished the country’s name.

Nicholas explained that the government’s statement was a “precautionary measure” to avoid the appearance that one of the nation’s citizens felt it necessary to flee in order to escape discrimination and violence.

“The Cabinet is of the view that if left untreated and Antigua & Barbuda were to be found in breach to the extent that one of our citizens would be required to achieve refugee status in a country, it would do some harm to the validity of our state and the validity of our passport,” Nicholas said.

The public statement titled ‘Policy on Protection from violence and discrimination of persons of the LGBTI community’ further read, “Antigua & Barbuda does not tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community and maintains their right to protection under local law and international law. The government of Antigua & Barbuda upholds the core legal obligations of states with respect to protecting the human right of LGBTI people.”

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