Kenya to launch homosexual census

Kenya is to carry out a census of its gay population in an effort to bolster the fight against HIV/Aids – despite homosexuality being against the law.

Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s Aids prevention programme Nascop, told the BBC it was vital that the government reached out to the gay community.

He said gay people suffered from a lack of information about the disease.

But analysts say many gay people will be afraid to come forward in a country where homosexuality can result in jail.

Mr Muraguri conceded that an accurate count was unlikely.

But he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that getting a clearer idea of the number of gay people would be a huge help with targeted interventions such as provision of condoms.

He said the survey would involve gay men identifying each other, and officials carrying out HIV tests and providing along with information on safe sexual practice.

“Kenyans cannot actually afford to say that the gay community are isolated somewhere in the corner – they are part of our lives,” he said.

“This group must be reached with information and services so they know how to protect themselves from getting infected.”

Census first

Analysts say Kenya has made progress in its fight against HIV/Aids – one-in-10 people had the virus in the late 1990s, a rate that has now fallen to 6%.

There’s no information here about safety measures

Gay rights activist Peter Njane

Being gay, Christian and Kenyan
The BBC’s Gladys Njoroge in Nairobi says the census, which will begin in June next year, will be the first of its kind in Africa.

Gay rights activist Peter Njane told the BBC he was optimistic that the survey would play a key role in the fight against HIV.

“Most of the gay community think that having sex with men is safe. There’s no information here about safety measures,” he said.

But Kenyans are divided over the survey’s impact, with some Nairobi residents saying they did not believe it would help control the spread of Aids.

Gay Kenyans told the BBC they would be willing to be counted – but only if their identities were protected.

Homosexual activity is punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Kenya.

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Gays make major strides in Latin American nations

Uruguay (Reuters) — Lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend adoption rights to gay couples in Uruguay, the latest measure to relax laws on homosexuality that has drawn criticism from church leaders in the country, which is predominantly Roman Catholic.

Members of Congress said the law made Uruguay the first Latin American country to permit gay couples to adopt. The measure, which will now go to President Tabaré Vázquez for his signature, will also for the first time allow unmarried couples to adopt.

“This law is a significant step toward recognizing the rights of homosexual couples,” Diego Sempol, a member of the gay rights group, Black Sheep, told Reuters Television earlier this week.

Gay people are allowed to adopt under Uruguayan law, but only as individuals rather than jointly as a couple. Gay marriage remains illegal.

The Parliament in Uruguay, a small South American nation with a secular state structure, passed a law in late 2007 to permit gay couples to have civil unions, which grant similar rights as marriage.

Earlier this year the center-left government also lifted a ban on gay people serving in the armed forces.

Church leaders criticized the new adoption law, and the center-right National Party voted against it.

“The family is the bedrock of society and this measure weakens it,” said Senator Francisco Gallinal of the National Party. “For us, allowing children to be adopted by same-sex couples is conditioning the child’s free will.”

Latin America is home to about half of the world’s Roman Catholics, and government policies in most countries on gay rights and other divisive issues like abortion tend to reflect the church’s conservative stance.

Ragga Shanti Interviews Jamaican Drag Queen Part 1 & 2 !

Had doubts about posting this but just to show the way we sensationalize simple things, I wonder if it were some uptown kid they found in this situation if they would have gone into all this trouble? especially the Jamaica Observer who published a full faced photo of the individual.

Oh boi

Suspect in German restaurateur’s death held …not homophobic crime says cops … some public comments are homophobic though

GschloesslLayout1_1_P7LY3Zahra200AM

HOMICIDE detectives say they have a suspect in custody in connection with the murder of German national Rudolf Gschloessl, whose body was found with its throat slashed on Sunday morning.

The suspect was held on Monday.

Meanwhile, the police said there were no signs of forced entry at Gschloessl’s Mona Heights, St Andrew, home.

According to the police, an occupant of the premises heard screams for help coming from Gschloessl’s apartment and when he responded, he found the businessman bleeding from a wound to the throat.

Gschloessl was the part-owner of Cafe Aubergine, which has two locations in Moneague, St Ann and the Marketplace in St Andrew.

The police suspect that his murder was a crime of passion.

“The man in custody admitted to being a homosexual lodger,” a police officer told the Observer yesterday.

the original piece from the Gleaner read:

Co-owner of the popular local restaurants Café Aubergine, located in Moneague, St Ann, and The Marketplace on Constant Spring Road, was found dead at his Mona Heights, St Andrew, home yesterday morning.

Rudolf Gschloessl, the 56-year-old restaurateur was found with his throat slashed.

Reports from the Matilda’s Corner police are that about 1:25 a.m., another occupant of the house, located along Carnation Way, heard cries for help coming from Gschloessl’s room. The occupant reportedly went to investigate and found the body with the throat slashed.

Police investigating

The police were called and the body removed to the morgue. Investigations continue.

Café Aubergine has been a fixture on Jamaica’s culinary landscape for 10 years and specialises in French and Italian cuisine, with Jamaican touches. The establishment was run by Gschloessl and his business partner Neville Anderson.

Took the liberty to show some of the comments just to give an indication as to how the public readily respond to things like this:                                                

Griffo
10/28/2009 2:48 AM
I can see the JFLAG peeople calling their San Francisco Brethren now. Anyway its sad. No one deserves to die so.
Pedro
10/28/2009 3:32 AM
“The man in custody admitted to being a homosexual lodger”

The horror! This is almost as bad as driving whilst drunk.

Kd
10/28/2009 3:53 AM
AHAA!!!! Another crime of passion, lets hope this paper is been read by ppl in San Francisco. Please stop the killings and all the other reasons that cause these “passionate” throat slashing.
george watson
10/28/2009 4:03 AM
I hope the homsexual community reads this before they start accusing us of homophobia once again.
They have got to learn that this sort of call will not win sympathy for them especially when they fully know that the majority of these crimes are crimes of passion, carried out by members of their own community.
warren
10/28/2009 4:12 AM
Why did the police have to make that comment (very last sentence), isn’t that being very prejudicial to the case.

Keep the “evidence” until trial date.

I can hear JFLAG voicing off !!

jam 2
10/28/2009 4:35 AM
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST, I HOPE JFLAG AND ALL THESE OTHER OVERSEAS HOMO LOBBYISTS HAVE BEEN TAKING NOTE……………ALL THE HARM BEING INFLICTED INSIDE YOUR COMMUNITY IS GENERATED INTERNALLY.

JAMAICA WHILE HOMOPHOBIC TO AN EXTENT IS NOT VIOLENTLY SO………ALOT OF KNOWN GAY PERSONALITIES EXIST FREELY IN THE SOCIETY AS IT IS THEIR RIGHT SO TO DO

Not surprised…
10/28/2009 5:28 AM
To all who knew of the late Mr. Gschloessl, his homosexual inclinations would not have been a surprise. It would not be the first time he has been assaulted for suspected passionate reasons, as he once owned a restaurant in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, and proudly associated with others of his lifestyle.
kgn 13 yute
10/28/2009 5:38 AM
a so dem yute yah need attention. Evry time some uppa di hill bizniz or topanaris man dead a one flag bwoy dweet. An it no tek lang fi fine dem.
Dem mussa walk an whine up dem self wen dem dun wid di evidence roun dem nek fi get more attention.

Are these cases being solved so quickly to show the ouside world that it is the lovers that are doing it and not the entertainers and their boom-bye-bye.

oface
10/28/2009 6:55 AM
when you first hear these stories you can basically figure out that this is what happen, but jamaica get blame for being hostile to gays when in fact they are the biggest danger to themselves
Winston A.
10/28/2009 7:34 AM
IF THERE WERE SUSPICIOUS ACTION AROUND THIS MURDER, THEN IT WILL BE TOUGH FOR OTHERS TO COME TO A CONCLUSION.

Amid controversy, Buju Banton to play in Jacksonville on Oct 29th

By Heather Lovejoyjacksonville_logo

Despite nationwide protests by gay rights organizations and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton is “absolutely coming” to Jacksonville, says Plush nightclub owner Tom Fisher.

Banton, aka Gargamel, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is scheduled to perform Thursday at Plush in Arlington with reggae and R&B artist Wayne Wonder.

His U.S. tour, “Rasta Got Soul,” has been plagued by controversy because of lyrics in his 1988 song “Boom Boom Bye,” which describes shooting gay men with an Uzi.

His concerts in some cities have been canceled because of protests. In Dallas, Orlando and Los Angeles, his shows were dropped from their originally planned venues but picked up by others.

According to the “Cancel Buju Banton” Web site, a September show in Tampa was canceled, but Ticketmaster is now selling tickets for a show there on Friday at a different venue.

Nadine Smith, executive director of the Equality Florida, said her LGBT group’s demand is simple: “Stop singing the song. Renounce the lyrics. Stop profiting from it.”

Smith said it is not official, but there has “definitely” been local interest in having a demonstration outside Plush.

“It’s not simply that he says ugly things about gay people. That’s unfortunate, but so be it,” she said. “It is the fact that he advocates and incites violence against gay people.”

She said that in 2007, Banton signed a statement saying he would never sing “Boom Bye Bye” but was then recorded singing the song during a Miami concert.

“He has absolutely no remorse for the lyrics,” Smith said.

Tracii McGregor, a representative from Banton’s record company, Gargamel Music, said by e-mail that he no longer sings the controversial song.

“Clips circulating online are not actual performances of the entire song but freestyle fragments,” she said.

McGregor said Banton does not own the masters or control rights to the song, so doesn’t profit from it. She said Banton wrote the song in response to the rape of a young boy by a man. He preaches against violence, she said.

Fisher said Banton has played at Plush several times in the past decade, and did not sing the song. He said this is the first time anyone has protested, so he did look into the issue.

“He did have some lyrics we don’t agree with,” Fisher said, adding that the song was written more than 20 years ago when Banton was 15.

The message Banton has brought to Plush in the past is one of peace and love, Fisher said.

“He doesn’t promote [violence against gays]. If I really felt that he did, then we wouldn’t have booked the show,” Fisher said.

The “Cancel Buju Banton” group has posted a note online that they say is from Fisher. It reads: “We are strictly a venue. We do not share the views of any artist booked. … I wish we were in a financial situation in which we could afford to be more selective with the artists coming.”

Banton was arrested in connection with a 2004 beating of several gay men by a group in Jamaica, but charges were dropped.

Sex between gay men is illegal in Jamaica, though being gay or lesbian is not. J-FLAG, a Jamaican gay rights group, describes the environment on the island as hostile and dangerous for gays.

Anti-Homosexual Laws in the Middle Ages

logoThe Medieval Basis of Modern Law

 Although the Middle Ages, extending from about the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, is not a single cohesive epoch, the copious citation of trials and laws would merely accumulate evidence of homophobia rather than give us insight into its causes. Throughout this period antihomosexual attitudes and stereotypes changed only in so far as they became more rigid, and were used increasingly to bolster certain social institutions such as the papacy and state governments. The real reason for the persecution of the Templars — the most powerful crusading order of its time — derived from political and economic hostility, greed and envy. The Church and the State defeated a real threat to their authority, confiscated their great wealth, and achieved an object lesson which struck terror into the hearts of much less powerful potential enemies. The unquestioned authority of Church and State was reaffirmed.

 Since medieval asceticism was virtually identical with an obsession about sex, it was inevitable that charges of heresy and treason were always accompanied by charges of sexual deviation. Popular writers such as Dante used the same technique to attack their personal enemies. It is embarrassingly clear that certain men are condemned as sodomites in his Inferno, Canto XV, simply because it was a convenient smear tactic. Most of those literary men and clerks assigned to the seventh level of hell were Dante’s political opponents; some, such as Guerra, Rusticucci, Aldrobandi, Latina, and perhaps Borsiere, were Guelfs, those responsible for Dante’s exile from Florence.

 Nor should we ignore the role that homophobia plays in the denunciation of intellectual nonconformity as well as religious heresy. D. Stanley-Jones has interestingly argued that a hidden battle over homosexuality paralleled the struggle to introduce Aristotle at the University of Paris in the thirteenth century. Aristotle was tolerated and eventually accepted as the lesser of two evils as opposed to the Neoplatonic idealism and its associations with Platonic homosexuality. His argument is overstated in lieu of definite evidence, but those of us who have ever worked in an academic department know how effectively a homosexual rumour can damage a teacher’s reputation without ever finding its way into a printed record. In any case, at a later date we do know that intellectual heretics such as the Averroists were condemned at the University of Paris and charged with sexual vices. The University of Paris played a major role in the trial of Joan of Arc for heresy, the main charge against her being that she dressed in men’s clothing.

 The most famous professor at the University of Paris in the thirteenth century was of course St Thomas Aquinas, who in his Summa Theologica established a rational basis for antihomosexual prejudice by defining the peccata contra naturam as the greatest sin of lust, specifically founded upon pleasure rather than procreation. He declared that “right reason” would always see procreation as the purpose of intercourse, and his philosophical condemnation of homosexuality became the precedent for all theological and intellectual discourse upon the subject. His views are the foundation for most modern declarations against homosexual acts by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.

 In order for the Church and State to maintain control over what they perceived as a disorderly population, medieval people were increasingly forbidden to deviate from the right path in anything. Religious orthodoxy, political orthodoxy, and intellectual orthodoxy were all firmly bolstered by the savage imposition of sexual orthodoxy. Medieval secular law almost universally deferred to ecclesiastic law, in ever more rigid sanctions.

 Burning of the Knights Templars in 1311

In French legislation, in Beauvais sodomites were burned and their property confiscated; in Touraine-Angou, they were burned and their goods fell to the local baron. In Italy, in such cities as Perugia, Bologna, and Ancona, lay confraternities were created in 1233 and entrusted with the task of ensuring religious and sexual conformity with particular attention to sodomy. In Perugia, the law provided for 40 men (8 from each of the 5 sections of the city) to investigate and denounce sodomites. At Ascoli Piceno a bounty was given to those who denounced sodomites. At Pisa, people who harboured sodomites were fined 100 lire. At Bologna, whoever dwelt in a building where sodomy was practised might be burnt along with the house. In Sienna, if a sodomite could not pay the 300 lire fine for a first offence, he was suspended by his genitals.

 In fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Florence — where men were fond of sodomy to such an extent that the Germans dubbed pederasts Florenzer and the German word for sodomy became florenzen — the laws were precise with a vengeance: pederasts were castrated; consenting boys under 14 were beaten, driven naked through the city, and fine 50 lire; youths between 14 and 18 were fined 100 lire; houses or fields where the act took place were laid waste; men found in suspicious circumstances were presumed guilty; torture could be used to elicit a confession; conviction resulted in burning at the stake. The chief city officials could investigate, punish, and torture in any way they saw fit, and could ban suspects from the city; even songs about sodomy were fined 100 lire. It is not much of an exaggeration to call this a campaign of extermination, although the penalties were gradually lowered toward the end of the fifteenth century, and a fine was often sufficient for those enforcers of the law who were more interested in money than in morals.

 The persecution of homosexuals was one of the tools in the repertoire of repressive measures by which the Inquisition strengthened the Church and contributed to the centralization of the papacy. Modern defenders of Christianity, who point out that canon law emphasized the punishment of homosexuals within the clergy, usually ignore the fact that the law confraternities and mendicant orders had a brief to seek out and punish homosexuals in all sectors of the community. The fact that that ecclesiastical authorities turned over the heretics / witches / sodomites to the civil authorities for execution or punishment was of course a pious hypocrisy. The Inquisition’s spawn of lay confraternities and the mendicant orders established sexual oppression throughout much of northern Europe as well as Italy, and every secular law justified itself with references to the Church Fathers, Scripture, and the papal decrees. Burning at the stake, and laying waste the fields were sodomy occurred, were directly inspired by the Christian interpretation of the store of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the severity of the antihomosexual secular laws was a Judaeo-Christian inheritance.

 The more specific detailing of homosexual crimes and punishments may be due to the rapid rise of political democratization in Italy, the reduced power of the oligarchy and the ethics of the petit bourgeois — though again, the Church’s hatred and fear of material pleasures formed the basis of this morality.

 The Penitential System had a devastating effect upon the laws of England (and consequently the laws of America). In 960 St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, began a moral reform of the Church and society, and under his influence ecclesiastical law became the core for civil law. Thus “penances” came to be enforced as “sentences” in the courts of law. The eleventh-century court of the Normal William Rufus and Robert Duke of Normandy was believed to have been rife with homosexuality, and the successor King Henry I set about cleaning it up. At a Council in London he laid down new penalties for “those who commit the shameful sin of sodomy, and especially for those who of their own free will take pleasure in doing so.” Homosexual clerics were to be expelled from their orders, and homosexual laymen were to be deprived of their civil rights. Henry’s orders were moderated by Archbishop (later Saint) Anselm (himself probably at least a repressed homosexual, to judge by his love letters to several young men), who directed the clergy to exercise discretion: “It must be remembered that this sin has been publicly committed to such an extent that it scarcely makes anyone blush, and that many have fallen into it in ignorance of its gravity.”

 The first significant reference to civil laws against homosexuality in England occurred in 1376, when the God Parliament unsuccessfully petitioned King Edward III to banish all “Lombard brokers” because they were usurers, and other foreign artisans and traders, particularly “Jews and Saracens,” who were accused to having introduced “the too horrible vice which is not to be named” which they thought would destroy the realm. But it was not until 1533 that a statute was actually enacted against homosexuals. The Act (25 Henry 8, chapter 6) adjudges buggery a felony punishable by hanging until dead. The Buggery Act was piloted through Parliament by Thomas Cromwell in an effort to support Henry VIII’s plan for reducing the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, as the first step towards depriving them of the right to try certain offences, which supported his policy of seizing Church property. Thus it was defined as a felony without benefit of clergy, which denied homosexuals in holy orders the right to be tried in the ecclesiastical courts, with the result that a conviction entailed loss of property to the Crown. The statute was re-enacted in 1536, 1539 and 1541 under Henry VIII; it was repealed in the first Parliament of Edward VI, along with all new felonies established by Henry VIII, but re-enacted in 1548 with amendments which no longer forfeited the felon’s property to the Crown, and stipulations that indictments had to be framed within six months of the commission of the alleged act, and that no person who would benefit from the death of the accused could give evidence against him. With Mary’s succession in 1553 it was repealed, along with many other statutes, thus giving jurisdiction back to the ecclesiastic courts. In 1563 it was revived by Queen Elizabeth I, in the harsh terms of the 1533 Act rather than with the amendments of 1548, because according to the Preamble, since the repeal of the Act in 1553 “divers ill disposed persons have been the more bold to commit the said most horrible and detestable Vice of Buggery aforesaid, to the high displeasure of Almighty God.” Historical evidence fails to reveal any such excessive “boldness” for the years 1553 to 1563, and the only circumstance which prompted this severe reaction of Elizabeth’s ministers was probably Elizabeth’s desire to establish her claim to the throne as direct heir of Henry VIII: always politically astute, Elizabeth naturally re-enacted her father’s laws rather than those of intermediate monarchs.

 Gay men kill themselves after being arrested in 1707Gay men in England kill themselves after being arrested in 1707.

The immediate effect of the 1533 Act is unknown. It was on the books primarily as a symbolic token of the supremacy of the secular courts over the ecclesiastical courts. The prosecution of homosexuals was rare during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England, and as far as one can discover, homosexual acts were not prosecuted with vigor until the second and third decades of the eighteenth century. The first recorded instance of any legal action was in 1541 (one of the years in which the Buggery Act was re-enacted), when Nicholas Udall, headmaster of Eton, was convicted of buggery; but strings were pulled in high places, and he was set free within a year. Homosexual prosecutions throughout the sixteenth century are sparse; in 1570 John Swan and John Lister, who were smiths and servants of the same master, with whom they lived, were charged with mutually consenting sodomy in Edinburgh, and in 1580 Matthew Heaton, a clergyman in East Grinstead, was prosecuted at the Sussex Assizes for a relationship with a boy in his parish. Fewer than a dozen prosecutions are recorded up through 1660, though this may reflect inadequate research into the subject, and a scarcity of extant legal records.

Convictions and punishments in other countries seem to have been more frequent and more severe. When William Lithgow visited Malta in 1616 he “saw a Spanish soldier and a Maltese boy burnt in ashes, for the public profession of sodomy,” and by the end of the following day more than one hundred young men had fled to Sicily for fear of suffering a similar fate. In Geneva there were frequent prosecutions for sodomy from 1560 to 1610, linked to peaks of religious revival; a typical case was that of Pierre Canal, who in 1610 was tortured for high treason and murder, and before this inquisition was finished he had accused some 20 men of sodomy. Most of the sodomy charges throughout this period of Genevan history were levelled against French religious refugees. In Ireland, in 1640 John Atherton, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, and his lover and tithe proctor John Child were convicted of buggery and hanged.

One of the tragedies of the New World is that it took over much of the legal system of the Old World. The Buggery Act of Henry VIII (as re-enacted by Elizabeth I in 1563) was adopted, often verbatim, by the original thirteen Colonies, and buggery was punished by death. The records of convictions are scarce, but they were not systematically recorded and are therefore difficult to discover. In 1624 Richard William Cornish, Master of the ship Ambrose, anchored in the James River, Virginia, was hanged for committing sodomy with the 29-year-old cabin boy William Couse. We know that sodomites were prosecuted in Plymouth Plantation in the 1640s. In 1646, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Plaine was executed for having committed sodomy with two persons in England before going over to the colonies; and in the same year, in Manhattan, New Netherland Colony, Jan Creoli, a negro, was sentenced to be choked to death and burned to ashes for a second offence of sodomy. In New Netherlands Colony there is a reference to attempted sodomy by N. G. Hillebrant or Hillebrantsen in 1658; and to alleged homosexual rape by J. Q. van der Linde (or Lijnden) in 1660 — he was tied in a sack and drowned in a river, while his partner was whipped and “sent to some other place.” In 1674, in Massachusetts, a young man named Benjamin Goad was castrated for a crime which seems to have involved masturbating himself in front of, or with, other boys. Over the years, the death penalty was gradually replaced by whipping, imprisonment, castration, and forfeiture of all lands and goods, though in several states the death penalty was reintroduced.

Indeed the reform of antihomosexual laws has been exceedingly difficult despite the increasingly liberal attitudes of more recent times. The Judaeo-Christian abhorrence of homosexuality and the buggery laws are likely to be with us for a long time to come, exacerbated by the fear of AIDS. In March 1991 for example, during the debate in the parliament of the Isle of Man as to whether or not to decriminalize homosexual acts in accordance with the British Government and the European Convention on Human Rights, the majority of the Council of Ministers wished to retain their law against homosexuality. The argument of the select committee which rejected a proposal to bring their law into line with the rest of Western Europe pretends to be modern in its assertion that private homosexual activity should be banned in order to protect public health by preventing the spread of AIDS, but the vocabulary of prejudice has not changed over the centuries. It was summarized in the words of Mr Edgar Quine, opposed to reform of the Manx laws, who said “Dress it up as we will we are still talking about the unnatural offensive and abominable act of buggery.”

SOURCES: Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London and New York, 1955); Vern L. Bullough, “Heresy, Witchcraft, and Sexuality,” Journal of Homosexuality, 1, 2 (1974), 183-201; Michael Goodich, “Sodomy in Ecclesiastical Law and Theory,” Journal of Homosexuality, 1, 4 (1976), 427-34; Michael Goodish, “Sodomy in Medieval Secular Law,” Journal of Homosexuality, 1, 3 (1976), 295-302; Montgomery H. Hyde, The Other Love (London: Heinemann, 1976); Jonathan Katz, Gay American History (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976); John J. McNeil SJ, The Church and the Homosexual (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1977); William E. Monter, “La sodomie à l’epoque moderne en Suisse romande,” Annals: E. S. C., 29 (1974), 1023-33; Rictor Norton, “The Biblical Roots of Homophobia” and “A Rejoinder,” in Towards a Theology of Gay Liberation, ed. Malcolm Macourt (London: SCM Press, 1977), pp. 39-46, 57-60. COPYRIGHT (c) 1977 Cambridge Theological Seminary

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the Gleaner on the Charter of Rights Bill Debate

Golding and Simpson Miller failed to lead their editorial 26.10.09 reads:

We wish to make two observations. First, when politicians are short of cogent and workable solutions, their default position, usually, is a reach for populist distractions – drawing the red herring, as it were.

The second is that the real test of a democracy is not only its ability to cater to the will of the majority, but how well it acknowledges and protects the rights of the minority, including people with whose ideas and concepts we may not agree. Indeed, it is this latter notion that makes a democracy, even as it remains the best form of government yet devised, the most difficult to manage.

We have been drawn to think on these issues in part because of some of the tone of the parliamentary debate on Jamaica’s proposed Charter of Rights, especially remarks by Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller. They reached for the lowest common denominator and played to the gallery, which, of course, was not necessarily the people sitting in Gordon House. Rather, it was an appeal to their ever-narrowing political base.

Enumerative fashion

The Charter of Rights is a good thing, which has the broad support of this newspaper. It seeks to set out, in enumerative fashion and relatively simple language, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Jamaican people. Importantly, it seeks to place greater limits on the capacity of the state to derogate those rights.

Significantly, however, there is no protection in this charter for the individual who faces discrimination because of his or her sexual orientation. A parliamentary committee that drafted the final recommendations contorted its way out of offering any such protection. That was, and remains, good political cover for Mr Golding and Mrs Simpson Miller and, we dare say, a goodly many members of parliament.

The fact is, Jamaica is deeply homophobic, or pretends to be. Homophobia attends the country’s sense of machismo; it frees us to go gay-bashing, and not just figuratively. Indeed, the week before the MPs began to sing their platitudes to the Charter of Rights, a young man was attacked by a mob for his perceived effeminate gait. Happily, he was rescued by the police, for which he might count himself lucky.

Lack of imagination

This brings us back to where we started. The debate is taking place in the middle of a deep economic crisis, to which the Government has, up to now, displayed a patent lack of imagination or acuity. It has talked!

We are not surprised, in the circumstances, that Mr Golding found it useful to weave into his remarks a declaration that “I will not accept that homosexuality must be accepted as a legitimate form of behaviour or the equivalent of (heterosexual) marriage”.

The Jamaican Parliament, Mr Golding added, would not make same-sex unions legal – “not as long as I sit here”. And he inveighed against gay-rights lobbyists who wanted to undermine the country’s “values or culture”.

Mrs Simpson Miller was not as extreme in hiding behind the supposed inability of leaders to be “too far in front of those who are being led” and for the positions of the majority to be taken “scrupulously into consideration”.

What, in reality, was on display was weak leadership and, we fear, an unintended endorsement of abuse of and discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation.

Beyond Blood Identities, by Dr Jason D Hill interview by the Observer

Beyond Blood Identities by Jamaican-born American philosopher Jason D Hill hits the bookstores. Campion College alumnus and former Jamaica Gleaner staff reporter, Dr Jason Hill has put himself at the centre of controversy. In his new book, he argues that our obsessions with racial, ethnic and national identities are a form of psychosis and damages our moral fibre. I caught up with Dr Hill, who is on sabbatical with his partner in Berlin, on the eve of the publication of his new book.

Beyond Blood Identities by Dr Jason D Hill hits the bookstores this week. Its controversial thesis that tribalism is a form of psychosis which damages our 20091024T060000-0500_162495_OBS_BEYOND_BLOOD_IDENTITIES_1moral fibre is already garnering fervent supporters and strident detractors around the world. Book cover shows photo of a woman receiving the light of knowledge.
Pondi Road: Congratulations on your second book: Beyond Blood Identities. What is your primary thesis or main themes in this book?

Jason D Hill: Thank you. My main thesis is that clinging to a very strong racial, ethnic, or national identity is akin to having an addiction. It is a psychological crutch that bolsters self-esteem while adding nothing to your moral character. It gives people some kind of biological prestige, if you will, and prevents them from truly relating to others outside their groups in a deeply profound manner.

Pondi Road: Are you saying that it is a bad thing for someone to be proud of being Jamaican or American or Jewish? Right now a lot of Jamaicans are celebrating the ongoing achievements of Usain Bolt as the fastest man in the world. On the other hand, there are also many of us who are ashamed every time there are headlines of hoodlum Jamaicans going on badly at home and abroad. Is there something wrong with identifying with other Jamaicans and being proud or ashamed of being Jamaican depending on what our fellow countrymen do?

Jason D Hill: Pride comes from individual achievement and accomplishment. I’d like someone to identify what is there to be uniquely proud of being Jamaican. Any trait associated with being Jamaican: resilience (which we have), hard-working, dignified, don’t-take-crap-from-nobody – all these are universal traits which every other ethnic group claims as theirs. Why are we trying to cling on to Bolt’s achievements? Because they give us national prestige. But in truth they have nothing to do with us as individuals. We should be proud of human achievements, period-wherever we find them in the human community. As a lover of humanity, that is the code I live by.

20091024T060000-0500_162495_OBS_BEYOND_BLOOD_IDENTITIES_2Jamaica-born American Philosopher Dr Jason D Hill decked out in Indian garb in the promotional photo for his new book Beyond Blood Identities. Dr Hill is a Campion College graduate and former Gleaner staff reporter who earned his phD in Philosophy from Purdue University and is currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago.
Pondi Road: Are you saying that you feel no difference between a Jamaican winning an Olympic medal and some other country winning that medal? Or that as a black man you felt no particular sense of anything when Obama was elected president of the USA?

Jason D Hill: As a huge Obama fan I felt pride in the capacity of the United States to continually renew itself, to finally abide by the fundamental principles of its constitution. It was first and foremost rational pride I felt in America and in that moment, yes, in being an American. America proved itself worthy of emulation. It had overcome immense prejudice and carried through on its constitutional principles. I would have felt the same pride if a woman or an openly gay candidate had won. But yes, as a person of colour Obama’s presidency carries special resonance for me. But let us be clear on one thing. It is America and the American people first and foremost that deserve praise for executing this extraordinary historical phenomenon.

Pondi Road: So it is OK for us to feel a “special resonance” when someone in our tribal group like race or country achieves something significant. How or when then does tribalism go awry and damage our moral fibre and interpersonal exchanges?

Jason D Hill: No, I don’t mean to say it is alright when someone in our tribal group achieves something to feel this special pride. Psychologically, it is understandable. The special resonance comes from knowing that in a race-conscious society such as the United States you are implicated in the achievements and the failures of a member from your category when you are a minority. Tribalism goes awry when we imbue morally neutral features of a person like race, ethnicity and nationality with moral significance. Being German tells us nothing about a German’s character at all. The problem is that we denigrate the characters of those who are not like us because we imagine that their race or ethnicity lacks the high-prestige value and moral salience of ours. We demonise them in order to feel special – not like them – about ourselves.

Pondi Road: OK. Understood. Early leaks to the press about your book revealed that you have problems with the notion of Jews as a “chosen people”. The history of Judaism is wrapped up in their special and unique relationship with God.

20091024T060000-0500_162495_OBS_BEYOND_BLOOD_IDENTITIES_4Jason out and about in Manhattan with mother Diane Hill (to his left) and her posse Dorothy Simmonds and Sheila Timoll.

Jason D Hill: Yes. And that relationship is over. Jewish history has come to an end. The Promised Land was delivered in 1948. Jews can no longer continue this infantile relationship to a God that forced them to repeatedly prove themselves in a most sado-masochistic manner. It’s time to end the drama and claim equal status among all of God’s children. Jews actually are dehumanised by being exceptionalised: a special humanity is conjured up for them and this, I believe, may partially explain some of the hostility directed towards them throughout history: sibling rivalry is at play here. All monotheistic religious groups have been envious of this special relationship between Jews and God. Let us not forget they were related by blood to the most famous Jew: Jesus; and that it was a Jew, Paul, who created Christianity.

Pondi Road: But why would they give up that special status? If God has chosen them but their Promised Land remains under threat, how can you argue that Jewish history has come to an end? God did not exactly deliver them to a problem-free land.

Jason D Hill: They give up the special status because the historical circumstances that led to them being chosen have expired. They are no more. The Jews are ordinary and just like everyone else. Nothing special about them anymore. It is their responsibility to protect the Promised Land. God cannot guarantee eternal protection from external threats. Exactly who has that luxury? Every nation is potentially under threat from any rogue state that chooses to exercise illicit power. The idea of being chosen is offensive. I’m sorry. They will need to correct a mistake that God apparently made in having favourites among his children.

Is it time for Jews to end their special and unique relationship with God since the Promised Land was delivered? Dr Hill says that the idea of being a ‘chosen people’ is offensive and this notion has to end. Here is Domenico Fetti’s painting of Moses confronting the burning bush when the special relationship between the Jews and God was first forged. ‘Remove your shoes for this is hallowed ground.’ (Photos: Pondi Road)
Pondi Road: As we move into the twenty-first century, do you see an increase or decrease in the significance of tribal identities?

Jason D Hill: I feel that as globalisation spreads we are seeing the resurgence of nationalism across the globe. Globalisation is perceived as having a levelling effect, and I fear that in order to hold on to their particularity people are going to bolster their tribal identities. As someone who lives in Europe six months each year I see the political right galvanising the European working classes into an Us – versus – Them mentality – the them, of course, being the Muslims, the immigrants, the Arabs. Nationalism concerns me the most because it speaks to the nostalgia in people’s hearts. People imagine some magical past when they were invulnerable and it’s always a despised Other that is now present which prevents them from retrieving this past. Serbian nationalism was based on this premise, as was National Socialism (NAZISM).

Pondi Road: How do you understand tribalism in Jamaica? Are we affected by it in any serious way?

Jason D Hill: Not in any original way. Jamaicans tend to be clannish but so are several other groups.

Pondi Road: How about pigmentism with shades of black and brown as societal markers? PNP vs JLP politicism? Classism? Would these not count as our tribal pathologies?

Jason D Hill: Sure, but those are standard tribal pathologies. Nothing particularly unique or interesting about those. But deep down a ‘brownas’ in Jamaica still sees a black-skinned person as a true Jamaican and not some animal! And that is a difference. In the United Sates and NAZI Germany, blacks and Jews, respectively, were seen as sub-human. It is to the credit of the Jamaican people that despite the ruling pigmentocracy – there is no such word as pigmentism – of the country, brown Jamaicans will still defend a black Jamaican as a Jamaican. I would exclude political parties from the domain of tribalism. However irrational people are in coming to hold their political allegiances, they are value-based and are open to all. Anyone can choose to become a JLP or PNP. In that sense it would be an open tribe, which is a contradiction in terms.

Pondi Road: The choice for the cover of the book is interesting. What is the image? What are you trying to convey?

Jason D Hill: The image is of a woman looking into the light and receiving almost superhuman knowledge. She gets it. I mean, the meaning of life. I am trying to convey a heroic image of humanity, to say that we can go beyond the conventions, the binding norms, and the oppressive mores of our cultures and be completely transformed.

Pondi Road: As part of your global tour of lectures and signings to promote the book, will you be coming to Jamaica or taking part in our literary festival Calabash, next year?
Jason D Hill: No, I will not, unfortunately. I am in principled self-exile from Jamaica. I have not been to Jamaica in 15 years and will not return until homosexuality is de-criminalised. That is my moral stance and I intend to stand by it.

Pondi Road: Why have you taken that stance with respect to Jamaica? There are tons of countries at different stages of political and social development where human rights of different groups are not fully guaranteed whether it is based on race, religion or sexuality. Why single out Jamaica for special self-exile?

Jason D Hill: Well, there are some truly pernicious countries like Saudi Arabia which practises gender apartheid, and even Russia, which is lapsing into a state of incivility that I would never visit. Jamaica is the country of my birth. I left there when I was 20 years old. I’ve singled it out, of course, because as a gay person I certainly would not be comfortable living there or even visiting with my partner of twelve years. I think that in an era when half of Europe is in the process of legalising gay marriage, to have a country in which you can be arrested for your sexual orientation is regressive. But things will change when gay people and people who stand for human rights take ownership of morality and defend the rights of gays on moral grounds. This is a moral battle, and only in the crucibles of implacable moral principles can this battle be won. The homophobes cannot have an exclusive monopoly on moral discourse. Morality is on our side.

Pondi Road: Noted, but it is still unfortunate that you will not be coming to Jamaica as part of your promotional tour. What are you working on now?

Jason D Hill: Well, I am under contract to write my third book which is about how to achieve moral clarity in our lives. And I just finished a novel, a massive multi-generational political and family saga about Jamaica from the 19th century up to the 1970s.

Pondi Road: Both sound quite interesting. Congrats on all your success and good luck with this book and all future endeavours. Allow me to be tribal and say that I am certainly proud to see Jamaicans pushing out in all kinds of different disciplines beyond music and sports for which we are already well-known. Thank you for taking the time to share your sociological and philosophical insights.

Jason D Hill: Thank you for giving me a forum to share my views. Good night.

Source

Sweden allows gay couples to marry in church

swedenchurch

By Jessica Green(pink news)

The Lutheran Church of Sweden has decided to allow gay couples to marry in church.

Gay marriage became legal in the country on May 1st, allowing couples to wed in religious or civil ceremonies.

Until now, the church had not decided whether to allow them to marry in church.

In June, the church board submitted a petition to the Church of Sweden synod. The synod announced the decision this morning.

According to The Local, some small changes will be made to current church regulations, such as replacing “man and wife” with “lawfully wedded spouses” when gay couples marry.

In January 2007 the church, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy.

Six of the seven political parties in Swedish parliament backed the proposal to introduce a gender-neutral marriage law.

The proposal passed with a 261 to 22 vote and 16 abstentions.

The only party to oppose the ruling were the Christian Democrats, who said they wanted to maintain “a several hundred-year-old concept” of marriage.

Buju did the right thing … says Amnesty Ja Rep

“There is the possibility that sometime in the future Parliament could pass a law that says same-sex unions are legal, but it won’t be done in this Parliament – not as long as I sit here,” Golding said last Tuesday.

http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20091025/news/news4.html

Carla Gulatta of Amnesty International told The Sunday Gleaner that the country’s music should be a unifying force rather than a divisive on.Gulatta’s comments came amid the reignition of the debate on the role of music in fuelling discrimination against gays and lesbians and the controversy surrounding Buju Banton’s decision to meet with a gay-rights group in the United States.

“They should use the music as an instrument of joy, happiness and love. Some lyrics can be disrespectful to the audience; some lyrics can mash up the spirit of the famous ‘One Love’,” Gulatta told The Sunday Gleaner.

She was pointing to the Bob Marley classic One Love which was voted ‘Song of the Century’ by the BBC and has been held up around the world as the message associated with reggae music and Jamaica, even with the advent of the more hardcore dancehall.

One Love has been embraced around the globe as an anthem to the human spirit with the title being used as a greeting the world over.

Gulatta said the meeting was “a very relevant step” noting that it could serve as a catalyst for a change in the music produced.

“Buju can keep what he feels but at least he has done something quite important which is opening a dialogue,” Gulatta said.

hate crimes

The movement to generate support for the eradication of hate and discrimination against homosexuality won a major victory in the United States last week when the Senate approved a bill to include violence against homosexuals as hate crimes.

The measure would extend the current definition of federal hate crimes – which covers attacks motivated by race, colour, religion or national origin – to include those based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Following the vote, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said his organisation eagerly awaits President Barack Obama signing the bill into law.

“We look forward to President Obama signing it into law: our nation’s first major piece of civil-rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Solmonese said.

Meanwhile, Gulatta has expressed disappointment that Jamaica has not reached the stage where it has guaranteed full rights to all individuals, including gays and lesbians.

Pointing to the Charter of Rights, which is intended to replace Chapter Three of the Constitution, Gulatta warned that the proposed amendment could end up being but a shell if greater steps are not taken to protect the rights of all Jamaicans.

“The full plan of the Charter of Rights, little by little, has changed …. little by little, it has been made poor and poorer. In the way that it is now, it is going to be like a picture on the wall because it won’t have any use for the ones who need to be assisted,” Gulatta said.

The Amnesty International representative wants the amendment to the Constitution to give full freedom of choice to all Jamaicans. She argued that even though it appears that such freedom is guaranteed, there are clauses which take that back.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has made it clear that the laws of the country would not be bent to accommodate gay lifestyles.

“There is the possibility that sometime in the future Parliament could pass a law that says same-sex unions are legal, but it won’t be done in this Parliament – not as long as I sit here,” Golding said last Tuesday.

The prime minister was opening the debate on the Charter of Rights, which is set to replace Chapter Three of the Constitution.