Sexual Health, Sexuality, and Human Rights

Many, many updates: The mtvU dance4life Photovoice Project, a new Photovoice project on a neighboring island, the dance4life celebration event, the artist collective at The Good Life Barbados, and turning the Photovoice project into script for a community action performance. Ready? Okay.

The Photovoice project has been moving forward as usual. Students at Harrison College were presented with the most recent question: What is one resource you use that helps you achieve positive sexual health? Check out the short silent movie made by four of the Photovoice students to illustrate their response to this question. Again I want to stress, this was made entirely by youth in the project, and, well, they’re awesome :)

We will also be starting with the Photovoice project at The Graydon Sealy Secondary School shortly (previously called The Garrison Secondary)…

Now looking towards Antigua, a neighboring island to the north. Karen Brotherson, Human Rights Coordinator for PLHIV (persons living with HIV), addresses human rights among the PLHIV community, which include men who have sex with men (MSM). As requested by PEPFAR, the US President’s Emergency AIDS Relief Plan, (one of our collaborators on the island) dance4life Barbados will be teaming up with Brotherson to implement a Photovoice project in Antigua exploring ways in which stigma and discrimination impede the human rights of this particular community.

Karen Brotherson and I met the other week to discuss the feasibility of implementing this project, during which she assured me that such an initiative would be well suited to explore issues of stigma and discrimination. Other topics that Karen expects may come up throughout this endeavor: Rejection by family, denial of employment opportunities, the intersection of sexual health and HIV, the impact of sexual orientation on everyday life in Antigua, and abuse (sexual, physical, emotional). Allowing for the exploration of these topics through Photovoice, Karen agreed, was an emancipatory way to bring awareness to such violations of human rights. In the future we are planning to travel to Antigua to assist in the implementation of this project. In the meantime we will be partnering with Karen, Human Rights Coordinator, from here in Barbados.

Locally, the LGBTQ community is confronted by stigma and discrimination as well. Anal sex is considered illegal (and punishable by life in prison) and protective services for LGBTQ individuals do not exist. I interviewed three Bajans at the University of West Indies Cave Hill to learn more about their experiences with and perceptions of stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Barbados. I would like to personally thank them for sharing their experiences, thoughts, and beliefs with me; I would also like to point out the courage they have to openly discuss such issues and work towards the emancipation of LGBTQ individuals. Each of these three people has an extensive and stellar background in activism and community-based work. I know the video is lengthy but it is worth hearing all of their thoughts.

The young woman describes living in the darkness. This is something that many people in the LGBTQ community have to navigate daily, forcing issues to be kept in secret. This may result in inadequate health service development for LGBTQ communities, a lack of health system intersection by LGBTQ individuals, and uninformed policy making. One of the young men reminds us that “it’s not gay rights,” it’s simply human rights.

We did end on a positive note as we wrapped things up for the day. Unearthing what’s good, they shared information about programs that are exploring new territory and working towards issues of rights that haven’t been confronted yet (i.e. legal representation for LGBTQ individuals in court cases). Presently René is consulting on various projects with the National HIV/AIDS Program in Barbados. Information about the National HIV Program can be found on their site. René has also worked with NGOs and groups over the years to build HIV awareness and deal with social issues in the LGBT community and volunteers whenever he can to help organizations or groups that are working to strengthen youth and LGBT communities of this country and the region. Donnya is the founder of Barbados – Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD), an organization aimed at promoting tolerance and empowering the lives of LGBT persons in Barbados. She is also the Administrator for Quiche – Queers at UWI Cave Hill – LGBT University Club. Michael Alexander is the Community Animator for CHAA (Caribbean HIV AIDS Alliance). His position enables him to go out into the MSM community and carry out HIV outreach, ensuring everyone is well educated on the risks and prevention practices regarding HIV.

Next…we have the dance4life celebration event coming up. We’ve lined up local performers who will be there to honor the youth for participating in the dance4life program. Coverage of the event will be coming soon (scheduled for March 30th). Some of the performers we are hoping will contribute I have connected with through a local café called The Good Life. I stumbled into The Good Life a couple weeks ago and have made, well, probably too many visits ever since. Aside from the delicious, fresh, organic food and smoothies they serve, the place is run by an inspirational group of artists. They incorporate their art into the functioning of the café. They perform at the open mic night they host, they connect local musicians with other artists, there is spoken word, and there are screenwriters. It is really an amazing group of people. I’ll be walking over there shortly to see if the Rhyme Minister, a freestyle artist, is interested in performing at the event. Rumor has it that he once won a freestyle competition that lasted for 4 hours. I’ll probably enjoy a papaya spice smoothie while I’m there ;)

Another performer/collaborator I am particularly excited about is Marisa Lindsay who runs the sayluvmusic School in Barbados. She will be performing with some of her students at the event. Through sayluvmusic Marisa engages her students through their own art (mainly vocals and other musical instruments), while encouraging them to be positive and socially active with their voice and presence. Marisa and I met last week to discuss the next step of the Photovoice project: Turning the photos, videos, and narratives into a script for a community performance. We will be partnering with a local screenwriter, Matthew Murrell (yes, I met him at The Good Life) to accomplish this! The performance will be made up of short vignettes based on the narratives from the youth in the Photovoice project.

More to come on this soon…

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Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 Video

5 Comments to Sexual Health, Sexuality, and Human Rights

  1. Great interview, Katherine! It’s interesting to see some of the parallel issues that arise between the Barbados and Indian LGBTQ communities. Can’t wait to see what happens next with the Photovoice project.

  2. Jeff Roy on March 26th, 2013
  3. Thank you for noting those parallels across the LGBTQ communities… And thanks for the supportive comment :)

  4. Katherine on March 26th, 2013
  5. very informative and well written, Nice job, Kate!

  6. Chuck on March 26th, 2013
  7. Thanks for always reading these, Dad!

  8. Katherine on March 26th, 2013
  9. What a powerful post Katherine! I see so many of the same issues in Kosovoan LGBTQ communities. I love everything coming from the photovoice project. Super inspiring! Can’t wait to see more :)

  10. Albulena Shabani - Kosovo on April 8th, 2013

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