Human rights advocates and others are mourning the death of a Haiti gay rights activist who was found dead inside his home in Port-au-Prince under suspicious circumstances.
Charlot Jeudy was found dead on Monday inside his home in the Caradeux neighborhood of Haiti’s capital, his older brother confirmed to the Miami Herald. Jeudy, 34, was the leader of the prominent Haitian LGBT advocacy group Kouraj, or Courage.
Jeudy’s brother, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions, said he and Jeudy were together around 5 p.m. Sunday. After they parted, Jeudy received a phone call and went to meet someone near the Champ de Mars, the brother said. On Monday morning, a nephew called him and said Jeudy was still in bed and would not wake up.
“I shook him, turned him around, nothing,” the brother said.
The brother said the family wants the police to take the death seriously and to carry out an investigation. They are also seeking an autopsy. “I always told him to be careful because Haiti is not like other countries,” the brother said.
A friend, who asked to be identified only as Boumba, said while Jeudy was working on a number of projects to protect LGBT rights, he did not want to speculate on the cause of his death. He said friends and family members were meeting with lawyers and human rights activists on Tuesday to push for a “serious investigation” into the cause of death.
Jeudy first rose to international prominence in 2016 when the Fondation Connaissance et Liberte (FOKAL) and Institut Francais were both forced to cancel a film screening and discussion as part of an LGBT film festival put on by Kouraj after receiving threats of violence and homophobic messages on social media.
A few weeks later, in an interview with the Miami Herald, Jeudy spoke about the organization’s mission. He founded Kouraj in 2009, he said, as a way for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people to socialize without fear of rejection. Following the January 2010 earthquake, when Christian evangelical groups arrived in Haiti and some started spreading anti-LGBT sentiment, the organization’s mission changed to protecting and defending the rights of the community.
But it was not easy, Jeudy said, recalling how in 2012 a government official refused to give legal recognition to the association. The official argued that “he was a Christian” and could not do so.
“For 40 years, we’ve been talking about democracy in this society,” Jeudy said during the 2016 interview, sitting in the restaurant of a Port-au-Prince hotel. “Since our existence as a people, as a nation, we’ve been talking about freedom; we’ve been talking about equality; we’ve been talking about fraternity. These words, what sense do they make? These words, what value do they have when society can treat us with inequality? We have an illegal treatment. There is a rejection.
“You will never hear those in the political space, those involved in politics,” he said, “even evoke a word, or a discussion about integration, or take into account this population. Since I’ve been born I’ve never heard a politician tell us, ‘We are going to fight against this discrimination that’s called homophobia.’ Never. ... It’s practically a concept that’s absence in the political space.”
Earlier this year as gay pride flags started popping up around Haiti’s capital, Jeudy was proud but concerned for his safety. During the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, he and Kouraj were chosen by British R&B singer Joss Stone, who asked festival organizers to team her up with a local charity during her visit to Haiti because she wanted a way to give back.
“His death is truly sad as his work was so important for the LGBT community in Haiti, and a shame, if related to his sexual orientation and efforts,” said Milena Sandler Widmaier, the director of the jazz festival.
Foreign embassies have hailed Jeudy’s fight to protect lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals in Haiti from violence, and to advocate for their protection and integration in a society where they are marginalized, denounced and often threatened.
The French Embassy in a tweet, offered up its condolences and called on Haitian authorities to rapidly shed light on the “unclear circumstances” surrounding Jeudy’s death. The U.S. Embassy in a separate tweet called Jeudy “a tireless advocate for human rights and equality,” and said it laments his “untimely passing.”
Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse and his foreign minister, Bocchit Edmond, also tweeted condolences to Jeudy’s family. Recognizing Haiti’s climate of intolerance, Moïse said, “I wish the causes of his death will be clarified quickly.”
The LGBTIQ human rights non-governmental organization OutRight Action International said that even though the cause of Jeudy’s death has not yet been verified, the group fears it may have been a hate crime. Jeudy, the organization said in a statement, had been receiving threatening and anonymous phone calls as a result of his work.
“We fear it is part of a larger pattern of anti-LGBTIQ violence underway in Haiti, potentially focused on people visible within LGBTIQ organizations,” OutRight’s executive director Jessica Stern said. “We call on the police to carry out an immediate, credible and transparent police investigation into the death.”