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Advocate

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

52 Years of Independence - Yet Jamaica Is Not Truly Independent

1st International Day of Action Against Jamaica's Anti-gay Laws
in Canada on August 6, 2014 at the Jamaican Consulate.
On August 6 – Independence Day, I asked my fellow Jamaicans to reflect on how independent Jamaica is.  Despite the agreements that were forged with Great Britain 52 years ago, Jamaica is not truly independent, not when most Jamaicans owe their allegiance to an antediluvian Queen.  I am not referring to Elizabeth. Rather, I am talking about Victoria and the values of the era over which she reigned.  The British Empire’s hypocrisy and overall social and political oppression characterized the 19th century for Jamaica and much of the world.  Over half a century after our purported independence is too long to wait to dismantle a legal system imposed on the island to enslave us and, after abolition, exploit us, as well as to deny us of our dignity.

Like modern Jamaicans, Britons of Victorian days had trouble being honest about sex and sexuality.  In the arrogance of their “civilizing” mission, they gave their colonies laws that reflected their absurd views, and today’s Jamaica desperately clings to the most absurd of these: the buggery law.  The retention of this odious law has empowered the most retrograde elements of Jamaican society.  These elements use the buggery law and “Christianity” to create a toxic atmosphere of hatred in which a particular group is singled out for appalling levels of discrimination and violence.  What passes for Christianity on the island is in no way reflected in the teachings of Jesus. Many who prophesizes, whether true or false, in the name of God especially Christians, have to yet to learn or accept that all judgment belongs to God alone, and discrimination is the face of human condemnation. Even Pope Francis of the conservative Roman Catholic Church, asked, “Who am I to judge a gay person?”

1st International Day of Action Against Jamaica's Anti-gay Lawsin NYC on August 6, 2014 at the Jamaican Consulate.

In their minds, some Jamaicans are not living in Victorian times but, instead, many centuries previous.  Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Dwayne Jones, a transgender teenager whose earthly life was cut short in an act of astoundingly brutal violence reminiscent of medieval torture.  As Dwayne was trying to leave a party last July, a mob of “Christians” beat, stabbed, shot, and ran over this child of God.  Reports said he slipped in and out of consciousness for two hours before another attack finally killed him.  No one lifted a finger to help him.  Dwayne’s biological family refused to identify the body.  

Almost as shocking as the perpetrators’ attitude toward Dwayne’s life was the reaction of the Jamaican public: save for a few scattered voices, an expression of outrage.  No candlelight vigils.  No mass rallies.  No outpouring of support for Dwayne and his community.

1st International Day of Action Against Jamaica's Anti-gay Laws in London on August 6, 2014 at the Jamaican High Commission.

In dehumanizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, Jamaicans have shown how hardened their hearts are, how utterly devoid of compassion, and how eager to find a convenient scapegoat to keep us at each others’ throats ran than moving the country forward.  Our British colonial masters would be proud.

Despite the gruesome death of Dwayne and many others, the utter contempt many Jamaicans have for each other, and the inertia that touches all areas of society, I see faint glimmers of hope.  At great risk to their lives, many individuals within Jamaica, who will someday be hailed as national heroes, work to protect our LGBT brothers and sisters. Many others work from adopted countries to shed light on the crisis.  Prominent straight allies, such as, Yvonne McCalla Sobbers have recorded public service announcements calling for respect for all.  Most promising is the growing national support for repeal of the buggery law.  All of these ripples are gathering into a tidal wave of change.

As the South African anti-apartheid anthem proudly proclaims, “Freedom is coming…oh, yes I know!”  My dream, as well as, many other LGBT Jamaican refugees scattered around the world, is to return to a truly free Jamaica, free from fear, oppression, discrimination and persecution, and free to celebrate Dwayne’s life for the bold expression of love that it was.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

No Room For HATE Music In Queens, New York: Gay Activists Protest Queen Ifrica



NYC Councilman Daniel Dromm and Jamaican LGBT activists call on
Queen Ifrica and Amazura Concert Hall to stop the hate
On May 23, 2014 New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm and Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand (JAHS) joined together to condemn anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) music. The protest called for the cancellation of Queen Ifrica’s performance immediately, as well as condemning the promotion of and profiting from hateful music here in NYC, where LGBT lives and rights are valued.

Queen Ifrica, a reggae musician from the country of Jamaica, was scheduled to perform at Amazura Concert Hall.[1] Fortunately, “She has been pulled as headliner at Amazura Concert Hall, Queens, New York, due to mounting pressure from the gay community.”[2]

She is known in her home country as well as throughout the world for her homophobic lyrics, which contribute to the violently anti-LGBT climate in Jamaica. In a 2010 performance, the singer clearly expressed her discriminatory views on LGBT people and their rights: “We not going to legalize any faggotism in Jamaica.” She was even denied status as a UNICEF ambassador because of her homophobia.[3] Despite the outcry, she has continued to use her performances to advocate for the criminalization and persecution of LGBT Jamaicans.

At a time when the reggae/dancehall music industry is becoming more aware of these issues, Queen Ifrica insists on condemning LGBT people in her music. Jamaican LGBT leaders are fighting for the most basic human rights; Queen Ifrica’s anti-LGBT propaganda makes it even more difficult for this particularly vulnerable population. LGBT leaders, who have had to flee for their lives, have had to lead the campaign against murder music from their adopted countries.

Dwayne Brown, founder of JAHS, said, “Queen Ifrica’s words help create a climate where human rights violations against LGBT Jamaicans are rampant. Such promotion of hate music and its creator Queen Ifrica is unacceptable and not welcome in New York.”

Council Member Daniel Dromm added, “Queen Ifrica’s anti-LGBT outbursts are not acceptable anywhere. Queens has historically been a haven for marginalized people around the world, including LGBT Jamaicans who have had to flee their country. I am proud to join with these brave activists who are using the freedom they have in this country to continue to fight for the embattled LGBT community in Jamaica.” He further added, “We don't want homophobic people like her coming to Queens to spread their message of hate.”[4] 

Last November, several members of the New York City Council including the current Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, sent a letter to Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller expressing their concern about the rampant human rights violations against LGBT individuals in Jamaica.[5]


Queen Ifrica













LGBT protesters/activists















References:


[1]  Anti-gay Jamaican singer axed from US concert http://bit.ly/1npqs1X
[2]  Gays block Queen Ifrica  http://bit.ly/S2V0dX
[3]  Toronto music festival to feature homophobic Jamaican headliner http://bit.ly/1qwRfwZ
[4]  Gay rights activists to protest Jamaican reggae star Queen Ifrica’s upcoming show  http://nydn.us/1lK3uym
[5]  Council of New York City Letter to Jamaica’s Prime Minister  http://bit.ly/1cH6OqZ



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Response: LGBT tolerance growing in Jamaica, push to repeal of anti-gay law (Reuters Article)

Protester in NYC
The article titled – ‘LGBT tolerance growing in Jamaica, push to repeal of anti-gay law’[1] dated January 18, 2014 published on Reuters by Aileen Torres-Bennett is misleading, ambiguous and irresponsible. The notion of an increasing atmosphere of tolerance towards LGBT individuals living in Jamaica, so strongly advocated by the writer is nothing but a theoretical assumption posited by a privileged few in Jamaica.

The conspiracy theory of ‘growing LGBT tolerance’ in Jamaica is unfounded and there is no evidence to prove otherwise. The continuous opposition to rid Jamaica of its punitive laws against same-sex intimacy and sexual intercourse by the church, and the society on a whole, as well as the constant human rights abuse and loss of lives faced by LGBT Jamaicans, benign the essence of the writer’s arguments.

The article failed to demonstrate the existence of ‘growing LGBT tolerance’, by not providing the reader with plausible evidentiary support or arguments. I must concede that the acknowledgement of LGBT individuals by the Jamaican Prime Minister – Portia Simpson-Miller represent progress, however, this should not be misconstrued as a growing tolerance towards gays in Jamaica.  The Prime Minister did not argued for a repeal of the buggery law as indicated in the article but simply responded to a question posed during a televised political debate leading up to the General Elections in 2011.

Portia Simpson-Miller is of the view that the Buggery Act should be brought to the House of Representative where after consulting with their constituents all MPs should vote based on their conscience.[2] Yet unfortunately, the reluctance of the Jamaican government to stem mob attacks, beatings and killings of Jamaicans perceived or known to be LGBT is alarming.

The writer failed to give an account of the numerous crimes against LGBT persons in Jamaica and ignored the significance of the 25-year-old gay man – who moved to the United States from Jamaica in November 2012 and now has a job raising awareness for LGBT asylum-seekers.  The article quoted the young man saying, “My cousin was murdered on suspicion that he was gay. A friend of mine was stabbed to death.”

According to the IACHR  2012 report, “discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression is widespread throughout Jamaica, and that discrimination against those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI)  communities  is  entrenched  in Jamaican  State  institutions.    Those  who  are  not heterosexual  or  cisgender face  political  and  legal stigmatization,  police  violence an inability to access the justice system, as well as intimidation, violence, and pressure in their homes and communities.”[3]

There have been numerous reports of homophobic violence in the past year which contradicts the writer’s suggestion of ‘growing tolerance toward LGBT Jamaicans’. In the year 2013:
§  A homeless young gay man was set on fire and thrown into a gully to burn on the 24th of January,[4]  
§  Dwayne Jones, 16-year-old transgender woman was murdered on July 22nd ,[5]
§  A mob called for the head of an alleged gay constable on July 31st in Kingston,
§  On August 1st, two homosexual men were mobbed and wounded in St Catherine,[6]
§  On the 10th of August police rescued a transgender woman after a mob gave chased in Portmore,[7]
§  On August 22nd , five gay men were trapped and barricaded by an angry mob in Green Gully Manchester,[8]
§  On August 23rd, two men were trapped by a homophobic mob for ‘appearing ‘gay,[9]
§  On August 27, 41-year-old gay man was murdered and burnt by unknown assailants,[10]
§  House Occupied By Gays Firebombed on the 8th of October,[11]  
§  A large patrol of police officers beat and pepper sprayed a group of homeless gays as well as set their belongings on fire in Kingston Jamaica on the 15th of October,[12]
§  31-year-old Keshema Tulloch, an openly gay woman and otherwise known as ‘Royal’ was shot by a Police Officer on the 25th of October,[13]
§  And 22-year-old Jason Reid (a.k.a Jason Jahson Reid on Facebook) ̶ a Bisexual Christian young man was brutally murdered on the 19th of December.[14]

In addition to the list above are several alleged reports of ‘corrective rape’ carried out against perceived or known lesbians. Most incidents of attack and abuse often go unreported due to fear of future attacks. Also, for those that are reported, Jamaican based organizations, as well as government officials continue to down play the severity of extreme intolerance toward gays, in an effort to promote a Pro-Gay image of Jamaica.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court in Jamaica thrown out an application challenging the refusal of three television stations to air an advertisement promoting tolerance for homosexuals in November 2013, based on a sad fact that the Jamaican Charter of Rights does not afford protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The National Survey of Attitudes and Perceptions of Jamaicans towards Same Sex Relationships 2012 study shows the persistence of strong negative views towards same sex relationships across all sectors of society. Most respondents disagreed with amending both the buggery law (76.7%) and the Charter Fundamental Rights and Freedoms to protect the rights of those who are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community (65%). 85% of the respondents felt that homosexuality is immoral.[15]

Finally, a political promise of a conscience vote to review Jamaica’s Anti-gay punitive laws three (3) years ago from the Prime Minister should not be considered as a measure of tolerance, especially when the political appetite to change the Buggery law among government representatives, backed by the church and many aspects of civil society is lacking. I strongly support Javed Jaghai Aajri lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Jamaica's Buggery Law which violates all gay men  rights to privacy under Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.



References:


[1] LGBT tolerance growing in Jamaica, push to repeal of anti-gay law http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/18/us-jamaica-lgbt-idUSBREA0H0BI20140118
[2] PNP Clarifies Buggery Law Statement http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=34079
[3] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: 2012 Report on Jamaica http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/docs/pdf/Jamaica2012eng.pdf
[4] CVM TV News Report (starts at 00:51 sec) http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=662&section=watch
[8] CVM TV NEWSWATCH http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=1747&section=watch (starts at 13:36 mins
[14] 22-year-old Jason Reid  ̶ a Bisexual Christian young man brutally murdered  http://on.fb.me/1kMGfGz
[15] National Survey of Attitudes and Perceptions of Jamaicans Towards Same Sex Relationships 2012 study http://bit.ly/1aCbuNi