The rights and dignity of young gay and lesbian students continue to be trampled in Jamaica. On November 1, 2012, a gay student was attacked by a mob of students and then beaten by Marksman security guards at the University of Technology (UTech). It was alleged that the victim and another young man, were caught expressing sexual gestures, and as a result, one of the accused was caught and beaten, while the other flee for his life.
The disheartening attack was captured on a students cell phone. The video revealed students storming, breaking windows and stoning the building where the victim was being held by security guards. The students chanted, “Kill the BattyMan/Gay”, “Beat him”, while at the same time, the victim received several punches, kicks and slaps by two enraged campus security guards, while another stood and watched.
Honestly, I was not surprised by the actions of the students and security guards. Far too often, one too many incidents where gay students were beaten and bullied, continue to be ignored by staff members. Many school administrators failed to reprimand the aggressors and implement proactive policies to protect the rights and safety of all students (Straight or Gay). A matter a fact, the constitutional stance on homosexuality encourages intolerance and homophobia to strive within the fabric of our society, and UTech is no exception.
Based on my observations, UTech is not an institution of higher learning; it is an institution of vigilantism. In fact, it is a mini garrison, with thugs and gang members called students. Its mob culture and history of vigilantism speaks highly of the quality and decorum of the type students UTech pour into our broken society on an annually basis. For instance, in the year 2003, a young man, part of a gang breaking into cars at night on the grounds of the university was caught and killed by students; and in May 2011 an angry mob of students inflicted several wounds on a man who was allegedly caught attempting to steal a laptop computer from a dormitory. These kinds of acts are reprehensible, and are reflective of the moral decay in the society.
Moreover, the promotion of homophobia is very profound in every institutional structure within Jamaica, which fosters intolerance towards the homosexual lifestyle. The promotion of intolerance is very subtle and distinct, for instance, the Minister of Education Rev. Ronald Thwaites in response to Jamaica’s Health and Family Life Curriculum which mentioned homosexuality as part of the human sexuality spectrum, he posits, “I wish to make it quite clear that in the rewrite of that particular aspect of it, however it came to be, we are not going to be promoting homosexuality in this country. We're just not going to do it." Minister Thwaites then suggested that “the homosexual lifestyle is inappropriate and schools will only promote healthy heterosexual relationship.” Sorry Rev. Thwaites, the function of our schools is not to promote and advance a particular sexual orientation inferior to another.
What does this kind of rhetoric from the head of our education system say to the thousands of gay and lesbian students in our school system? You are not welcome, is that it? “Someone like Rev. Thwaites who have raised more than one gay son, should promote nothing less than equality and tolerance in schools. Human sexuality should not be censored,” said a anonymous source, a science teacher at a local school in Kingston. I find this to be very disturbing.
The Minister of Education and the University of Technology have not yet condemned the violence and intolerance towards gay and lesbian students, because in retrospect such utterance would indicate the promotion of homosexuality to the wider society. Furthermore, the two television stations, CVMTV and Television Jamaica (TVJ) refused to air a paid advertisement promoting tolerance for homosexuals in Jamaica and are currently being sued by Maurice Tomlinson, an attorney-at-law.
According to Professor Ian Boxil 2012 study “persons 35 years old and under are more likely to be tolerant, accepting, supportive, admiring and appreciative of LGBT persons.” I strongly disagree with his assumption. I believe his findings were based on hypothetical interpretations and perceptions of Jamaica’s modernized society, rather than employing a wider range of methodologies and sampling methods, as well as adding the views of common Jamaicans’. Clearly, a vast majority of the students from UTech who were involved in the attack do not concede with the findings from Professor Boxil study.
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) daily incident reports from victims of homophobia undermined the credibility of Boxil’s research. Since January 2011, J-FLAG reported that Fifty-one incidents, including mob attacks, physical abuse, home evictions, and discrimination were reported with forty-seven of these meted out to males, and in June 2012, members of the LGBT community have reported to J-FLAG that eight gay men have been murdered within the prior three months. This current incident at UTech unequivocally indicates that tolerance is a mere myth for many gay Jamaicans’.
Therefore, Jamaican leaders’ futile attempt to implement reforms or lack thereof to curve the violence towards homosexuals is a serious concern shared by the United Nations. The government should be held accountable for failing to protect the fundamental human rights of gay and lesbian Jamaicans. However, while many may condemn the attack shown in the video, more intervention remains to be done. A few concerned parents questioned why university students, who should be the most educated students and the next generation of leaders, are perpetuating "acts of barbarism". Jamaicans’ attitude towards homosexuals need to be changed.