Gay rights: a delicate issue

DIANE ABBOTT (see post on Minister’s pink advocacy below)

Jamaica may find itself the subject of a drive by the British High Commission in Kingston to support gay rights. That is, if recent newspaper articles in Britain are to be believed. The Sunday Times newspaper here in London said a few weeks ago, “The gay Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant MP is championing a controversial drive to fund equal-rights activists in homophobic regimes.” The article went on to quote Bryant as saying, “It is completely up to staff in our embassies and consulates around the world to decide the most appropriate and effective way of making our case, but we do encourage this important work because British values are based on fair play and the protection of the individual’s freedom. We are not naive about this work. In some places oppressive regimes make it some of the toughest work we do.” According to the article, programmes on gay rights by High Commissions abroad could involve financing gay pride marches or financing legal challenges by local campaigners.

Apparently there will be money made available.

Even the British courts are taking an interest in attitudes to homosexuality in Jamaica. Last month, a 24-year-old convicted female drug dealer was in court arguing that she should not be deported back to Jamaica because she was a lesbian and her life would be in danger. She claimed to have had six lesbian affairs in prison and was now in a steady relationship with another female prisoner. Interestingly, the Home Office did not dispute the fact that the woman’s life would be in danger if she returned to Jamaica as an open lesbian. Instead, the Home Office lawyer argued that the woman was not really a lesbian at all. They pointed out that the woman had been in sexual relationships with men in the past. And that it was a former boyfriend who introduced her to the drugs trade. The Home Office lawyer went on to argue that the lesbian relationships in prison proved nothing and said, “If she wanted to be sexually active, there was no other option; there was no other choice except celibacy.”

It may be that the British High Commission will not have a drive on gay rights. The Sunday Times journalists obviously had sight of some sort of document, but they may be exaggerating the significance of what they saw. In any case, it is not difficult to imagine how a campaign on the subject of gay rights by the High Commission would be received by the Jamaican populace. Parliament is on its summer recess at the moment. But when I next see the foreign office minister appearing concerned, I will suggest that he meets with Jamaica nationals here in Britain to get a more nuanced view of attitudes to gay men and women in Jamaica. This is a delicate issue on which public opinion in Jamaica and Britain take widely differing views. There definitely needs to be more dialogue.

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.

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