NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A leading LGBT+ activist has been found dead at his home in Haiti, rights supporters said on Tuesday, prompting concerns about the safety of the LGBT+ community in the Caribbean nation.
The body of Jeudy Charlot, who led one of the Caribbean’s few LGBT+ rights organizations called Kouraj, or Courage in English, was found on Monday, according to the group’s website which called the death “a blow to the LGBT+ community.”
Charlot’s cause of death was not immediately known, and Haitian authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
Charlot was 46 years old.
Last year, Charlot’s organization joined with the United Nations to launch a project in Haiti to reduce discrimination and homophobia and promote tolerance and equal rights following incidents of anti-LGBT+ street violence.
“People are very afraid, and when an outspoken human rights leader dies it has a ripple effect across the LGBTQI community,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, a New York-based human rights organization.
“The impact is one of fear,” Stern, who said she knew Charlot personally, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Haiti has no laws criminalizing same-sex relationships, but the nation’s LGBT+ community remains mostly underground due to social stigma. Gay relationships remain illegal in neighboring Caribbean nations such as Antigua and Grenada.
A 2018 human rights report by the U.S. State Department said “local attitudes remained hostile toward” people who are LGBT+ in Haiti, particularly in the capital Port-Au-Prince.
As a prominent LGBT+ rights advocate, Charlot frequently received threatening phone calls, according to Stern and friends of the activist who posted on Twitter.
In 2016 he canceled a festival Kouraj was organizing to celebrate the Afro-Caribbean LGBT+ community after numerous threats of violence.
The U.S. and French embassies in Haiti released public statements expressing remorse over the activist’s death and urged authorities to look into the circumstances.
Politically unstable Haiti is the Americas’ poorest nation, where huge swathes of the country have no access to electricity, basic sanitation or health care.
Reporting by Matthew Lavietes. Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories