Dispute over Euro funding for vulnerable Caribs

A coalition representing Caribbean gays, lesbians and sex workers Saturday demanded that regional negotiators include them in European Union (EU) funding available to social and vulnerable groups, saying negotiators ought to rethink current definitions of needy groups and bring them in before it is too late.

Ian McKnight and John Waters of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition that includes the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and the prison inmate community said the group is on a mission to drum up support to be included to be part of Euro4M available from the EU development fund to 15 Caribbean Forum countries including the Dominican Republic.

“We are asking the press to partner with us on this,” said McKnight as the regional gay and lesbian lobby steps up pressure on authorities for greater acceptance and tolerance of their lifestyle. “There is an emerging threat to civil society that might have the strong possibility of excluding those who we call vulnerable population from a very large grant that will benefit the Caribbean region,” he said.

The money is being set aside to help civil society groups to become more organized and assist in development in respective countries.

McKnight drug abusers, orphans, youths in dangerous circumstances, deportees and children should also be considered as part of the vulnerable groups for funding as the coalition called for a review of who is classified as vulnerable.

Caricom spokesman Leonard Robertson said he was unaware of the group and its mission but the coalition blamed consultants hired by governments on the EU project for leaving them in the cold through a narrow definition of vulnerable groups.

“The disenfranchised groups we work with are socially marginalized and sometimes it is sometimes politically contentious for the broader society and governments to embrace strengthening these groups but there is a dire need to integrate these groups into Caribbean society,” Waters said.

Emboldened by support from western governments and even the United Nations, gay and lesbian groups in the region have been unashamedly raising their profile and have even forced authorities in Guyana to begin consultations on whether buggery and cross dressing laws should b amended or scrubbed altogether from the law books.

Several groups including the Christian churches have already signaled their intentions to oppose any change in regulations, contending that government is subtly bowing to pressure from the west to change in order to access some types of concession funding. Similar pressure is also be targeted as Jamaica, considered one of the most homophobic countries on the planet.