J-FLAG outraged by Smith’s broadside against gay and lesbian Jamaicans

Kingston — February 12, 2009
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) is outraged by the
statement made by Member of Parliament for South West St Ann, Ernest Smith, in his
contribution to the parliamentary debate on the Sex Offenders Act on Wednesday,
February 11, 2009. In his statement, Mr. Smith expressed concern that “homosexuals in
Jamaica have become so brazen, they’ve formed themselves into organizations”. He also
claimed that ‘homosexuals’ were “abusive [and] violent” and called on the Minister of
National Security to account for why so many of them were licensed firearm holders. He
further claimed that the security forces have “been overrun by homosexuals”. To complete
his broadside, Mr. Smith called for a tightening of the anti-buggery law.
J-FLAG finds Mr. Smith’s statement offensive on several levels. First, he has made a
sweeping statement about thousands of Jamaicans about whom he knows very little. What
evidence does he have to suggest that gays and lesbians as a group are more violent and
abusive than other Jamaicans? This kind of stereotyping from a parliamentarian is
inflammatory and highly irresponsible. We are concerned that in a climate characterised by
extreme violence, Mr. Smith’s statement could provide another justification for mindless
mobs to attack gays and lesbians on suspicion that they contribute to the country’s high
level of crime and violence. Mr. Smith has also exposed the security forces to the spectre
of public ridicule and hostility in a society where the slightest hint of homosexuality is a
trigger for suspicion and scorn. This is stress that no member of security needs or
deserves, particularly at this time.
What is even more dangerous in Mr. Smith’s statement is his beef with the formation of
specifically gay and lesbian associations. J-FLAG is indeed proud that despite the bigotry
and opposition it faces in Jamaica, its existence and legal operation for the past decade
are possible due to constitutional provisions that protect the rights to free association and
to hold views different from those of the majority. That Mr. Smith, a Member of Parliament
in this democratic society, would take issue with this fact sends a very dangerous message
about how committed some of our politicians are to protecting our rights. We believe Mr.
Smith’s pronouncement to be a threat to our democracy.
J-FLAG also fears that Mr. Smith’s unsubstantiated assertions about the number of gays in
the armed forces might trigger a witch hunt that could destabilise the security forces in
general but the constabulary force in particular. This would be an extremely unfortunate
situation, especially at a time when the police need to focus their energies on law
enforcement in defence of the hundreds of victims and potential victims of crime. Among
them are those whose families are brutally slain each year. In this context, J-FLAG is
baffled by Mr. Smith’s call for Parliament to place more of the state’s limited resources into
further criminalising acts between consenting adults; acts that have no victims.
Mr. Smith needs no reminder that despite his wish that punishment for buggery be more
severe, homosexuals in Jamaica have the same rights as other citizens, including those to
bear arms and to employment in the security forces. J-FLAG denounces his statement as
being not only an amazing display of backwardness and unmitigated bigotry but also as
anti-democratic and sinister. We urge Mr. Smith’s party as well as his fellow
parliamentarians to examine his statement, acknowledge the danger it contains, and call
him to account for what was populist but wanton and reckless behaviour in the nation’s
parliament.
~30~
Contact: Jason McFarlane
Tel: (876)754-8704
Email: jflagoffice@gmail.com or admin@jflag.org
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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

One thought on “J-FLAG outraged by Smith’s broadside against gay and lesbian Jamaicans”

  1. While I am equally concerned about those statements made by the MP, I am not surprised. So your “outrage” confounds me. Such is the general view of us my friend, and it wont change any time soon. At least we know well where we stand, in terms of the opposition, (however mired in ignorance) that we have to contend with. Earnest Smith, like may other Jamaicans, has no qualms about stereotyping people he has no clue about- and it makes very little sense. You kill people for being gay, so gays are afraid to “come out” (…which is a nonfunctional term in Jamaica). As a result you have very few openly gay individuals… very effeminate guys escape mob beatings and mutilations only because they don’t profess their homosexuality- they day they do so, they’re dead. Yet, Jamaicans swear they know all there is to know about homosexuals. Maybe of you gave us a chance to live and to love those we want to, you would realize that we really are no different for heterosexuals…it’s not as if their heterosexuality has anything to do with me. One day they will learn, for we will not remain so silent… so out sight, forever. Till then, we need to maintain great blogs like these, in which we can voice our opinions, and germinate the seeds of the revolution that must come.

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