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6807: Re: 6799: Re: 6742: Re: 6734: Gays in Haiti (fwd)
Bébé Pierre Louis,
You write that 'there are more important subjects such as the religious or
the historical aspects of Vodou.' I agree. The historical aspect of Vodou
especially deserves far more research and attention than it has gotten. And I
appreciate the reminder that the historical and social prejudice against
Vodou puts a moral obligation on researchers to be careful about what they
say. I may not have been careful enough in my comments and I apologize if
that is the case. I have the deepest respect and admiration for the Vodou
tradition of Haiti.
However, I can see some merit in exploring issues of gender and sexuality in
relationship to Vodou, if the research and especially the writing on that
research, is done carefully and respectfully. You can't prevent people from
noticing that in some (though certainly not all) Vodou temples there is more
tolerance for gays or for behavior that doesn't always fit Protestant gender
norms. Understanding what those behaviors mean in their context may lead to l
ess discrimination, not more.
You also say that, 'Vodou is not even recognized as a religion in our
constitution.' I'm wondering what you would like to see written in the
constitution exactly? Is it the constitution that you would like to see
amended? Or a change in the treatment of Vodou and Vodouisant by the Haitian
state? (Or both?) The 1987 constitution does formally recognize for the first
time the rights of all individuals to freedom of religion (my translation):
Constitution of the Haitian Republic March 29, 1987
Chapter 2, Paragraph 4
Every person has the right to practice their religion freely.
All religions are free. Every person is free to follow his or her religion
and beliefs, as long as
they do not interfere with the rights of another person or group of people.
No one has the right to force anyone to join any association against their
will, or to force
someone to accept beliefs that are not his or her own.
The law will decide in what circumstances services and ceremonies will be
held, according to
the religion and beliefs of each.
In a conference held with Vodouisant at the National Palace in July, 1995,
President Aristide officially recognized Vodou as a religion (at least, that
was what I understood). Of course, recognizing Vodou as a religion, or
guaranteeing freedom of religion on paper, is not the same thing as
practically changing the marginalization of the Vodou majority in Haiti.
Perhaps you could tell us more about what's going on now to further the
rights of Vodouisants in Haiti? In my notes from that conference I have
listed a series of 'revindikasyon' put forward by some of the 400 Vodouisants
who attended. They included: national shrine, official role in baptism,
marriages, funerals, participation in major state decisions, participation in
international arena, role in literacy campaigns, participation, particularly
on the part of women, in state financed development programs, recognition of
popular medicine. Marriage of traditional and scientific medicine,
diplomatic ties between Haiti and Africa. I wonder if any progress has been
made on these fronts, if these are still priorities for Vodou organizations
like Bode and Zantray and if there is hope that the next Aristide
administration will be responsive to the demands of Vodouisants?