Being a woman & gay in Jamaica

The double bind — being a woman and gay

Homosexual women are at increased risk of discrimination. Gay men in Jamaica are treated as criminals by the legal system thus promoting a climate of prejudice, discrimination, physical attacks and other abuses against people who are or are believed to be gay.

The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences has observed:
“Gender-based violence is also related to the social construct of what it means to be either male or female. When a person deviates from what is considered ‘normal’ behaviour they are targeted for violence. This is particularly acute when combined with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Several international human rights bodies have condemned persecution and violence that is inflicted on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health recently stated: “Sexual rights include the right of all persons to express their sexual orientation, with due regard for the well-being and rights of others, without fear of persecution, denial of liberty or social interference.”

Gay women in Jamaica have told Amnesty International that they do not disclose their sexuality to people they do not know, and are not openly affectionate in public. Many lesbian women report being beaten, and they also endure threatened and actual sexual violence, “to be taught a lesson”.

Amnesty International has also received reports of women fleeing the Caribbean due to attacks against them which they believed to be based on their sexuality.

“As a gay woman, my fear is not so much about anybody murdering me, but it is about somebody raping me … so I am really, really careful … people don’t ever ask me.”

Again, popular culture and some Jamaican music perpetuates this mindset:
“When yuh hear a Sodomite get raped/But a fi wi fault/It’s wrong/Two women gonna hock up inna bed/That’s two Sodomites dat fi dead.” (When you hear of a lesbian getting raped/It’s not our fault/It’s wrong/Two women in bed/That’s two Sodomites who should be dead.)

Some of the comments and concerns from women interviewed by AMNESTY USA and my coverage of the spectre of lesbian women being raped in this country has earned me some crticism so here are some of the facts then for us to look at.

“The lawyer made me feel like a slut in court. He tried to convince the court that I was guilty for them doing such a terrible thing to me,” recalls one Jamaican woman who was abducted from her workplace and gang-raped at gunpoint.
Violence against women in Jamaica persists because the state is failing to tackle discrimination against women, allowing social and cultural attitudes which encourage discrimination and violence. This violates the government’s most basic treaty obligations under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEDAW), among others. Shortcomings in national legislation do not deal adequately with marital rape, incest or sexual harassment, thereby encouraging impunity and leaving women without the protection of the law. Discrimination is entrenched and often exacerbated in the police and criminal justice system. Women and adolescent girls are rarely believed by the police, so have little confidence in reporting crimes against them.

Evidence is often not sought effectively or professionally, and witnesses are rarely protected. In court, women’s testimony is explicitly given less weight than men’s, thereby depriving women of the right to equality before the law.In Jamaica, entrenched discrimination against women means many individuals fail to appreciate that forced sex carried out by an acquaintance or family member is a serious crime.The rate of sexual violence against women in Jamaica is very high and is accompanied by spiralling levels of community violence and homicide throughout the island. In 2005, the number of homicides in Jamaica, already high, increased to 1,669. At 0.55 – 0.62 per thousand people, this is one of the highest rates in the world.Sexual assault is the second-most-common cause of injury for women, after fights. Five per cent of all violent injuries seen in hospitals are caused by sexual assaults

For the FULL REPORT visit AMNESTY’S PAGE:
Sexual violence against women and girls in Jamaica: “just a little sex”

Peace
H

Aborting Women’s Rights … broader issues (REPOST)

C. Cooper

“If men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament.” This famous feminist prick (as in sharp point) goes straight to the heart of the current debate about parliamentary reform of Jamaica’s backward laws on abortion. The reproductive health and rights of women are not taken seriously in much of the talk on this inflammatory subject.

Instead, male authority figures (and their female surrogates) pontificate on a pregnant matter about which they simply cannot speak authoritatively. Who feels it knows it, intimately. It is true that there are enlightened men who try to understand this contentious issue from the woman’s perspective. But they are relatively few.

Data from the Ministry of Health confirm that approximately 1,200 women are treated each year for complications arising from unsafe abortions. And those are just the official figures. In the 21st century, women in Jamaica are still risking their lives in order to claim reproductive rights that women in other countries simply take for granted.

IMPRISONED FOR LIFE

The 1864 Offences Against the Person Act declares the following:

“72. Every woman, being with child, who with intent to procure her own miscarriage, shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent; and whosoever, with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or be not with child, shall unlawfully administer to her, or cause to be taken by her, any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent, shall be guilty of felony, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for life, with or without hard labour.

“73. Whosoever shall unlawfully supply or procure any poison or other noxious thing, or any instrument or thing whatsoever, knowing that the same is intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or be not with child, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three years, with or without hard labour.”

MORAL AUTHORITY?

In plain English: if a pregnant women tries to abort the foetus in her own body, she is guilty of a felony and, if convicted, is liable to be imprisoned for life. If anyone attempts to help her with the abortion, that person is also guilty of a felony and is liable to be similarly sentenced. The ‘druggist’ who supplies any ‘noxious thing’ or even the bearer of the thing to facilitate the process is liable to be imprisoned.

This piece of legislation is truly remarkable, especially bearing in mind the history of our country. The act was passed a mere 30 years after the abolition of slavery. All of a sudden, a foetus (not a ‘child’) was much more valuable than millions of enslaved Africans who were seen as beasts of burden and therefore entirely fit subjects for protracted abuse. Their lives needed no protection. An unborn ‘person’ now had more rights than actual persons, many of whom still had vivid memories of being brutalised by enslavement. Did this act have any moral authority? Or was it intended to ensure the availability of an unending supply of cheap labour?

These questions are not as far-fetched as they may seem. Historians confirm that enslaved African women aborted foetuses or even committed acts of infanticide in order to ensure that their children would not be enslaved. The most powerful literary treatment of this subject is Toni Morrison’s truly disturbing novel, Beloved, made into an eerie film. Ironically, enslaved women claimed reproductive freedoms that their supposedly emancipated descendants are still denied in Jamaica today.

It took more than a century for Jamaica’s outdated abortion laws to be modified. In 1975, the Ministry of Health in a Statement of Policy on Abortion made it “lawful for a registered medical practitioner acting in good faith to take steps to terminate the pregnancy of any woman if … he forms the opinion that the continuation of the pregnancy would be likely to constitute a threat to the life of the woman or inure [work] to the detriment of her mental and physical health”.

The Statement of Policy called for amendment of the Offences Against the Person Act (1864) in order to clarify the circumstances in which abortion could be deemed lawful in Jamaica – such as in cases of rape, carnal abuse and incest. Thirty-four years later the antiquated act has still not been amended.

ANATOMY IS DESTINY?

The sexist language of the policy statement takes it for granted that the “registered medical practitioner” is male. Indeed, sexism is at the root of the conservative gender ideology that seeks to keep women in their place as hostages to their anatomy. It was Sigmund Freud who proclaimed that “anatomy is destiny”. Gender identity is supposedly fixed at birth – for life.

Karen Horney, one of Freud’s rogue disciples, challenged this declaration. She argued that culture, rather than biology, determined one’s fate. In a 1939 publication, she deflated Freud’s theory of “penis envy”. She argued that some men suffer from “womb envy”.

In any case, it wasn’t the penis itself women envied but the presumed power that the appendage bestowed on men: “[t]he wish to be a man … may be the expression of a wish for all those qualities or privileges which in our culture are regarded as masculine, such as strength, courage, independence, success, sexual freedom, right to choose a partner.” You can bet your last Super Lotto dollar that if men could get pregnant they would find a way to glamorise abortion as a heroic act of sexual freedom, requiring superhuman strength and courage.

Elephant Man may perform in Canada despite concerns

After hearing complaints from the LGBT community in Toronto, Canada about the controversial performer’s violently anti-gay lyrics (sample: “Queers must be killed!” “Give me the Tec-9/Shoot dem like bird”), Parc Downsview Park CEO Tony Genco has refused to pull dancehall act Elephant Man from an upcoming show scheduled for this Sunday Oct 10 at the federal park.

Elephant Man’s (real name O’Neil Bryan) second scheduled performance in the Toronto area this year is to take place. Back in August, the Circa nightclub gig in downtown Toronto was dropped club officials received complaints and were informed of his homophobic lyrics decided to pull the plug. Word of the show had spread to the LGBT community via Twitter and Facebook and only hours after announcing the show, Circa sent this tweet: “Circa stands for peace, love and equality. Elephant Man has been removed from the Celebrity Ball.”

The present promoter has been informed of Ele’s lyrical content including the infamous “Log on and step pon chi chi man/Log on and step on a queer man” PDP CEO Tony Genco refuses to pull Elephant Man from the show at the federal venue even after a privately-owned club decided weeks ago — in the spirit of “peace, love and equality” — he should not perform on their stage.

In a publicly released statement (pdf) Parc Downsview Park justified their decision citing a “morality clause” in Elephant Man’s contract, which, they say, will restrict him from using lyrics that “promote the hatred or derision of any group.” That the federal park would welcome performers that need to be reminded of this clause is in itself a red flag.

Genco however in an interview with Rabble a Canadian publication said that Elephant Man hadn’t used these lyrics in “25 years” and that if the rabble representative and the lgbt groups could find evidence that he had used them more recently he would reconsider the show. The promoter, Eric Morgan met with the venue’s owner after their meeting, Genco still refuses to pull the show, since he believes Elephant Man has put these hateful lyrics behind him, though there is no public record of Elephant Man apologizing or explaining his lyrics.

According to Justin Stayshyn of Rabble news who spoke directly to Mr. Genco – “One wonders what has prompted Genco to defend Elephant Man like this and why he implies that EM regrets these lyrics as he’s made no public statements to that effect. In fact, when given a chance to do just that — he has refused. Back in 2007, in response to protests against hateful lyrics a number of artists signed “ The Reggae Compassionate Act” which states that they “respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.” Though a number of his peers signed, Elephant Man did not.”

So it looks like Elephant Man may perform after all even in the face of his own sexuality being brought into question recently with a public feud with another dancehall DJ named Flippa Mafia and allegations of the Elephant and another entertainer found in a compromising position are rife in certain entertainment circles.
Hypocrisy, lies of what???

See: Elephant Man called a “Fish” in dancehall rivalry Dancehall gimmickry escalates as a ‘dolphin’ curses an ‘elephant’, this is not the first time we have seen the Elephant being accused of being a closeted homo and one wonders sometimes if these allegations have any truth to them.

Mek wi see nuh.

H
(excerpts from Rabble)