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Organisers have called off a festival in Haiti celebrating the Afro-Caribbean LGBT community because of threats of violence and government opposition.

The four-day Massimadi film, art and performance event was due to start Tuesday in the capital, Port-au-Prince, but a prominent Haitian cultural institution known as FOKAL and other organisations were threatened with arson and attacks.

One of the festival’s organisers, Lorraine Mangones, said her team has “been receiving threats of outrageous violence”.

Discrimination against the LGBT community is rife in Haiti but Jeudy Charlot, of the gay rights group Kouraj,  said he is determined that the arts festival by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Haitians and their supporters will be held at a later date.

“There are very homophobic people who are against it, and the government official who is responsible for the jurisdiction of Port-au-Prince has also taken a decision to prevent the festival for now,” said Charlot. “But we still plan on holding Massimadi in the future.”

Commissioner Jean Danton Leger confirmed he had blocked the festival to protect Haiti’s “moral and social” values after a complaint from Sen. Jean Renel Senatus, who considers the event an affront to traditional families.

The Massimadi arts and film festival is held annually in Brussels and Montreal and is focussed on Afro-Caribbean communities.

Staff and volunteers at Kouraj’s headquarters said they were determined not to be intimidated and believe tolerance is expanding in Haiti.

There are no laws prohibiting homosexuality in Haiti.


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