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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Haiti may 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. Public opinion tends to be opposed to LGBT rights, which is why LGBT people are not protected from discrimination, are not included in hate crimes laws and households headed by same-sex couples do not have any of the legal rights given to married couples.

Haiti (orthographic projection).svg
StatusLegal since 1791[1]
Gender identityno
MilitaryHas no military
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions

Legality of same-sex sexual activityEdit

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]

Article 227 of the criminal code prohibits vagrancy, with a specific mention in the code for transvestites.[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationshipsEdit

Haiti does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or similar institutions.[3] 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.[4] It must be passed by the Chamber of Deputies and signed by the President before it becomes law. But as of 2019, the measure seems to have stalled and there had been no advance.[5]

Discrimination protectionsEdit

As of 2013, the law does not prohibit discrimination on account of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, education, health care, housing, finance, public accommodations and transportation. Haitian law does not have a hate crimes or bias-motivated crime law to address harassment and violence directed at LGBT people.

In 2017, the Senate passed a law that would label gay people as being among categories of people who could be denied a "certificate of good standing"' — a document required as part of many job applications. It must be passed by the Chamber of Deputies and signed by the President before it becomes law. But as of 2019, the measure seems to have stalled and there had been no advance.[5]

Constitutional protectionsEdit

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 viewpointsEdit

Most Haitians have strong ties to a religion or denomination that views homosexuality and cross-dressing negatively. Roughly eighty percent of the population is Catholic, and the second and third main religious groups in Haiti, Protestantism and Islam, also tend to have negative views about same-sex sexuality and cross-dressing.[3]

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 a LGBT rights movement to exist, public support is almost nonexistent.

The major social exception is Voodoo 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 cultureEdit

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]

Among the Haitian Diaspora, there is a growing Haitian LGBT culture which struggles to balance living freely and openly while hanging onto the culture they stem from. Haitian-descended artist Lenelle Moise, who runs the Haitian LGBT group HGLA, is a leader of the Haitian Diaspora's growing number of LGBT-identified individuals.

The book Haitian Bisexuality : It's My Life, written by Teejay LeCapois ( based on conducted interviews with Haitian bisexual men and their wives and girlfriends ) and published by Lulu Press in 2011 chronicles the daily lives of bisexual Haitian men.

The collection Muslim Lesbian Anthology by Teejay LeCapois, published in 2019 by Lulu Press, features a Haitian lesbian character in a secret relationship with an Arab Muslim woman.

Treatment by policeEdit

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.[13]

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.[13]


As of 2005, as many as sixty percent of Haitians lived in poverty, with roughly two percent of the population infected with HIV.[14] As of 2008, the number of persons infected has risen to 4–6%, with rates increasing to 13% in certain rural neighborhoods.[15]

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 policyEdit


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.[3]

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.[16]

In 2008, about a dozen Haitians took part in the nation's first gay rights demonstration.[17]

2010 earthquakeEdit

Fourteen Haitians were killed by the 2010 earthquake while attending a support group for gay and bisexual men.[18]

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.[19] One gay man reported to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and that a Man who have Sex with Man (MSM) friend was beaten by an angry crowd whose members verbally abused him and accused him of being responsible for the earthquake.[19]

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!").[19]

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.[19]

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.[19]

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.[20]

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.[13] 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 taptap (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.[13]

Another gay man interviewed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission 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."[13]

A group of lesbian women interviewed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported that sexual violence and corrective rape were "definitely a problem" in the refugee camps after the earthquake.[21] The rape of lesbians, gay men and transgender women in or near camps was documented.[21] For example, a 24-year-old lesbian was brutally raped by eight men at the Champs de Mars camp.[21]

Sexual Orientation and IdentityEdit

This time last year, 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.[22]

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 tableEdit

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 12th edition of ILGA State Sponsored Homophobia
  2. ^ "Haiti: Code pénal de Haïti". Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Katz, Jonathan M. (30 November 2008). "Openly gay marchers debut at Haiti AIDS rally". USA Today. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Haiti May Ban Gay Marriage, Public Support for LGBTQ Rights". The New York Times. 7 August 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b "In Haiti, Slight Progress for LGBT Rights Seen as Victory". Voice of America. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Haiti: Constitution, 1987".
  7. ^ a b "Haiti Anti-Gay Protest Draws More Than 1,000 Demonstrators", The Huffington Post, 07/19/13.
  8. ^ Duran, Jose D. (26 May 2008). "Haiti & Homosexuality – Miami News – Riptide 2.0". Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  9. ^ "Rara!". University of California Press. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  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". Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  11. ^ Tinsley, Omise'eke Natasha (1 January 2011). "Songs for Ezili: Vodou Epistemologies of (Trans) gender". Feminist Studies. 37 (2): 417–436. JSTOR 23069911.
  12. ^ ""Nou mache ansanm" (We walk together): Performance, Gender and Sexuality in Haiti". Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  13. ^ 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.5.
  14. ^ "FRONTLINE: the age of aids: country profile: haiti". PBS. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  15. ^ "THE AIDS CRISIS AND HEALTH CARE". Archived from the original on 17 November 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "Gays in Haiti show their Pride during AIDS march". Pink News. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  18. ^ Look Who's Talking! (3 Dec). "14 members of Haitian gay support group die in earthquake". Fridae. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ a b c "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.
  22. ^ "World Report 2018: Haiti". Human Rights Watch. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit