PHILIPSBURG—St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE) Foundation extends best wishes to the island’s population for the new year and hopes to continue dialogues on and for equality for all people in 2016.
SAFE is a L(esbian), G(ay), B(i-sexual) & T(ransgender) organization, which was established in 2013 and focuses on human rights and empowerment.
According to the SAFE board, 2015 had been a year full of activities geared towards stimulating conversations between the foundation and all segments of society concerning human rights and overcoming stigma & discrimination.
“We tried our best to speak with as many stakeholders as possible and actually managed to lay a strong foundation for further discussions. Last year we met with the teachers’ union, was on a panel discussion with the Christian Council, held regional discussions at the Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference in Trinidad and the Pink Orange Alliance Conference in Aruba and at our International Human Rights Day Lecture at the University of St. Martin. More importantly we also continued conversations between LGBT people at our bi-monthly discussion evenings, hikes and social gatherings. We anticipate only more of this throughout this new year,” SAFE President, Lysanne Charles-Arrindell, said.
Charles-Arrindell said that for the most part the year had been an extremely positive one for the foundation and that responses to its efforts could be felt from the feedback board members continue to receive from persons and organizations across the island.
“For the most part we have had favorable responses to our activities within and beyond the LGBT community across the island and with our attempts at engagement with organizations in the community. Our stance remains the same, SAFE is willing to dialogue with all who are interested in understanding more about our organization and also more importantly more about equal, not special, rights for LGBT persons,” Charles-Arrindell said.
She said that while marriage equality was not a chief priority for SAFE, the organization stands behind a joint declaration made by SAFE, FOKO (Curacao) and ALFA (Aruba) concerning the importance of equality on this matter throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Charles-Arrindell said that the board of SAFE had taken note of comments made by the newly established St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) in late 2015 in at least two news sources opposing marriage equality, but felt that this should not be used as an issue to polarize people, when there were much more important issues facing the island that the party should focus on.
“I think as an organization the primary thing that we want to continue to reiterate is the fact that churches, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, do not perform marriages, they perform blessings. Marriages are performed by the Office of the Civil Registry. So, marriage equality is not about lobbying for church blessings, but about the right, as two consenting adults, to enter into a legal contract, acknowledged by the state and protecting both partners. So the comments about marriage and the church are moot. If, as stated by party representatives, they believe in the separation of state and church, then they should be able to acknowledge the validity of marriage as it relates to the law, whatever their personal and religious beliefs are. SAFE looks forward to any opportunity to dialogue with the SMCP on this issue,” Charles-Arrindell said.
Charles- Arrindell said that the opportunity for open and honest conversation on the issue of equality continues on Sunday, January 10 at the University of St. Martin with the screening of the documentary ‘One Kingdom, One Love’. The film, which was directed by Sebastiaan Kes and produced by Academy Pictures, follows the Kingdom Boat, which sailed in Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade in 2015. This boat, which held representatives from the entire kingdom, ultimately won top honors for its theme and execution. ‘One Kingdom, One Love’ delves into the concept of equal rights for all in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and tells the stories of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered persons from Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Maarten.
“We’re happy that we have this opportunity to screen this movie and invite all persons to come out and learn more about the real life experiences of LGBT people. After the screening there will be a question and answer segment with a panel of persons and this will be followed with refreshments and snacks.,” Charles-Arrindell said.
She said that the screening was being made possible through a collaboration between SAFE, City of Amsterdam and COC-Netherlands and was open to the public free of charge. She said that representatives from City of Amsterdam would also be at the screening as a part of their visit to St. Maarten this weekend.
Source: 721 news SAFE reflects on a year of dialogue