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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


4 comments:

  1. A very accurate summary in my view, as I believe the erroneous ' increase in tolerance' does not speak to all the experiences of LGBT people in Jamaica, I also believe the 'tolerance' of which they speak is for those whose economic status affords them the ability to live above the fray.

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  2. A very accurate summary in my view, as I believe the erroneous ' increase in tolerance' does not speak to all the experiences of LGBT people in Jamaica, I also believe the 'tolerance' of which they speak is for those whose economic status affords them the ability to live above the fray.

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  3. My experience of international media coverage of the Caribbean is that they too often paint it as a place of relentless darkness and impotence. Recognising that change is possible and openings exist and LGBTI people are not all living cowering under rocks but are working bravely for change is important, and something we need media portrayals of the region to do urgently. It's important because it gives hope to young people about a future other than asylum which most poor youth will never achieve, and because it helps build resistance to homophobia and strengthen domestic LGBTI movements and embolden allies, so we are not all dependent on being rescued by those in the North. What was important about the piece is that it gave voice to Jamaicans, and did not just offer the views of a single reporter. The accuracy of the piece may well be up for debate. But even in the list of incidents listed in this rebuttal are the description of a gay policeman and police rescue of someone from a mob. What is most important in ending homophobia is imagining its end. Sometimes I wonder if we are waging an "It Will Never Get Better" campaign for young LGBTI people in the Caribbean. A relentless insistence that Jamaican be painted as a hellhole in every depiction does just that.

    Colin Robinson

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  4. Dwayne this was a brilliant rebuttal.

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