The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-sexuals and Gays joins other human rights organisations across the world in marking the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, 2009. The theme for the day this year is “Homosexuality knows no borders”. In Jamaica, both the day and its theme are particularly relevant, given the popular local sentiment that homosexuality is unJamaican. It is this feeling, promoted by religious leaders, justified by some in media and exploited by politicians that generally feeds antigay attacks and makes it difficult for gays and lesbians in Jamaica to lead lives where their civil and human rights are respected and protected.
J-FLAG remains constant in its view that Jamaica will not become a better society until it creates a safer and more wholesome environment in which all its citizens, including lesbians and gays, can live peaceably. As members of a socially outcast group, lesbians and gays, particularly those who reside in innercity communities, where violence and hardship are normal features of daily life, must go to extremes to survive. Many hide in unfulfilling heterosexual relationships, with partners whom they cannot love the way they should; others distance themselves from families to be spared from the judgment of those they love; still others attempt to escape the ostracism through suicide or flight to foreign lands. This state of affairs needs urgent attention as part of the greater social transformation that the country seeks and so badly deserves.
We believe that the defence of antigay discourse as an integral facet of the Jamaican national character is part of the malaise that bedevils our society. Indeed, it is our view that there can be little social progress in Jamaica if the country fails to embrace the tried and proven values of tolerance and sensitivity to difference on which other societies have advanced. For this reason, social actors and opinion leaders must become more conscious that their justification of antigay attitudes and behaviours is not the defence of Jamaican culture but the buttressing of cultural values that constrain the rights of some Jamaicans to act and to be.
J-FLAG hopes for the day that there will no longer be the need to mark an International Day Against Homophobia. For this to happen in Jamaica, the country must begin to see its gay and lesbian citizens and residents as having the same basic civil and human rights as heterosexuals. It therefore is critical that political, academic, religious and business leaders repudiate the civil framework that treats rights and freedoms in an exclusionary manner. Together, we must work for the protection of the rights and freedoms of all citizens and residents as the ultimate feature of our national identity. This protection lies not in the defence of a religious definition of the Jamaican but in the establishment of a modern and truly democratic society. We reiterate our oft-expressed view that as a secular society, Jamaica’s social and political framework remains, to the detriment of its gay and other citizens, overdetermined by religion.
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays – J-FLAG
Fax: (876) 978-7876