“No to immorality, long live the family! “, could be read on a number of colorful banners waved by the dancing crowd. On Sunday July 26, several thousand faithful of Protestant churches marched in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, to protest against the country’s new Penal Code, which they consider « immoral ». All of them rejected several of its articles as a whole, notably providing for penalizing discrimination linked to sexual orientation.
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In the country, which still widely regards homosexuality as a « menace » for the social, religious and demographic order, the LGBT minority is in fact regularly the victim of insults, threats and violence. Published by presidential decree due to the absence of a functioning parliament, the text – which has opened the way to many erroneous interpretations – thus constitutes a new source of Haitians’ anger against the head of state, Jovenel Moïse, targeting this that day many insults launched by the crowd.
“The president imposes laws on us that will lead us to perdition, laws that will destroy us like Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. In Haiti, it is not our custom for two boys to marry, for two girls to marry or for a human to marry an animal ”, hammered the Bible in hand, Pastor Elinor Cadet, quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP). “God did not create us for same sex people to get together”, added a young demonstrator, at the microphone of the local press.
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In the ranks of the procession, punctuated by certain homophobic remarks, the bill to revise the law also opened the way to false information. “If a pastor does not want to marry two men together or two women, he will be arrested and risk one to three years in prison”, thus wrongly assured AFP Pastor Wismond Jeune, wearing a mask branded with the slogan of the march.
Because the new Penal Code does not modify the content of the Haitian Civil Code, which still legislates on marriage by only authorizing in the country the union between a man and a woman. In 2017, a law adopted by the Senate even provided that “The authors, co-authors and accomplices” of a marriage between two people of the same sex would incur a sentence of three years in prison and a fine of 500,000 gourdes (approximately € 7,000).
Entry into application
The Penal Code could still be repealed by the next parliamentarians before it comes into force, in two years. Its more than 1,000 articles have been developed over the past two decades in order to modernize Haitian justice, still rendered today according to a Penal Code dating from 1835, largely inspired by the Napoleon Code.