No Let-Up On Gays (Gleaner Letter 05.04.11)

So we see the letter writing campaign has recommenced from the standpoint of Maurice Tonlinson’s agitations problem is why isn’t JFLAG itself doing the writing albeit the same Gleaner newspaper in a recent editorial related to the passing of the Charter of Rights and the exclusion of recognition and coverage to same sex attracted individuals.

Mr. Lewis’s outing in a sense has made him a recognizable voice now for issues on the lgbt front worse yet with his elevation to Executive Director of JFLAG a post that never existed before as he was the Programs Manager and spokesperson under the pseudonym Jason McFarlane.

One hopes it’s not Maurice alone that will be left to write openly to the newspapers, as for me my work on the ground is far too delicate to be outed again at this time (was outed before in 1996)  and the links I have made at those levels have to be delicately managed and kept in check which also means identity protection for now.

As for the two incidents referred to in the letter I recently became aware of them and have been gathering information on them as best as possible.

Here is the latest letter from Maurice:

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I must commend The Gleaner for its editorial in last Friday’s edition, which called for an end to discrimination against gays.

However, I take issue with one suggestion in the editorial – that Jamaican homophobia is receding. There is absolutely no evidence for that assertion. In fact, the attacks against gays and lesbians in Jamaica are as virulent as ever.

By way of illustration, in mid-March, there were three reported attacks against gays in Montego Bay, one of which involved a student at a teachers’ college being chased by a group of men with a length of pipe.

In another attack, it is reported that a young man was chased from Barnett Street and beaten and is now nursing wounds at the Cornwall Regional Hospital. Neither of these individuals reported their attacks to the police for fear of being revictimised.

Jamaican homophobia continues to damage lives and embarrass us internationally.

I am, etc.,

MAURICE TOMLINSON

maurice_tomlinson@yahoo.com

Montego Bay

 

Dominica joins 84 nations in signing UN statement defending LGBT people

Dominica joins 84 nations in signing UN statement defending LGBT people

 

Roseau (TDN)

Lesbian gay bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates are heralding the recent signing of a pro-gay statement by 85 nations including Dominica at a recent seating of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

gay youth

Gay youth at a recent LGBT parade in Taiwan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The signing was described in a statement released by various LGBT advocacy groups as “a stunning development for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The statement “express(es) concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity” and “call(s) on states to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

According to the joint media release from the various groups, “ the statement enjoyed the support of the largest group of countries to date on the topic of sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights.”

It builds on a similar statement delivered by Norway at the Human Rights Council in 2006 (on behalf of 54 states) and a joint statement delivered by Argentina at the General Assembly in 2008 (on behalf of 66 states). It is clear that every time these issues are addressed there is measurable increase in state support.”

In a separate press release by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), they called the UN statement “a very significant step forward towards international consensus on LGBTI people’s rights.”

“The strength of this statement makes the defense of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual, trans and intersex people on the basis of a mistaken sense of ‘tradition’ or ‘natural order’ more untenable than ever,” said the group’s co-secretary general, Renato Sabbadini. “Homophobia and transphobia are more and more acknowledged for what they truly are: the last crumbling pillars of a patriarchal order which belong with other dark pages of our past, like slavery and the Inquisition.”

The ILGA particularly singled out the signatures of Dominica, Honduras, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Seychelles.

Dominica was the only Eastern Caribbean country to sign the declaration.

Several other countries however refused to sign including Nigeria along with other African countries. Nigeria’s representative spoke against the statement, claiming to speak on behalf of the council’s Africa Group.

He said the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are undefined, talked about God, and said it takes a man and a woman to make a baby. At the end, however, he said that laws that criminalize sexual orientation should be expunged.

The nations that signed the statement are Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

 

Gleaner EDITORIAL – End Discrimination Towards Gays Now

Jamaica Gleaner Company

Given the criteria established by the prime minister, Mr Dane Lewis would not be eligible to sit Bruce Golding’s Cabinet.

Indeed, in many spheres of Jamaican life, Mr Lewis is likely to be the subject of discrimination and, perhaps, the victim of physical violence.

The point is that Mr Lewis is openly homosexual. He is the executive director of the gay lobby, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

But whatever may be people’s personal views on homosexuality, Mr Lewis, we believe, makes an important observation which, even at this late stage, we commend to Prime Minister Golding, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson and the legislators from their respective parties.

It has to do with the proposed amendment to the Jamaican Constitution, to establish Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is now before the Senate for debate and expected to be passed today without demur.

Among the rights it proposes to establish is the right to freedom from discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, social class, colour, religion or political opinions.

There is, on the face of it, no freedom from discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation. Or, in so far that there is, it is not a freedom immediately apparent and clear and a freedom which persons who face discrimination will possibly establish that they enjoy.

Entrenched homophobia

We understand why the various commissions, committees and legislators who drafted the charter failed to expressly declare people’s rights to freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It has do with the receding, but still-entrenched homophobia in Jamaica that caused Mr Golding to declare, more than three years ago, that gays would not be welcome in his Cabinet. Politicians fear that any perception that they embrace or are soft on homosexuality will cost them votes and open them to discrimination and stigma.

The attitude, we insist, is cowardly, retrogressive, socially dangerous and offensive to human rights.

Serious concerns for all

To be clear, our position is neither an endorsement nor rejection of homosexuality. Frankly, we do not care. How consenting adults choose to live their lives is none of our business. There are, however, a couple of things that concern us and which we believe should be the concern of all Jamaicans.

First, while we note and commend the advances in individuals’ rights contained in the charter, we are aware that the possibility of discrimination against any group is a toehold for the erosion of the rights of others, notwithstanding the cover of constitutional protection.

Moreover, the fear of stigma, discrimination and violence pushes many people into the closet. Their talents are often underutilised, to the detriment of the society and economy. There is evidence, too, of the health problems faced by gays, many of whom prefer to live without treatment for their illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, for fear of discrimination. The public-health risks are obvious.

It is nearly 50 years since the promulgation of the Constitution; waiting a few more months to get a better charter won’t hurt.

Improving the charter will require that it lie in the legislature for months in accordance with the time stipulation for amending the Constitution. In the meantime, legislators should expunge the buggery law, the main bit of existing legislation that makes homosexuality illegal.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.