Just ’slight’ contact with another’s genital could mean rape and more in Guyana’s Sexual Offences Bill

… and jail for life

Penetration finds a broad and new definition under the new Sexual Offences Act.

According to the Act, penetration doesn’t just mean inserting the penis into the vagina or anus of another person. Penetration can also mean female to female genital contact, “however slight.”

This is how the Act defines penetration: any intrusion, however slight and for however short a time, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the vagina or anus of another person, and any contact, however slight and for however short a time, between the mouth of one person and the genitals or anus of another, including but not limited to sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse and female to female contact.

A person is guilty of the offence of rape if the accused engages in sexual penetration with another person without his/her consent. A person who commits the offence of rape is liable to conviction to imprisonment for life.

Sexual assault, which could land someone in jail for a maximum of ten years, involves just touching another person in a sexual way without the consent of the other person.

If someone is accused, one of his excuses cannot be that the person didn’t resist, or that the person was aroused, and might even have had had an orgasm during the process. In the case of a woman accused to raping a man, the Act essentially says she cannot claim that the man was enjoying it, and hence consented, because he ejaculated.

In the case of child sex offences, the Act specifies that a person commits the offence of rape of a child under 16yrs old if the accused engages in sexual penetration with the complainant or causes the complainant to engage in sexual penetration with a third party.
It is irrelevant, according to the Act, whether at the time of the penetration the accused believed that that complainant was over 16 or not.

‘Peeping’ could land you in jail

Someone accused and found guilty of secretly observing another person “doing a private act,” could face a fine of $500,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment.
This is according to the New Sexual Offences Act. It is called voyeurism.
The Act says, “A person commits the offence of voyeurism if for the purpose of sexual gratification” the accused observes another person (the complainant) doing a private act without “the express consent of complainant to being observed for sexual gratification.”
This means that, in ordinary talk, if you “peep” at a person having sex and you are caught, handed over to the Police and found guilty in court, then you face the penalty.

You could also be guilty if you are dragged before the court for peeping at someone using the toilet, or if the person is doing anything else in which their genitals, buttocks or breasts are exposed.
Once you are accused and found guilty, then you face the penalty.

The law also applies if the accused installs equipment, or constructs or adapts a structure (tent, vehicle or vessel or other temporary structure) with intention of enabling another person to peep.
Further, a person commits the offence of voyeurism if she/he operates equipment with the intention of enabling another person to observe another person doing a private act without the complainant’s consent to operate the equipment.

A person is also guilty of voyeurism if the accused records another person doing a private act with the intention that accused or a third person will look at the image for the purpose of sexual gratification.
A person who commits an offence under this section is liable

(a) on summary conviction to a fine of $500,000 and to imprisonment for two years;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for five years

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Guyana passes Sexual Offences Bill

Sexual legislation reform was unanimously passed in the National Assembly April 22nd, almost three years after countrywide consultations on the laws, which were previously criticised for being archaic and failing to protect victims.

The legislation offers a comprehensive overhaul of the laws and includes a string of new offences that were tabled to expand protection, particularly for young children. The reform is wide-ranging and includes new offences, and at the same time definitively spells out the rights of victims of sexual abuse—raising much needed awareness. It mentions too the establishment of a National Task Force for Prevention of Sexual Violence to address implementation.

The Sexual Offences Bill was at a Select Committee since August 2009 and was passed yesterday with added amendments; new provisions which Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand, who piloted the legislation through Parliament, called timely and critical. She said women and children in this country have waited long enough and charged that every Member of Parliament is obligated to get the word out that the laws have been reformed.

Opposition speakers, who vigorously endorsed the bill, hailed Manickchand for a consultative process, which they said demonstrated how a democratic society functions. PNCR-1G parliamentarian Basil Williams said Manickchand involved the citizens of this country prior to tabling the bill and he praised her for “excellent work” throughout the entire process, including her chairmanship of the Select Committee. “I suspect is it because she has not been hardened yet,” Williams said of Manickchand’s approach to the legislation.

The debate on the bill yesterday was harmonised, as every speaker who took to the floor noted the need for stronger laws in the society to curb rampant sexual violations. The continued abuse of women and children was high on the agenda and the speakers zeroed in on the number of cases as recorded in newspaper reports and at agencies such as Help and Shelter and Red Thread. But GAP-ROAR MP Everall Franklin commented that many of the cases which are reported only begin to “scratch the surface of how deep the problem is”.

Speakers called the new legislation revolutionary saying it will effectively protect the rights of every women and child in the country, but there were also calls for the necessary training to be rolled out in an effort to sensitise stakeholders across the country as to what the new provisions are in the law, in addition to raising awareness in the society. Manickchand was firm on this, saying the legislation can only work if persons within the system are trained and are aware of the kind of service they are expected to deliver within the provisions of the new laws.

Manickchand spoke of the ‘Stamp it out’ consultations, declaring that the legislation owes everything to the countrywide discussions. She said people were very involved in the process, from professionals to mothers and according to her, the comments and feedback informed the legislation. She said the passage of the bill is an achievement the people can claim. Manickchand noted too that the laws have been amended to include maximum penalties for many offences; however it is within the discretion of the courts to apply penalties in a specific case.

The new legislation includes many reforms. One of the more critical aspects of the bill is that it has made the criminal offence of rape gender-neutral, to include sexual assault on boys and men, bringing the offence of rape in line with reform around the world and therefore maximising protection by widening the definition. Section 3 of the legislation says that a person commits the offence of rape if that person engages in sexual penetration with another person (the complainant) or causes the complainant to engage in sexual penetration with a third person. It is also rape if the complainant does not consent to the penetration, and if the accused does not reasonably believe that the complainant consents.

The law also states that a husband can be accused of sexually assaulting his wife because she is now recognised as having to consent. This particular provision triggered a string of responses when Manickchand referred to it with many parliamentarians sounding off on it. “She is not your property after marriage anymore,” someone heckled. Previously, a husband could not be found guilty of raping his wife.

Williams, speaking on the legislation, said the provisions of the new law must operate within the justice system and he noted that the investigative capacity of the country is currently weak. He praised the new provision of the legislation which removes the need for the evidence of young children to be corroborated saying “this was long overdue.” Williams said his party fully supports the legislation because of how critical it is to the society. However, he questioned the aspect of the law which makes the provisions for paper committals, saying the justice system currently lacks the “teeth” to effectively implement this provision.

Alliance For Change member Latchmin Punalall called for a register of sexual offenders. She said the authorities need to know the location of sexual offenders so as to “keep an eye” on them. PPP/C member Dr Jennifer Westford went further, saying sexual offenders should face mutilation. This particular comment triggered a semi-ruckus in the assembly as persons questioned what exactly she meant and Westford clarified it much to the amusement of the assembly.

PPP/C member Anil Nandlall declared that sex is used as a weapon of exploitation in the country, noting that those with economic power use it against those who are less fortunate.

The new legislation follows sustained calls for urgent reform of the legislation. The Coalition to Stamp out Sexual Violence Against Children had routinely picketed the Office of the President calling for swift passage of the legislation and yesterday the group was again present at Parliament.

A glimpse into the lives of Taboo Yardies

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

TABOO YARDIES, a documentary that examines Jamaica’s indifference toward homosexuals, will have a screening at the General Theological Seminary in New York City next week.

Selena Blake, a 49 year-old Jamaican filmmaker who is producing Taboo Yardies, says persons attending the April 24 event will see 17 minutes of the film which is expected to be released in late 2009.

“I hope that the documentary will be a springboard in the way we as Jamaicans conduct ourselves in the name of God,” Blake told The Gleaner this week from her home in New York.

Blake, who was born in Old Harbour, St Catherine, started work on Taboo Yardies in 2007. Through interviews with gay Jamaicans in the United States and Canada, she attempts to show the un-initiated a look at the prejudice homosexuals face in Jamaica.

The documentary also has interviews with businesspersons who have suffered because of the anti-gay themes of some Jamaican dancehall acts. Businesspersons like show promoter D’Niscio Banks of the annual Carifest concert who was strongly criticised by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg for inviting Buju Banton and Bounty Killer on that show last year.

Thumbs-up from gay advocates

Taboo Yardies has already got the thumbs-up from gay advocates like Wayne Besen who has called for Americans to boycott Jamaica and Jamaican products, due to persistent violence against gays in the country.

“I strongly urge all people interested in stopping the anti-gay violence in Jamaica to see Taboo Yardies, a film-short on the issue. I saw a preview of the movie and I highly recommend it,” said Besen, author of the book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.

Same-sex unions are illegal in Jamaica. Intolerance for homosexuality in the country has been played out in many dancehall songs, the most infamous being Banton’s 1994 underground hit, Boom Bye Bye.

Blake has lived in New York City since 1979 and made a living as an actress and catalogue model before branching out into filmmaking. Her first film, 2005’s Queensbridge: The Other Side, is a documentary about the Long Island housing project where she lives.

Sloppy research by Gleaner writer says human rights lawyer

The Editor, Sir:

In the Thursday, April 22 edition of the Gleaner, Wayne West sought to discredit the Ministry of Health, the former head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health, Professor Peter Figueroa, UNAIDS, and countless others who have found a correlation between the continued criminalisation of buggery and the high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among Jamaican men who have sex with men (MSM).

He tries a sleight of hand by arguing that in the United States where buggery has been decriminalised, “MSM made up more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of all men living with HIV in 2005.” However, he conveniently fails to mention that the study he relies on is five years old, or that the US Supreme Court only decriminalised buggery in 2003, or that he is comparing ‘apples and oranges’ (the HIV/AIDS prevalence among MSM in Jamaica as against the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among all men – gay or straight – in the US).

Sloppy research

These and other glaring omissions by West are just plain sloppy research at best, and outright disingenuous at worse. Or more likely, they show the extent to which people will go to deny the human rights of Jamaican gays.

The fact is decriminalising buggery is a crucial step in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among MSM and the population at large. It will take years for a traditionally marginalised and oppressed group such as MSM, to effect the behaviour change needed to reduce their HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. But first they must be brought into the general population as full citizens through the recognition of their rights by the state and through decriminalisation of their lifestyle.

I am, etc.,

MAURICE TOMLINSON

maurice_tomlinson@yahoo.com

Montego Bay

St James

Media catches fire and advocacy rises somewhat from rigormortis

Media catches fire and advocacy rises somewhat from rigormortis

With all the letters and responses of recent appearing in the newspapers predominantly the Jamaica Observer and to a lesser extent The Gleaner the firestorm of course came from the recent Walk for Tolerance event as organised and carried out by Jamaica AIDS Support for Life with some 13 other non governmental groups and the Ministry of Health. By now we all know the perception is that is was a gay pride march under the guise of a HIV specific activity as funded by UNAIDS, the humongous rainbow flag was enough to say just that. One wonders if proper thought was put into planning this activity and the possible fall out. There is high speculation in some circles that many international funders were and are considering moving their financial support to other places from Jamaica and by extension the Caribbean as they feel the various organisations have not been carrying out there work as they say they would have done so the groups including JFLAG and others now have to show evidenced based proposals and interventions so as to prove that they are serious about reaching their respective goals as they have set in previous proposals and in their mandates. The strong criticisms and opposition to some issues and actions from activists, bloggers and concerned persons outside the formal advocacy system that is dominated by the three main organisations namely JASL, CVC and JFLAG has helped to shake up the status quo hence a sudden jolt of activities, a raft of so called consultative meetings and other activities that should have been happening during their years of existence. The pressure needs to be stepped up or at least maintained as no longer can we ordinary GLTBQI People be quiet towards the folks who have placed themselves in positions to speak on our or a group’s behalf and then drop the ball, become lazy and unaccountable for what they commit to.

So those mitigating circumstances could be the reasons why we saw a hastily put together walk for tolerance and other activities that I guess would not have occurred anytime soon if the some of the above factors never become a reality. So we had to be forced into a position of action, what a sad state of our advocacy? Yesterday April 22, 2010 another attempt was made to “fix” the public relations mess caused by the perception of the fake gay march on a radio station Newstalk 93 FM which interviewed human rights Lawyer and one of the tolerance walk’s organisers Maurice Tomlinson. He hinted that the issue came to light from a report from a television clip on Television Jamaica TVJ focusing on the MSM participants in the walk, to think that some three or four persons in Montego Bay, Kingston and Mandeville have suffered in some way since the walk from their houses being stoned to verbal abuse and a lesbian sister has been verbally abused in her community. The complacency over the years by the groups in advocacy as they dominate the landscape has slowed for now but I wonder for how long if whatever funding that is now being aggressively sought by the same groups should come through despite the strict monitoring by the funders especially the Global Fund the complacency may very well set in again until it is time to apply for another tranche. The equation has often been played out over the years.

On the other side of the coin the homophobes including so called Christians who were waiting in the wings caught the ammunition they needed through the JASL public relations mess to re-launch their attacks after a long hiatus. Notably Ms Shirley Richards, the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship architect made her views known in a letter to the Gleaner where she always gets space, she said that she always suspected that groups were using HIV issues to hide the homophobic agenda.

Well so what? The rate of infection in the MSM and gay community is high now standing at a high of 30% and there is a bridge to the mainstream through this grouping as bisexual contact and down low activity provides fertile ground for the virus to pass on. Funny how these Christian groups are so dark in their thinking. The marriage of the Dudus extradition affair, the incarceration of Buju Banton and the visa revocation issues is now almost a belief held true by many commentators and columnists.

The Jamaica Observer of note has been airing the views of both sides specifically the letters on tolerance and human rights law from Maurice Tomlinson so much so that the homophobes themselves have been complaining of the paper allowing too much “gay material” (my words). It is good that there is ventilation of the issues in writing if that could spread to the tabloid papers such as the Jamaica Star as well. The blogosphere is not to be undone my blogs have seen their fair share of public comments mostly positive but my email inbox has the caustic negative stuff with comments ranging from we must die to the buggery law must not be repealed. I prefer to stay in the blog world though and continue as a matter of record it can always be read and reread and specific matters referred to when needed with freedoms that no newspaper editor can adjust, ignore or withdraw if one should write in for publication. Someone had suggested I also write to the newspapers but I know they are not going to publish my stuff as easily as I have submitted materials before, maybe they’re too strong.

A sea of Jamaican gay bloggers here and abroad have now appeared on the landscape since the early days of bloggers on GLBTQ issues tackling everything from personal commentary on sexuality to more political, religious and theological subjects which is really good it’s about time we raise issues outside of JFLAG as they haven’t been doing a good job in as far as internet space advocacy, poor indeed. These other conversations are healthy as they allow for venting and examination of what other persons are thinking and feeling, pity we didn’t start this ten years earlier but it’s not too late for a shower of rain.

For more socialising and sharing of other materials join my GLBTQ Jamaica Linkup NING site by sending an email to lgbtevent@gmail.com indicating your interest. The site is private and there are strict guidelines for members.

Peace and tolerance

H

More analysis of scandal (Paedophilia Issues)

Michael Burke

No one seems quite sure what causes sexual deviancy, but it is mostly learnt behaviour. If we search for solutions to this problem we will not find them if we think it concerns only Roman Catholic priests, especially in Jamaica where incidents of sexual deviancy are growing while the Roman Catholic population is less than three per cent.

Last week, my piece was entitled “Unacceptable no matter who does it”. It was with respect to the pending paedophilia scandal among priests in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Jamaica Observer online, Carlos King wrote that “there will always be people who manufacture excuses”. I know that I manufactured none as I made it quite clear that it was unacceptable no matter who does it.

I appealed for balanced reporting as homosexuality and paedophilia are not exclusively Roman Catholic problems. I also wrote that those who say that homosexuality and paedophilia would cease if the celibacy law for priests were abolished need to answer a few questions. Why are these crimes prevalent, even among married couples?

I asked who but the devil himself would want to discredit the pope, especially if he speaks in the name of Jesus Christ. And I certainly knew that a statement like that would bring some response from the hard-line anti-Roman Catholics.

Pope Benedict has reiterated all of the Roman Catholic positions on social justice in his encyclical Caritas Veritate (Charity and Truth). Those who have squeezed the world’s poor to become wealthy are uncomfortable with such encyclicals. The Roman Catholic Church continues to give a preferential option to the poor and speaks out against those who do not.

This could well be one possible motive why some seek to sully the name of the successor of Peter the apostle whom Jesus Christ gave the keys of the kingdom, as found in Matthew 16:19. If these motives are real then they are evil. The gay lobby targets the Roman Catholic Church, which most Jamaicans do not know.

Many gays believe that if the pope is discredited an obstacle to their lifestyle would cease. That is one possible motive to sully the name of the pope. In June 2004 there was a front-page picture in the Gleaner of a protest by gay activists in England with anti-Roman Catholic sentiments on their placards. They were protesting against the death of a gay activist in Jamaica.

The Roman Catholic Church remains firmly against birth control and abortion.Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church views abortion as murder. But abortion and birth control methods are money-earning businesses. This is another possible motive to sully the pope’s reputation.

It has been difficult to be Roman Catholic in Jamaica ever since England captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655. This was when the English banned the Roman Catholic Church from Jamaica for the next 137 years until 1792. King Henry VIII of England was angry with the pope when he was forbidden to divorce his wife. This is why the Roman Catholic Church is only three per cent of Jamaica’s population.

Incidentally, the information I am getting is that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was already transferred to Rome when the paedophile priest for whom Benedict is being accused of “covering up” was caught and reported. If that is so, Benedict is innocent.

But if the pope is innocent, that is not news, is it? How would that sell newspapers or bring in sponsors for radio and TV news? Even so, I know of no church, organisation, family, company or whatever that washes its dirty linen in public. When people speak of the Roman Catholic Church in this way, they are really hypocrites.

As Mark Wignall correctly pointed out when he took me on last Sunday, despite the low percentage of paedophiles among the clergy, one is too many. But wasn’t that understood when I wrote that it was unacceptable no matter who does it? And Mark, I am not afraid to face the reality of sexual deviancy in the clergy as embarrassing as it is.

All Christians struggle with sin of one sort or another which is never solved by running away or hiding. If married men can be priests in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church, it might be the greatest cover-up of all with respect to homosexuality, paedophilia and adultery. After all, isn’t this the real reason why such sins are not exposed in other churches?

I agree with Deacon Peter Espeut who wrote in the Gleaner recently that we need more all-boys’ schools to address the needs of boys for the reasons he gave and more. I have previously written that we need more all-boys’ schools. My concern is that boys are becoming more feminised each passing day.

Some argue that all-boys’ schools increases homosexuality. I believe that the co-educational schools provide hidden opportunities for that. The public education system in the USA is basically co-educational and the same goes for Canada. But the USA’s gay population seems to grow by the day.

ekrubm765@yahoo.com

No to Dudus extradition, no to US demands

While the US continues to subject Jamaica to its superpower one-upmanship over the Christopher “Dudus” Coke affair, many Jamaicans continue to sleepwalk with “matter” in their eyes concerning that and other global geopolitical developments.

Although it will always be true that there are none as blind as those who will not see, and although no amount of preaching, teaching or writing can inject common sense into brainwashed “sheeple”, those who love Jamaica and its people must continue to try to rouse Jamaican sleepers from their socio-political slumber.

Based on the talk on Jamaican streets, radio-show and television comments, Internet blogs and newspaper articles dealing with the Coke case, certain camps among Jamaicans and people with vested interests in Jamaica can be identified. Yet, one gets the impression that among the majority of Jamaicans who should be concerned about this case, namely, the poor and the common people, there is a “couldn’t care less” attitude and outright apathy, leading this writer to wonder when we will all wake up.

The US game of imperialism has utilised the same strategies with slight modifications throughout its history. Strategy number one is for the US to give up the least and gain the most, using every method from deception to brute force. Not enough Jamaicans read US history, especially the massacre of the Native Americans, perhaps because Jamaicans became completely mesmerised by US propaganda movies featuring Indians and lawmen.

Too few Jamaicans understand that the US plants groups and individuals in Jamaica to orchestrate US policies, including the destabilisation of Jamaica, as seen in the Michael Manley era. Very often those US puppets are Jamaicans – including politicians, professionals and people from any level – who are bribed, blackmailed or brutalised to play their parts.The greatest need, therefore, is for this camp of Jamaicans, the innocent ignoramuses, to be taught by politicians, preachers, pedagogues and people who know the truth about US imperialism. If those Jamaicans are not duly educated, then it will be “dog nyam wi suppa”.

US strategy number two is a kind of distraction that approaches deception but which runs much deeper than any one issue or development. The Dudus debacle is a classic case. The US always uses groups and individuals to do its dirty work and then disposes of those suckers. The JLP did some dirty work for America during the Manley years and it might be “sucker time”.

There might be connections between the Buju Banton arrest, the courageous stand of Prime Minister Golding against the homosexuality that the US is promoting worldwide, and the Coke case. Thus certain Jamaican factions, some diaspora entities, and of course, those clandestine forces promoting US interests online and elsewhere, are now swarming like vultures toward this Dudus distraction to help the US accomplish its hidden agendas.

This camp containing Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans, the licky-lickey lucre lovers are those for whom the US can do no wrong and for whom Jamaica can do nothing right. They lack analytical ability, spout overworked clichés and paddle in ad hominem Portia-potties. It will take enlightenment from Yeshua Messiah, or timely repentance when their turn comes to be US suckers, to help that camp. Yet, every single Jamaican is important and should be helped to see the light, if at all possible.

There is also a guild of pathetic pragmatists who deliberately support US policies that they know to be immoral and evil, simply because it is the “wise” thing to do to remain in US favour so as not to lose business, lose visa, or otherwise suffer recrimination. This camp makes it easy for the US to perpetrate its strategy of using Trojan horse gifts to manipulate and exploit Jamaica. They grab at straw arguments to support extradition for Coke and proffer non sequitur ramblings and biased rancours against PM Golding and the Jamaican government. Some are opportunists who play the Coke conundrum for political points, while others try to curry US favour.

It is not totally unwise to play it safe at times, but members of this camp must remember that imperialism is no respecter of persons. It would be better for this guild to remain quietly neutral instead of bad-mouthing Jamaica. Private sector groups, Opposition spokespersons, church organisations and media houses that kowtow to the US position in this Coke affair might be bordering on treachery, especially when some of them played similar roles in the Manley years.

The extradition treaty between Jamaica and the US is lopsided and pragmatically flawed. It smells like an agreement between entities, one of which is more equal than the other. In its Narcotics Report the US admits that 70 per cent of guns used in crimes in Jamaica come from the US, yet there is still only a one-way extradition from the weaker nation to the other. Most of the agreements between the US and other nations mentioned in that report simply give licence for the US to have free run in those countries which in turn give up their sovereignty to US imperialism. Jamaica already suffers too much from such manipulation and exploitation from European, North American, and other nations and NGO groups.

This fight for Jamaican sovereignty and justice for Coke should not be a Golding gladiator bout but a cause in which every single conscientious Jamaican should stand up against US bullying.

Thank God for the conscientious crew that analyses this extradition issue from the standpoint of Godly justice and divine righteousness. It includes the Rev Al Miller, PM Golding, and others. If it were not for the spectre of imperialism, grounded in social Darwinism, overshadowing this issue, long ago there would have been delegations of diplomats from each country meeting behind closed doors to resolve this issue respectably, and there would not have been that US one-upmanship displayed in their Narcotics Report.

Too much “sufferation” among Jamaicans is being caused by foreigners. Careful analysis of the Dudus case will help Jamaicans learn many vital lessons about how they are being exploited from without. Wake up and live, Jamaicans!

INMerv@hotmail.com

Jamaicans for Justice Director weighs in on Walk for Tolerance: All human beings are born free

in a letter to the Gleaner Ms Carolyn Gomes says:

All human beings are born free

The Editor, Sir:

In recent weeks, there has been much ado in the media about the ‘walk’ in Montego Bay to draw attention to the high level of intolerance towards persons vulnerable to, living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Much of the discussion so far has been clouded by questions about whether this was a walk for tolerance or a gay march, as gays rightly participated in this walk, being one of the groups most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

While there have been opportunities to discuss some of the critical issues highlighted by the walk, one question seems left unanswered – namely – what if it was indeed a gay march – so what? What would be so wrong with members of the Jamaican gay community raising awareness about their right to exist?

Significant point

Indeed, gay rights are human rights, as was so well articulated by no less a person than the notable Anglican Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu. In an article titled ‘In Africa … A Step Backward On Human Rights’, published by the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and reproduced in The Sunday Gleaner on April 18, Mr Tutu made the significant point that, “No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity – or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds.” In essence, he provided an opportunity to frame the discussion about how we as a people should respond to each other – love of humanity regardless of our differences. The truth is that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people who are part of so many families are suffering from the bigotry and prejudice that exist.

Rethink and renew

It is high time we as Jamaicans take stock of the abuse we perpetuate in denying our brothers and sisters the opportunity to earn a decent living, access health care and the love of family and each other because of prejudices, laws and policies that we inherited from our colonial masters. Loving acceptance of each other and tolerance of differences, protecting the rights of all, are what we are called to live and display. In the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Let us begin this process of rethinking and renewal sooner rather than later.

I am, etc.,

Carolyn Gomes

cgomes@j2ltd.net

Gay victim ‘was called a batty man’

The gay man who died after being attacked in Trafalgar Square last autumn was called a “batty man” before he was kicked and stamped on, the Old Bailey heard.

Ian Baynham, 62, died in hospital on October 13th 2009, several weeks after he suffered head injuries while on a night out.

Joel Alexander, 19, of Thornton Heath, south London, Rachel Burke, 18, of Three Oaks, East Sussex, and Ruby Thomas, 18, of Lichfield, Staffs, all deny manslaughter, while Burke denies a separate charge of committing actual bodily harm.

Today, the Old Bailey heard that Mr Baynham fell “like a corpse” when Alexander allegedly punched him.

The victim had been walking through Trafalgar Square holding hands with a male friend, Phillip Brown.

Thomas, who was sitting on a wall, then allegedly started shouting homophobic abuse at the pair, calling them “batty men” and “faggots”.

Mr Baynham is said to have challenged her and was then floored by a punch from Alexander.

Alexander allegedly walked off while Mr Baynham was left on the ground.

Eyewitnesses said that the two girls than began kicking and stamping on the victim in the head and chest as he lay unconscious and bleeding.

When Burke and Thomas ran off, Mr Brown gave chase and pulled Burke to the ground by her hair, the court heard.

But a passerby thought he was attacking her and separated them as she punched Mr Brown in the face.

The three are then said to have fled to the South Bank before returning to their respective homes.

Yesterday, prosecutor Brian Altman QC compared the alleged incident to scenes of violence from A Clockwork Orange, the 1970s film which caused outrage on its release.

He said: “The story of this case is an all too familiar depressing tale of drunken, loutish behaviour, but what these defendants did that night went far beyond mere antisocial behaviour.

“Two of them are teenage girls, fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol. They confronted Mr Baynham with abuse and then together with Joel Alexander they jointly participated in a violent attack on a defenceless man in public.”

The Walk, aftermath and suggestions

After the April 7th 2010 Jamaica AIDS Support for Life’s and others historic Walk for Tolerance which was supposed to be HIV specific dealing with acceptance and tolerance of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) irrespective of sexual orientation instead has raised a fire storm in the public arena with hints that it was front for the GLBTQ community to launch a gay pride in Jamaica.

“De gay dem a force dem ting pon wi again” one female caller to a popular talk show said. Similar negative comments have been made both in writing and verbally on talk shows and on mostly Jamaican chat forums online.

Some have hinted to the fact that since the controversial Dudus Coke extradition affair, the current economic climate, a weak majority government struggling to stay afloat and dancehall acts feeling severe pressure from their all important international markets the gay community has taken the opportunity to jump in and flex its muscles supposedly capitalising on the weakness of its opponents.

One particular online publication, The Kingston Chronicle in a subtle form reminded us of the proposed Half Way Tree March some years ago and the call for machetes suggesting gays ought to be attacked if we tried to launch any such supposed bold attempt, they cleverly insinuated that message again in their latest homo hate post. That particular blog post clearly hints to calling for persons to arm themselves with weapons of any sort so as to attack gays and lesbians if they should come out publicly. A letter demanding gays to leave Montego Bay was published in the Jamaica Observer and Jason Macfarlane of JFLAG has answered the same paper’s editorial “On Tolerating Homosexuals and such.” Half hearted letters alone won’t do Jason there has to be a Jamaica AIDS Support on their own in response to this situation on television to separate the issues as that’s where the crap started in the first place

With the presence of international religious and gay groups in the tolerance march that has just added fuel to the fire of speculation as to whether it was really a walk for HIV/AIDS or GLBTQ issues. The publication on Michael Petrelis’ blog, Petrelis Files of the actual invitation letter circulated to groups and individuals in its entirety days before advising them of the intended walk on the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life’s letterhead over the signature of its Chairman, Mr. Ian McKnight added more dangerous gas to the firestorm I feel, the letter including the names of individuals and telephone number of JFLAG and not JASL listed as the contact point were major blunders in my view, Mr. Petrelis’ blog like my blogs and other such pro gay blogs are read by homophobes as well so they know well before hand and are able to plan whatever sinister strategy they wish to enact.

The online publication referred to above mentioned Petrelis Files in their scaving hateful post on Homosexuals Marching openly in Montego Bay. While I can concur with Mr. Petrelis for providing information to his readers and making his blog stand out it was grossly irresponsible for publishing a private correspondence in such a fashion knowing the sensitivities involved here
I am no Public Relations expert but a proper press release should have been done and let that speak for itself instead of inviting the press as was done only for them to speculate with negative outcomes. It is clear to me that Television Jamaica has an agenda here they are the only television station that carried the Walk repeatedly and they deliberately showed the rainbow flag several times with the follow up story on the controversial issue of the hired marching band’s upset of them allegedly not being properly informed of JFLAG persons being present in the Walk.

As I had suggested in a previous post on the Marching band controversy Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and who ever else who hired this band missed a golden opportunity to sensitise a vibrant group of teens on HIV/AIDS issues and tolerance which were the main thrusts of the walk according to the JASL Chairman when he was interviewed on Nationwide radio that very evening. They, the band members could have been used to become outreach ambassadors in their respective communities instead on the face of it no serious preparatory work seemed to have been done in having all the would be participants on one page.

If that was done I feel the unfortunate interview aired on TVJ the following day with a female Rollington Town band member complaining that her and other member’s family and community compatriots were upset that they were involved in a gay march without prior knowledge as it is now known in the public’s opinion. They are being accused of supporting homosexuals in this effort, the life of the band is also under threat as several parents are considering removing their children from its membership. Days after the controversy aired on television there is still talk of the issue in Rollington Town and its environs persons are upset that their marching who has developed a reputation of being one of the more respected ones in the eastern part of the country has now lost its good image it took so long to build according to one parent of a member I managed to speak to. Several of the mainly teen band members themselves are trying to live it out and defend themselves from their accusers by rebutting that they never knew that it was as was reported on television and that other groups were present outlining that HIV tests and talks were done suggesting it wasn’t all a gay thing.

Show up wi self eeh?
Behaviour patterns on the road during the walk is a key factor as well a recent talk show has some callers allegedly from Montego Bay who witnessed the Walk and they complained slightly of the behaviour of some of the male participants one caller said she thought it was a gay thing the way the men were acting carrying a sign that said freedom or something to that effect as she couldn’t confirm when pressed by the host as to what it read. I don’t think Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and its allies should take this issue lightly as it has serious implications I fear.

Innocent persons may well suffer the consequences out of this episode almost becoming involuntary martyrs for a cause they never subscribed to. Some of the male participants in the walk are allegedly under threat or at the very least under siege in their own homes as they fear from venturing into public on a regular basis. One particular male participant was said to be under threat from family members demanding that he not return to their space. So the fallout has begun ladies and gentlemen not surprising but I hope it doesn’t escalate.

World AIDS Day would have been better
World AIDS Day would have been a better occasion to do this kind of HIV specific sensitization I feel then one could include all the various groups affected including MSMs, JFLAG could probably highlight the pride section of it during the same month of December where they celebrate their anniversary on the 10th.
The selection and preparation of participants would also be of import and how to sensitise the public on such an action too. I don’t know if Jamaica AIDS Support for Life will recover from this latest public relations blunder as I see it. If the walk is to be HIV specific then let it be so while tempering how the GLBTQ messages are delivered in Jamaica’s controversial homophobic setting. The so called gay in your face attempts won’t help anyone at this time, yes I agree the public needs to be made aware of the impact of the disease on individuals but there must be other ways to engage the public over time. Of note the JASL website like JFLAG’s has not had any serious updates so why have such a powerful medium up and running at your disposal and not use them effectively to facilitate discussion and field queries from the public on these and other sensitive issues? Half hearted advocacy I say as I have always had that criticism of them and others.

Many ordinary gay persons here in commenting on the issue are not pleased either at the outcome many complain that while they welcome the support of the overseas groups namely Metropolitan Community Church (MCC Florida), Interpride and the others who were present many never knew their names or even that a walk of any kind was being planned until seeing it on television, they the visitors can always jump on a plane and return to their respective safe spaces while we have to live this out. “What help is that?” one gay person who I quizzed on the matter asked. Others suggested they donate funds to help JFLAG or even JASL to deal with the related social problems with HIV/AIDS and advocacy. Others asked why wasn’t it properly advertised around the community so they could decide to go or not? This hints to another criticism of mine where the powers that be are out of touch with sections of the community whether intentionally or not. Others persons however are in agreement with the walk and said that if gays were involved then so be it as it was about time gays made their voices heard.

Public backlash
Since this latest negative episode in our GLBTQ history the plethora of anti gay songs being creatively infused on radio by looping and one liners mixed into playlists by disc jocks has increased with fervency. Songs like TOK’s “Chi Chi Man” are used where the first middle and end parts are carefully injected over another song in a set mix for example. I have been making the rounds at some of the major weekly dancehall events and it’s clear that this issue has struck a nerve. Dancehall events Disc Jocks and sound selectors are venting over their microphones on the JASL issue and marrying it to the visa revocations of some major dancehall acts such as the self proclaimed king of dancehall Beenieman who has since responded in song obviously trying to capitalise on the occurrence as he is known for and the legal troubles now faced by Buju Banton, the low wearing pants and bleached faced issues as well as resurfaced all being brought together to reinforce the Jamaican gay stereotype.

Nearly all the main anti gay songs including Buju Banton’s “Boom Bye Bye” and Beenieman’s “All Batty man fi Dead” have been drawn from the storage shelves dusted off and returned to playlists in full earnest in response to all of these occurrences. I am afraid that the walk for tolerance has set us back some five or so years in as far as the climate for tolerance is concerned. I wouldn’t be surprised unfortunately if we saw an increase again in homophobic violence on the ground.

A walk that was to help has instead inadvertently created some problems.

Anyway let us keep hope alive that someday we will see tolerance and learn from this another in our GLBTQ chapter.

Peace and tolerance.

H