ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Friday August 17, 2012 – A new study has confounded popular opinion by suggesting that almost one in four Caribbean men today describe themselves as bisexual.
Preliminary findings of the regionwide Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey (CARIMIS) contrast dramatically with the Caribbean’s longstanding image of a macho society with low tolerance for homosexuality often verging on homophobia.
According to Ernest Massiah, facilitator of the CARIMIS project and director of UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, “We have a fair population in the Caribbean that identify as bisexual. Across the entire sample, about 20 to 23 per cent say they are bisexual”.
The study, which surveyed 2,560 men throughout 33 territories in the region, is said to be the “largest sample” of the Caribbean MSM (men who have sex with men) population of its kind, conducted via the Internet.
Massiah went on to reveal that 15 per cent of the men did not define themselves in any category. Although they engaged in sexual activity with other men, they “do not want a label,” he said.
The director indicated that the “most shocking” aspect of the study involves the amount of physical and verbal abuse and visual intimidation levelled against MSMs in their respective countries.
“What we are seeing across the region is that between five and 10 per cent of people have been assaulted because they were perceived to have a different sexual orientation,” he said.
In some nations half of the MSM population identified with being verbally abused and visually intimidated.
“What we are seeing is that as a society, if you have a sexual orientation that is perceived as different, you can be physically abused and in a lot of cases you receive verbal abuse,” Massiah noted.
The study also broke new ground by identifying a new group of men: the educated MSM man.
According to the director: “We are getting a population that we have not been able to get data from before, that is men with secondary and tertiary level education. We have a very educated sample here.”
In the past, face-to-face surveys were the norm, but only accessed “certain members” of the MSM population. Massiah said that the use of the Internet and redefining their target populations was the key to the survey’s success.
“It is a good way of doing research because you can get to people in a much quicker way than you would have if you tried to do an interview with an individual person,” he explained.
The study’s results will be given to governments of participating nations to help develop policies and initiatives that will protect and service the MSM community.
The UNAIDS-funded initiative was launched online last November and concluded in June.
The MSM population is defined by the survey not only as openly gay men but also men who do not self-identify as gay or bisexual but participate in sexual activities with other men. The survey is being implemented throughout the English, French, Spanish and Dutch speaking Caribbean countries.