LGBT Issues in the Dominican Republic
“Remember, all people have the right to equal treatment under the law. Be kind to your enemies and through your kindness and acceptance of them, hope will prevail. And one day, inequality will not be a focus of the human race because inequality will be a subject of the past.”
–Bob Satawake, husband of James “Wally” Brewster, U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic
Same-sex sexual activity is not explicitly criminalized in the Dominican Republic, which sets the country apart from many of its Caribbean neighbors. But LGBT Dominicans are subjected to violence and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Despite an environment of discrimination and marginalization, tireless activists are advocating for equal rights for the LGBT population and are ultimately looking to end persecution in their island nation.
Bias-Motivated Violence and Discrimination
LGBT people face serious issues of violence and discrimination, including hate crimes, arbitrary arrests, extortion by members of the police force, and lack of access to services and employment. According to a 2014 Gallup-Hoy poll, 73% of Dominicans said that LGBT people experience discrimination in the country.
Activists report 33 cases of possible hate-motivated murders of transgender people since 2006. Hate crimes are not codified in Dominican law and sexual orientation and gender identity are not taken into account in official investigations. Impunity is common in cases of violence and discrimination against LGBT people. Marginalization and lack of opportunities leave many transgender women with little choice but sex work, which makes them further vulnerable to violence.
Members of the police force are often complicit or directly responsible for violence against members of the LGBT community. In October 2015, transgender women in the city of Santiago denounced systematic persecution by local police. They alleged that a police general ordered agents to arrest sex workers—although prostitution is not criminalized in the country— and transgender women transiting through the city in the evening and nighttime. Some have suffered violence and extortion while in custody.
LGBT people experience discrimination in access to employment, education, housing, and issues in access to healthcare. Transgender people in particular face obstacles in accessing healthcare. Many no longer seek essential treatment given experiences of discrimination in health centers. LGBT Dominicans are reluctant to report violations, given a history of impunity and a mistrust of the police force.