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Martinique - Fred Cronard

1. Tell us about your work in the region and any organizations that you represent

Since 1998, I worked in the field of fight against AIDS in Martinique. In 2002, I started my first preventive actions in the LGBT groups of Martinique. It was the first actions implemented in Martinique for this group. In 2004, a group of people living with HIV and gays, we have created Association Martinique Vivre Ensemble [Martinique Living Together Association] (AMVIE). AMVIE was working on the principle of community engagement of people living with HIV and LGBT. In 2005, AMVIE has developed the first programs to prevent HIV and STIs and the fight against discrimination of LGBT people in Martinique. In 2007, I was elected president of the AMVIE. In 2011, AMVIE has decided to merge with the AIDES association, based in Pantin (France). AIDES is the largest association of fight against AIDS and hepatitis in France. Currently, I'm president of AIDES Martinique.

There are no laws against homosexuality in French law. There are laws that protect the privacy of individuals, and who condemn homophobic acts. However, there are homophobic attacks, and it is always difficult for LGBT people assaulted to complain.

This is especially true in Martinique and other French departments of America of Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and St. Martin (French part). The police sometimes refuse to accept the complaint of a person LGBT assaulted. There are few (or not) programs for LGBT rights developed in the French Department of America (Martinique (1), Guadeloupe (1), French Guiana and St. Martin (French part)). There are few (or not) of cooperation between the associations of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana and St. Martin with NGOs in the Caribbean region, in the fight against AIDS and the fight for LGBT rights.

In 2006, a seminar was held in St. Maarten by the Ministry of Health of France. There were 153 participants from France, and various Caribbean countries (Dominican Republic, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, St. Lucia, Suriname, etc.). A workshop was devoted to relations between men (MSM). Few links have been developed and maintained by the associations of French Department of America and the Caribbean NGOs.

In 2010, a program of cooperation with the Caribbean, funded by the European Community, and entitled "Setting up of a regional HIV observatory between French territories and other countries in the Caribbean" was implemented. The project leader is the University Hospital Centre (CHU) of Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe). Investigations are carried out in the public men who have sex with men (MSM), crack users, sex workers, migrants. The scientific coordination of the investigations is provided by the Clinical Investigation Center - Clinical Epidemiology (CIC-EC) French Guiana (Hospital Centre (CH) Cayenne). AIDS coordinated some of these investigations, including MSM, Martinique, Guyana and St. Martin.

AIDES Martinique priorities for 2012 for LGBT people are:

- Strengthen our prevention efforts : preventing HIV/STI, testing HIV rapid tests
- Develop actions for the rights of LGBT people
- Develop visibility actions
- Develop advocacy at local and regional
- Develop links with NGOs in the Caribbean

2. This project is offering a space for Caribbean activists, writers, scholars, and artists to define and redefine homophobia. We think this is necessary because so much has been discussed and defined outside of the region. How would you define homophobia(s) in your country? What social, cultural, and political factors contribute to homophobia(s)

There are few known studies on homophobia in Martinique, and more generally in the French Departments of America. The experiences of the associations are very recent and provide some data. As part of the "Setting up of a regional HIV observatory between French territories and other countries in the Caribbean ", an inventory was made. An inventory of work (surveys, studies, and other academic work) made in Martinique and out of Martinique is in progress.

In Martinique, homosexuality is lived hidden, due to discriminatory behavior of the population. We cannot really speak of "community" LGBT in Martinique. There is no sense of belonging to a community. We identify people who claim to be gay (known in Martinique "Macoumè"). Beyond these gays, men have sex with men, without being defined as gay or bisexual. It is a male sexuality lived hard, "shameful?" Among gay people, the experience of homosexuality is different according to the generations and social class. Without speaking of visibility, there is a display of homosexuality among young gays.

A small group of transgender people is identified with an activity of prostitution. These are people of Martinique, with possibly one or two people of St. Lucia. These people are not integrated into the group of gays. Their clients are mostly men "heterosexual" socially integrated, often married and a father.

The meeting places are:
- Outdoor meeting places, which are often frequented the night in Fort de France (the capital of Martinique) and on the beaches. The absence of security makes these places dangerous places, favorable to attacks.
- The private dances are also meeting places.
- Internet networks

3. How useful is it for us to talk about different kinds of homophobia(s)? How would talking about different kinds of homophobia(s)  help us to include concerns for transgendered and gender non-conforming people?

Homophobia manifests itself in a number of attitudes, behaviors and actions that it would be important to identify. We need to identify the foundations of homophobia to develop strategies to combat it. The arguments most often advanced are: religion (it is forbidden by the Bible, God wanted that the woman is the natural companion of man) or societal (requires men and women for the reproduction of the human species and the sustainability of the society).

Many other arguments can be identified:
- The homophobic attitudes of men who have sex with men and who seek to protect themselves? Homophobic, so I'm not gay!
- Homophobic assault offenders, because homosexuals abused rarely report, and are therefore easy targets. Often these attacks take place on outdoor meeting places without security
- Attacks (racketeering) homophobic people who think that homosexuals have money, they rarely report and are easy targets
- The homophobic acts of people that do not support LGBT visibility, but that can be tolerated if they are hidden (they stay in their private sphere)
- The homophobic acts of people who think that homosexuality is against nature, that LGBT people are perverse

- Acts homophobic people (macho) who think that homosexuals are weak, do not represent the criteria of masculinity, virility?

4.  What changes have you seen and experienced (in the last 5 to 10 years) with regards to LGBT or sexual minority issues in the region and in your country in particular?

The main change in recent years, since 2004, was the creation of associations involved in LGBT. These associations are An Nou Allé, AMVIE (now AIDES Martinique) and CAP. These associations were able to develop preventive actions and actions of visibility and advocacy. They mainly concern gay men. The only active association to date is AIDES Martinique. Recently an association of lesbian was created.

Apart from the associations, there are Internet networks, which are places of exchange and encounter for gays. Speak publicly about homosexuality and attitudes of discrimination and stigma is likely to fight against homophobia.

5. What are the strategies you use for organizing against homophobia and its effects (ex. ostracism, depression, violence, etc.)?

The strategies we are considering:
- Building capacity, self-esteem, removing guilt of the LGBT
- Ensure the visibility of homosexuality
- Respond to homophobic actions

Actions can be:
- Implementation of group discussion among LGBT
- Develop community action (peer)
- Establishment of an observatory of homophobic violence, for a systematic response and assistance to persons victimized
- Encourage discussion in schools about sexuality, emotional and sexual orientation
- Conduct public debates by seeking the involvement of political, artistic, sporting, etc.

6.  What are the major challenges and successes you have faced in organizing?

This is the creation of the association and actions implemented. The association may develop a public debate within the population, through the various media, newspapers, television. In May 2012, we will organize a "Diversity Week" as part of World Day against Homophobia. During this week, several actions will be implemented in the direction of the students, the general public and LGBT. On this occasion, we will invite NGOs in the Caribbean.

7.  What kinds of regional or diaspora collaboration have been effective? What kinds of regional /diaspora collaboration have not been effective?

For now, we have no regional collaboration or relationship with the Diaspora. This is one of our concerns for the future. The French departments of America are fairly isolated from each other and with the countries of the Caribbean.

8. Do you think the Caribbean as a region is shifting in terms of tolerance and acceptance of diverse genders and sexualities? If so, how?

We have few links and rather limited knowledge of the initiatives developed in the Caribbean. We need to develop links with the actors of the Caribbean to find ways of collaborating and joint actions.

9.What are some specific changes you would like to see in your country to change or lessen homophobia(s)? In the Caribbean as a whole, how can we move towards these goals?

We are at the beginning of a process rather recent, dating back six years. We still need a method, action and collaboration to better evaluate our work and develop the society of Martinique. I think we are the right direction. Interesting initiatives are being developed. We need to pursue them.

I hope that this early work with you and others in the Caribbean will allow us to have a better understanding of our region and to identify actions that we can develop together.