Last edited: March 26, 2005

Island Denies It Refused Cruise Ship Because Passengers Were Gay, March 25, 2005

By The Associated Press

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS—The St. Kitts and Nevis government said Friday it barred a gay and nudist cruise from stopping in Nevis because of concerns of illegal public nudity on shore, not because the passengers were gay.

Port authorities stopped a Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship carrying 110 mostly American passengers and 35 crew early Wednesday (story) as it approached the port in Nevis’s capital, Charlestown. The decision led to charges of homophobia.

Nevis Tourism Minister Malcolm Guishard said in a statement Friday that when customs officials boarded the ship, they found most of the passengers naked and the captain couldn’t guarantee they would be clothed on shore—something the captain has denied. Public nudity is illegal in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The decision to bar the ship “was made, very simply, because our authorities were not given reasonable assurance that these passengers ... would respect our constitutional laws and standards of public decency here in the Federation,” Guishard said.

“If this ship had been chartered by a heterosexual clothing-optional group, our decision would have been exactly the same,” he said.

A statement from the St. Kitts and Nevis Ministry of National Security, Justice, Labour and Immigration said customs officials who boarded the ship found that “persons were not only nude on board but also nude on the vessel’s gangway.”

But the ship’s captain, Cornelius Plantefaber, told The Associated Press on Wednesday he had reassured authorities the passengers would respect local mores and regulations.

The S.V. Polynesia, a 75-metre, four-mast schooner, had previously stopped in St. Maarten and Anguilla without incident. The six-day cruise began Sunday in St. Maarten and ends in the Dutch Caribbean territory on Saturday.

The St. Kitts and Nevis government wants to dispel the image that the Caribbean island is homophobic. Human rights advocates have increasingly criticized rampant homophobia in the Caribbean, brought out in the anti-gay lyrics of Jamaican singers like Sizzla, Beenie Man and Buju Banton.

Sodomy is illegal in St. Kitts and Nevis, as it is in several other Caribbean countries, and it can lead to a jail term.

A former British colony of 40,000 residents, the two-island country has a federal government whose capital is in St. Kitts. Nevis is semiautonomous.

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is based in Miami Beach, Fla., and the gay/nudist cruise was organized by Miami-based company Source Events.

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