Michele Pierre-Louis ratification: The triumph of discretion

Some Background

Haiti has a President and a Prime Minister. The President gets elected by popular vote and then gets to nominate a Prime Minister which serves as head of government. The would-be Prime Minister must then get ratified by Parliament.

Last June, President Rene Préval nominated a woman, Michèle Pierre-Louis, for the job of Prime Minister. Michèle Pierre-Louis is well liked of many sectors in the country and widely appreciated for her track record as a founder of and current Executive Director of FOKAL, a non-profit funded partly by the Soros foundation. Many women's organizations and others tired of Haitian-style male-dominated politics as usual think Michèle would be a great choice and have been very excited. Unfortunately, no sooner was she nominated that a vicious campaign of innuendo and allegations about her sexual orientation emerged, coming in part from President Préval's opponents.

Many in Haiti and in the diaspora have been following this story closely while wondering what they can do. There has been an outpouring of support in Haiti that I don't have time to document here. (If you read French, go to Ms. Pierre-Louis' website which I link to below.) Here in the US, I've noticed a Facebook group, Soutenir Michèle Pierre-Louis, which contains a petition. There has also been a letter of support by board members of Dwa Fanm, an organization serving Haitian-American and immigrant women in Brooklyn, New York. JocelynMcCalla, former Exec Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights came up with this blog post which contains some useful history about female leadership in Haiti. Contacts in Haiti predicted that support from within and without the country has been so strong that Parliament would have no choice but to approve her. Yesterday the Chamber of Deputies did just that. The final word is now in the hands of the Senate which will vote on the nomination next week.

Sometime last week, Michèle Pierre-Louis' team came up with a website/blog that is meant to fight the smears, to borrow from Obamaspeak.

Some inevitable punditry

Nothing ridiculously coherent. Just some inevitable thoughts and questions:

  • It's interesting that in the last months, the governments of both Haiti and Jamaica have had to contend with the issue of homosexuality. The Jamaican prime minister's recent statement to the BBC that there is no place for gays in his government has generated lots of ink.

  • It's still not clear to me what this ratification represents for gay rights in Haiti. Ms. Pierre-Louis is not "out" that I know of nor is it clear whether allegations of her homosexuality are indeed true. The support for her seems to have come from the undeniability of her commitment and competence based on her track record with FOKAL over the years. My contacts in Haiti who support her feel like her private life is just that and should not be a factor here. If anything, this is a confirmation of the prized values of privacy and discretion in the national psyche rather than an explicit gay rights victory.

I'd love to hear from readers on this topic, especially from people who have lived this on the ground.

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petadvice from Canada said...

I lived in Haiti,and wanted you to be aware that there is a law that makes homosexuality illegal.The dep't of Bien Etre (Well Being) is in charge of enforcing this law.

Alice B. said...

Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

interesting, thanks