Brother pleads with UK Government to halt lesbian sister’s deportation …………..

According to the voice in the UK a Jamaican woman is to face deportation but she is a member of the same gender loving community women seem to have had issues in gaining asylum overall although we cannot judge so easily as each case has to be taken on its own merit but seeing that men who have sex with men are more vulnerable to homophobic violence in Jamaica they have far more cases pending, successful and deportations than the women do.

However as I have tried to point out before there has been a sharp increase in lesbophobic violence to include the previously thought African phenomenon of corrective rape, forced evictions and displacements.

Have a read of the item from the Voice first excerpted below:

‘My Sister Will Be Killed If She Is Sent Back To Jamaica’

A WEST YORKSHIRE man says his lesbian sister will be killed if she is sent back to Jamaica and is urging immigration officials to reconsider a decision to deport her.

Home

Nestfield Lopez, 24, from Leeds, told The Voice that homophobia in the Caribbean country is rife and claims that his sibling will be targeted because of her sexuality.

He said: ”We all know what Jamaicans think of gays.”

“We’ve got terrorists here that are making suicide bombs. They’ve been in prison, they come out and they can’t deport them because of human rights. What about her human rights? That’s the frustrating thing about it,” he continued.

His sister, 22-year-old, Coletane Lopez, was detained by the UK Border Agency on March 20 after her human rights application was denied.

Acting on legal advice, she had gone to Lunar House in Croydon, Surrey, where immigration claims are processed, to seek asylum for protection, but was handcuffed and transferred to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire, where she is currently awaiting deportation.

Mr Lopez, who was unaware that his sister was gay until last December, has begun a petition to stop the process but claims her health is deteriorating day by day.

“We had a visit with her and she’s lost loads of weight. She hasn’t been eating.

She’s been worried. At one point she wanted to commit suicide. She said I’m going to kill myself because if I get sent home, I’m going to get killed anyway.”

Her deportation has been placed in the fast track system, which means she can be removed from the country within four to seven days of her case being decided.

The siblings first came to the UK with their family in 2000. Last year their parents were removed and sent back to Jamaica, but Mr Lopez, who is married with two young children, has been granted the right to remain because his partner is a British national.

Mr Lopez says that his sister will have nowhere to go if she is returned to Jamaica because even his parents refuse to accept his sister because of her sexuality.

He said: “Every time I speak to my dad, we have an argument. He says, ‘have you not thrown her out yet? Don’t give her any money and don’t look after her. You should choke her and kill her’. That’s what he’s saying to me. I’m like, ‘that’s your daughter!’ But he says, ‘Oh no. I don’t have no daughter anymore. That’s what I have to deal with!”

The Voice contacted the UK Border Agency for their response. A spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

ENDS

In continuing on the issue of displacements for SGL women due to lesbophobia women by virtue of being more social creatures in the Jamaican context easily find informal hosting services within the community or with family members as some cases have shown as lesbianism is tolerated locally than male homosexuality. Sadly in this case as excerpted above shows there maybe a serious cause for concerns and as I said above each case has to be taken on its own merit but we must also remember the reputation Jamaica on a whole has in places like the United Kingdom where we have flouted rules, committed crimes and so on.

Our cases are treated with far more scrutiny based on my limited experience with the border agency in times gone by but how do we assist persons who legitimately need to leave the island due to threats against their person?

We have seen successful cases on the other hand such as a sister who was bipolar some years ago who was brutally raped several times over by thugs (including a cousin allegedly) in her inner city community with what seemed to be tacit support from other thugs in the area at the time, she was successful however in gaining asylum in the UK in 2010, another sister who was threatened with arson of her flat in another area due to her butch mystique as it were as she wore masculine clothes and was clearly a gender non conformist given the scheme of things.

And as for advocacy for same gender loving women in Jamaica well that is much to be desired with groups such as JFLAG and a smaller outfit known as Women for Women (WFW) but since male homosexuality and the attendant issues are engaged far more with a view to repealing the buggery law which is understandable women’s issues get glossed over even in the face of the aforementioned increases in violence and stigma to sgl women especially the members or self identified butches who are seen as a threat to men in Jamaica as they are accused of taking away women from over machismo worshipping men.

We hope there is a follow up on this story so we can know the outcome of this case and how the sister is fearing out.

Additional reading from a previous post on sister blog GLBTQJA on Blogger:
Jamaica lesbians suffer from under-reported violence but whose fault is that ???

here are two pieces of audio commentary I had done in 2011 also expressing concerns about the inequality in the handling of same gender loving women’s issues versus msms and the murder of two lesbians late last year as well:

Lesbian issues left out of the Jamaican advocacy thrust until now? 

plus

2 SGL WOMEN LOST, CORRECTIVE RAPE & VIRTUAL SILENCE FROM THE MALE DOMINATED ADVOCACY STRUCTURE

Peace and tolerance

H

US Pastor Urges Church to Open its Arms to Gays Seeking Asylum

Tim Lucas of the Liquid Church

 Stoyan Zaimov

As the same-sex marriage debate intensifies among states grappling with its legalization, gays from foreign countries are turning to the U.S. for help in escaping from – oftentimes – severe cases of persecution. Such a trend opens the door for the Christian community to help those for whom Christ also died, according to one pastor.

In many places around the world where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people are not accepted in society, they face various hardships and threats, such as imprisonment, beatings, forced marriages, and even death. Back in March 2011, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his support of a United Nations declaration signed by the U.S. and 85 other countries calling for an end to violence and persecution against LGBT people worldwide.

“We will continue to promote human rights around the world for all people who are marginalized and discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton. “And we will not rest until every man, woman and child is able to live up to his or her potential free from persecution or discrimination of any kind.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services issued new guidelines for how LGBT immigrants coming to the U.S. seeking asylum should be treated. The guidelines address not only the legal issues when it comes to interviewing LGBT people, but also how to approach questions about possible sexual abuse they may have suffered.

“This guidance will give officers the tools they need to gather the necessary evidence for validating an asylum claim, while respecting the often sensitive issues that potential asylees must navigate based on their past persecution,” said Immigration Equality’s legal director Victoria Nelson in astatement. The organization deals with equality issues for LGBT people trying to emigrate to the U.S.

There are about 250 such cases of LGBT people seeking to come to the United State to escape persecution each year, according to Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality. Although LGBT people get persecuted all over the world, especially in the Middle East, many of those that come to America seeking asylum are from Jamaica – as those who live farther away find it more difficult to make the trip and escape to the States.

Homophobia is especially prevalent in Jamaica, a 2011 study on the attitude and perceptions of Jamaicans toward same-sex relationships revealed, in which 85.2 percent of respondents said that they did not think homosexuality among consenting adults should be legal.

Nelson confirmed in an email to The Christian Post that the highest number of LGBT asylum seekers come from English-speaking Caribbean countries and especially Jamaica, where many LGBT people face horrific violence and even death.

In the U.S., LGBT people experience protection from many of the hardships they have fled from in their former countries – and a U.S. pastor says that now is the time for churches in America to show that despite the widespread opposition to gay marriage, they are true to their claims that they still love and want to protect the individual.

Evangelical Christians hold to the biblical view that homosexuality is sin, and that God enables believers to overcome sin.

“This is an opportunity for the Evangelical Church in America to stand up and actually open their arms to offer protection and grace to the LGBT refugees from other countries,” pastor Tim Lucas of Liquid Church in New Jersey told CP.

“In Africa right now there is a homophobia that has turned very violent and is the antithesis of what Jesus Christ came to do, which is to reconcile all men to God.”

“Specifically, the American church in general has had a sad history of judgment toward the gay community and I think this is actually a wonderful opportunity to begin reversing that public perception,” Pastor Lucas urged.

 

Bisexuals need not apply: A comparative appraisal of refugee law and policy in Canada, the United States, and Australia

By Sean Rehaag, Osgoode Hall Law School

This paper offers an analysis of refugee claims on grounds of bisexuality. After discussing the grounds on which sexual minorities may qualify for refugee status under international refugee law, the paper empirically assesses the success rates of bisexual refugee claimants in three major host states: Canada, the United States, and Australia. It concludes that bisexuals are significantly less successful than other sexual minority groups in obtaining refugee status in those countries.

Through an examination of selected published decisions involving bisexual refugee claimants, the author identifies two main areas for concern that may partly account for the difficulties that bisexual refugee claimants encounter: the invisibility of bisexuality as a sexual identity, and negative views held by some refugee claims adjudicators towards bisexuality as well as the reluctance of some adjudicators to grant refugee status to sexual minorities who differ from gay and lesbian identities as traditionally understood.

International refugee law and sexual minorities It is well settled in international refugee law that non-citizens facing persecution abroad on account of their sexual orientations are eligible for refugee status?4 The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,25 however, does not explicitly include sexual orientation.

The Convention defines a refugee as any person who owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

Some sexual minority refugees have – with varying degrees of success – attempted to argue that their fear of persecution stemmed from their ‘political opinion’. The argument has, thus far, proved to be particularly effective for human rights activists who encounter heteronormative persecution as a result of their efforts to enhance the rights of sexual minorities.

Political opinion, however, has been interpreted vel)’ broadly in international refugee law to cover ‘any opinion on any matter in which the machinel)’ of State, government, and policy may be engaged’. As a result, one could plausibly argue that ‘political opinion’ covers sexual minorities who face persecution for challenging both traditional gender norms as well as the inevitability of heterosexuality. With respect to the former (i.e. traditional gender norms), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Guidelines on Gender-Related Persecution state that political opinion ‘may include an opinion as to gender roles. It would also include non-conformist behaviour which leads the persecutor to impute a political opinion. , This is significant because persecution targeting sexual minorities often aims to ‘foster and maintain “appropriate” gender role behaviour’ .

Meanwhile,with regard to the latter (i.e. challenging the inevitability of heterosexuality), the argument would find some support in the commonly made claim that the heterosexually structured family is the fundamental socio-economic unit, one that is supported through a variety of state policies?2 Sexual minorities, by their vel)’ existence, may be understood as challenging both the heterosexual family and the state policies that support it. In other words, sexual minorities may have political opinions regarding gender roles and the heterosexual family imputed to them, and may be persecuted on that basis?

One might also plausibly contend that hetero-normative persecution sometimes involves not only persecution on grounds of ‘political opinion’ but also persecution on grounds of ‘religion,. The UNHCR Guidelines on Gender-Related Persecution, for example, state that………..




Florida Attorney Helps LGBT Jamaicans Seek Asylum

Originally posted on GLBTQ Jamaica Blogger 

Homophobia still runs rampant around much of the world, but the global LGBT community is experiencing change as human rights advocates like Grace Gomez fight for change.


Grace Gomez, a lawyer working with LGBT asylum seekers in the United States, has been making some progressive changes working with displaced LGBT Jamaicans in Florida.


Grace Gomez


Homophobia is a prominent mindset throughout the country and the United States serves as a haven for some refugees who Gomez has helped to seek asylum. Their stories of hardship are heart-wrenching, as the possibility of being beaten, stabbed, or jailed is an everyday reality for LGBT Jamaicans.


Gomez specializes in immigration law and has become a passionate champion for LGBT asylum seekers globally. When she began her immigration work, she knew nothing about the injustices facing LGBT communities around the world, and she definitely didn’t expect to become so involved in her work. The passion for her work was inevitable; after hearing the stories and gaining the trust of her clients, her mission became to change the lives of even just a few immigrants. 


According to Grace, once she won the trust of the Jamaican LGBT community it became much easier to understand the innate and ingrained fears that they had of their government, families, and country.


Many LGBT Jamaicans in the United States seeking asylum have been completely shunned and outcast. It was hard for Gomez to even get her clients comfortable saying the word “gay” as they more often claimed to “be on the other side;” a term coined out of fear and socially learned prejudice. This violent discrimination, from beatings to murders, is a reality instilled in the community dynamic. Even harboring someone suspected of being gay has violent repercussions.


A client of Gomez, who out of fear for his life would like to remain unnamed, was emotional as he explained his conditions and that of his fellow Jamaicans who were “lost” prior to meeting Gomez. He said that she “helped put things into perspective for me, and told me I could file for asylum or withholding.”

As defined by the United Nations persons claiming asylum must establish a “well-founded” fear of persecution, based on one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. The asylum seeker must prove their case and the courts are obligated by law to protect the refugee.


Withholding is defined under Article 3 and requires applicants to establish that it is more likely than not that they would be tortured if removed to a specific country. It is truly up to an Immigration Judge to decide if the candidate for asylum meets the standard. The notable difference is that asylum is discretionary while Article 3 protection is mandatory.


Relief from deportation under Withholding of Removal is found in the Immigration and Nationality Act under §241(b)(3) and 8 U.S.C. §1231 (b)(3). Under this section, the Attorney General “may not remove an alien to a country if the Attorney General decides that the alien’s life or freedom would be threatened in that country because of the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”


Furthermore, a grant of withholding of removal under INA § 241 (b)(3) provides for amandatory prohibition against removal of a person to a country when that person has met the burden of proof, in contrast to the discretionary relief available under a grant of asylum.


An application for asylum under 8 U.S.C. §1158 is generally considered an application for withholding of removal under 8 U.S.C. §1231(b)(3) as well. Thus, if the determination is made that a person’s life or freedom would be threatened if returned to Jamaica because they are homosexual, they are entitled to mandatory relief from removal to that country.


As Gomez’s client describes his feeling about being in court he explains, “[I]t felt like I went in there with a mask on, and when I came out, it felt like I could take my mask off.” That liberating moment is one that many gay Jamaicans trapped in their home country will never experience.


Jamaica gives no protection to its gay citizens as the law clearly denounces homosexual acts between men as illegal both publicly and privately. Law enforcement officers actively partake in the discrimination and turn a blind eye towards hate crimes. The judges and court system seem are unaware of the depth of the issue and discriminate just as law enforcement does.


Since protection under the law does not exist locally for LGBT Jamaicans, human rights advocates like Gomez are vital to not only creating a safe place within Jamaica but also changing the perspective of LGBT rights and rule of law in our global community. It is vital to recognize the imbalances of equality that exist around the world in order to demand change and more importantly affect it.

Angela D. Giampolo is an attorney, avid entrepreneur, and advocate for the LGBT community. Her column informs readers about changes affecting the LGBT community and provides expert advice on varying topics. As Founder and Principal of Giampolo Law Group, her goal is to provide a safe place for the LGBT community to service their legal needs and have their business and entrepreneurial questions answered. To learn more about Giampolo Law Group visit www.giampololaw.com and to read more articles, you can visit the firm’s two blogs at www.phillygaylawyer.com and www.lifeinhouse.com. To contact Angela directly with your business and legal related questions email her at: angela@giampololaw.com.

Source

Record number of LGBT asylum victories for Immigration Equality, most from Jamaica

New York, NY – Immigration Equality, a national organization that helps obtain asylum for individuals persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV-status, announced today that its legal and pro bono teams won a record 101 cases in 2010.  An overwhelming number of those wins – 38 – were for clients from the Caribbean, with 28 of those for individuals from Jamaica.  Other cases included 24 asylum seekers from Central and South America; 16 from Eastern Europe (including seven Russian clients); nine from the African continent and five from the Middle East.

Immigration Equality maintains the largest pro bono network of attorneys – in addition to its in-house legal staff – dedicated solely to securing asylum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender asylum seekers.  Firms providing pro bono representation for Immigration Equality clients include Dewey & LeBoeuf; Jones Day; Kirkland and Ellis; Latham Watkins; Ropes and Gray; Skadden; Weill  Gotshal; and White & Case. In addition to the 2010 wins announced today, the organization has 97 additional cases, filed in 2010, which are awaiting a ruling, as well as several cases filed prior to 2010.

“For too many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the world remains a dangerous place,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director.  “In many cases, the clients who turn to Immigration Equality for help are literally running for their lives.  They have been mistreated and beaten by authorities in their home country, disowned by their families and ostracized by society.  By offering them safe haven, the United States is not only saving their lives, but benefitting from the talent, skills and service these asylees bring to our country.  We are proud, and honored, to help them begin life anew here in their adopted homeland.”

Since the mid-1990s, the United States has recognized persecution due to sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis for seeking asylum.  In the past five years, Immigration Equality and its partner law firms have represented more than 500 LGBT people fleeing persecution abroad.  Clients have hailed from some of the most notoriously homophobic countries in the world, including Uganda, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere.

“Every day, we hear from vulnerable LGBT people who desperately need legal help and have nowhere else to turn,” said Victoria Neilson, Immigration Equality’s legal director.  “Our in-house legal staff maintains an average open case load of more than 100 cases at any given time.  It is our generous network of pro bono firms, which donate so much time and energy to our clients, that make the breadth of our work possible.  With their help, we are able to tackle some of the most complicated, heart-wrenching cases and ensure that we help as many people as possible.”

For more information on asylum for LGBT people, or to join Immigration Equality’s pro bono network of attorneys, visit www.immigrationequality.org.


Immigration Equality 2010 Asylum Wins by Country
*

Jamaica                        28
Russia                          7
Grenada                       4
Peru                             4
Uzbekistan                  4
Venezuela                    3
Mexico                         3
Ghana                          3
El Salvador                  3

* Countries from which Immigration Equality had 2 or fewer wins are not listed.
Total 2010 wins include six individuals who won withholding of removal or secured relief under the Convention Against Torture Treaty (CAT).

# # #

Immigration Equality is a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law, to reduce the negative impact of that law on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people, and to help obtain asylum for those persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or HIV-status. Through education, outreach, advocacy, and the maintenance of a nationwide network of resources, we provide information and support to advocates, attorneys, politicians and those who are threatened by persecution or the discriminatory impact of the law.

Read more: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/2011/02/a-record-number-of-lgbt-asylum-victories-for-immigration-equality-most-from-jamaica.html#ixzz1DTj3UMsI

Asylum seekers return from Amsterdam

Several Asylum Seekers are back in Jamaica and others are on their way home as they have expressed concerns on the systems there on persons seeking asylum. Apart from the legal concerns many are unable or have difficulty to assimilating into Dutch society. The camp like facilities that many persons are held are the source of complaints, there are stories of African asylum seekers for example are held while being processed for up to two years. There are two types of holding camps, open and closed.

Open camps persons are allowed to leave for personal business like shopping and entertainment such as clubbing but the camper must return and use the national pass provided by the state. The closed camps however are the opposite, persons held in these closed camps have very limited movement outside its precincts and there stipends as paid monthly are managed by the authorities and are held in accounts opened on the persons behalf, food and clothes are provided via orders compiled by the campers on the inside through a list circulated in the facility.

They complain of the inordinate amount of time it takes to be processed although they do admit that others asylum seekers who are not necessarily Jamaicans have committed infractions that make the systems employ stricter measures so everyone suffers the consequences. One familiar practice by many especially African refugees is that they destroy their identification materials upon entry to the country such as passports and other forms identification making it harder for the Dutch authorities to process them. The social scene doesn’t offer much they guys complain and that there aren’t many black men around for socialization, the club scene although varied is not accommodating to some as they are considered to raunchy for some as sex clubs abound and the music tastes is far different.

One other noticeable problem in as far as advocacy is concerned from a local standpoint is that Jamaica Forum for Lesbian Allsexuals and Gays doesn’t seem to have a proper system of engaging possible asylum seekers and explaining the expectations and other ramifications of such a serious move. With the return of the men many of whom left Jamaica in fear of their lives while others went because of friends’ insistence cannot go through the European system to seek asylum for the nest five years as advised by council before their departure. Many Jamaicans have sought asylum in Canada another one of those countries that has an easier set of processing procedures than the Unites States or The United Kingdom. The legal processes for proving ones reasons for seeking asylum are far more stringent than Canada or Amsterdam. We saw a recent success story in the United States where a gay man’s case that was being processes for some three years finally was granted asylum there after affidavits from gay representatives and blog posts from Gay Jamaica Watch and GLBTQ Jamaica’s blogs that carry GLTBQ issues in Jamaica.

How the returnees will adjust financial and otherwise upon their return home is another matter as again the present advocacy framework through JFLAG doesn’t offer that kind of assistance in counseling and otherwise to returnees so as to prepare them for any fallout notably financial given the difficult periods we are now experiencing as a nation. So Amsterdam may not be a viable option save and except for serious cases as some Jamaicans there have opted to stay especially due to the threat on their lives while they were here in Jamaica. There are others who have travelled there on a regular occasions especially during pride seasons, conferences and gay games so it’s not all bad though. As for Jamaicans who have sought asylum in Canada they are settled and seem to have adapted well as the Jamaican population there is much larger there so socialization and assimilation is much easier than in a European context.

Europe in as far as asylum seeking is concerned seemed to be more favoured by Africans and other oppressed states nearby hence the high concentrations of those ethnic groups there.

Anyway welcome home guys and I hope they are able to adjust quickly, knowing how good we are at adapting locally that shouldn’t be a problem.

Peace and tolerance

H

2009, the year that was

2009 is easily one of the most active years in our recent lgbt history, we saw many new developments mostly negative on our scene and an unprecedented public education campaign as it were by the media in both print and audio/visual formats on gay issues thus giving us very high visibility. Homophobic as well as gay on gay violence increased dramatically than previous years and deaths due to both also saw a shocking corresponding increase as well. Most of the more prominent cases that have come to light are still under investigation and as feared may never get solved despite the prominence of some of the victims involved, such is the nature of our police and justice investigatory arms.

The lesbian community specifically saw a continued onslaught of homophobic incidents with the so described and disturbing “Corrective Rape” cases continuing from 2008. We saw allegedly 5 cases in 2008 and a further 4 for 2009 with one couple who had relocated from another parish to restart their lives due to a previous homophobic attack of a different nature falling victims to this awful scourge.

Homophobic and related incidents
Gay persons murdered in 2009 rose to 7 from 4 in 2008 according to my information here with of course the three more prominent cases being that of British Ambassador Mr. John Terry, the founder of the adult entertainment website Rudejam who was found dead in his apartment in December 2009 with several stab wounds and the operator of Café Aubegine who was found with his throat slashed at his Mona address. Arrests have been made by the Police on the first and third cases aforementioned that of Mr. John Terry but the case stalled late in 2009 and should recommence in 2010. The alleged male tenant of the home of the restaurateur was arrested after evidence pointed to him having blood from the deceased on his hands, in his defense he has said he tried to stop the bleeding of the victim after hearing cries for help and arriving in the bedroom to find him on the floor with his throat slashed open, he used his hands to try to slow down the hemorrhaging.
The general public’s belief that the violence meted to gays are done by other gay persons has left an air of sinicism about the cases mentioned above so the interest in having them solved has waned greatly and they are overlooked in a sense by the relevant authorities or the pace has dramatically slowed as other societal issues take precedence.

Community based violence also increased in my estimation just by the reports with the two most prominent being the house attack in South Central Jamaica where a lovers quarrel ended up with a mob called in by one of the persons involved alleging that the other was gay and leaving the victim with bruises all over and the loss of personal items. The other very public gouging of the eye incident that has been followed closely by the mainstream media especially the Jamaica Observer, the accused has since been bailed and the trial continues despite the victim’s call the drop the charges and discontinuing the case which could not be done as the presiding judge explained that seeing a police report was filed and things set in motion that could not be undone. Other small skirmishes occurred but were not of major significance and the entertainment scene saw a leveling off of fights and incidents much to the delight of party goers.

Interventions/agitation
Social support and other similar activities from the sole formal GLTBQ organization JFLAG waned significantly, the usual press release followed major incidents and commentary in the respective print media however many persons specifically the homeless MSM problem which came to a head in 2008 – 9 left an ugly scar on the landscape with controversy surrounding the snap resignation of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life’s Executive Director due to a housing project meltdown and the decision by the NGO’s board to discontinue the activities with this group which included a safe house of sorts operated on the property. (See post following this) It is not yet clear as to JFLAG’s position on this issue as they have been mum as expected on the matter.
There seems to be a fear that issues must be kept secret from the rest of the community on general matters of interest. The ED of JASL at the time of this post was said to be travelling and could not be reached for comment. The homeless MSM saga became a sticky issue due to the lack of funds as said by JFLAG to adequately address the persons who fall in this category, it was the ED’s involvement in this matter that saw an upturn in the HIV/AIDS, behavior change intervention within the community and the impact was felt island wide however many are doubtful now and upset at the turn of events with mistrust re-emerging in as far as accessing testing/treatment services. This sensitive matter is being watched closely by ordinary gays on the ground as well as others in international circles including funders and concerned Jamaicans living abroad. Questions are being raised as to why it took JASL to do that kind of activity and not JFLAG fully?

Jamaican dancehall artists came under intense pressure and scrutiny from overseas GLBTQ groups specifically in the EU and the United States with emphasis under the Stop Murder Music campaign and similar typed activism. Many artists were blocked from entering countries and cities like Canada, The US (San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles), Luxemburg, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad, and Copenhagen to name a few. Mr. Mark Myrie aka Buju Banton of course made headlines from as early as June 2008 when his CD launch and subsequent tour dates were announced. He faced protests and a hazing incident at one of his concerts in Los Angeles over his lyrics in the song “Boom Bye Bye” (Inna Battyboi head) that advocated death by shooting etc on gay men. He eventually met with a group in San Francisco to work out a supposed compromise which turned out to be a public relations stunt to avoid further cancellations of his tour dates in the US which was bleeding millions of dollars. The lack of support from other dancehall acts openly was telling as it seems many were afraid of the impact it may have had on their careers and earnings from tours and CD sales if a backlash should occur.

The lack of support from the Jamaican GLTBQ community was also telling as the cancel Buju Banton website formed by a key player in the campaign has brought to bear that very few Jamaicans registered to be a part of the agitation from our supporters up north.

His subsequent arrest by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in December on alleged cocaine trafficking charges in Florida was linked by some as a “set up” by the powerful gay lobby who are using the issue to destroy his career. As it has now turned out both issues are unrelated and public support which was strong for him at first has down died down tremendously. JFLAG had tried to diffuse the rumour mill by publishing a letter to the Jamaica Observer and radio interviews on same.

Asylum seekers and professionals left in greater numbers in 2009 that probably any other time in our recent history as persons were distraught by the conditions they had to endure from bias to fear of violence in their communities. Others left because of economic reasons to pursue better opportunities in work and study. JFLAG and Women for Women lost its Co-chair and Chair respectively (one individual) in this grouping as well. Many took the opportunity to use the favourable asylum policies of some EU states in as far as homophobic threat was concerned and have been assimilating in the respective countries. It is hoped that links can be forged with those abroad to better agitate for rights based issues here at home and their financial support would be indeed welcomed. In trying to track the numbers it is estimated that more than 23 persons have taken the move some reluctantly as the possibility of return is not anytime soon, it is not yet known if JFLAG has a head count for this year or if they have been tracking it closely as some persons access them for information of the procedures necessary.

Legal Issues
As it relates to law we saw the passing of the revised Sexual Offences Bill with the deliberate exclusion of gender and sexual orientation discrimination clauses removed after vigorous debate and lobby from the anti gay establishment chief among them Lawyers Christian Fellowship/Council led by chief homophobe Atty-at-Law Ms Shirley Richards.
There were no submissions from the gay lobby during this crucial debate along with the Charter of Rights roster as well. The government capitulated to this move by the group in a bid to sure up political mileage and pushed the well timed “No to Gay Marriage” smoke screen launched by Prime Minister Golding just before the US President Obama signed their version of the Act to make it a federal offence for crimes against persons due to sexual orientation and gender discrimination playing with public sentiments on homosexuality in general. The gay community in Jamaica never asked for gay marriage rights during the Charter’s or SOB debates. It seemed to have worked as we have been overlooked in both pieces of legislation.

The Charter of Rights in the meantime was passed in the upper house and has been sent back to the lower house for ratification within some days time (normally 60 days or so) it should be debated there again possibly gazzetted and sent back to the upper house for final passage. Sadly very little was done in the community to sensitize persons on the importance of such a Charter and the possible implications it may have on the Buggery Act and specifically male homosexual sex in general. The government is intent it seems on a theocracy becoming moral dictators for private citizens’ decisions.

Media landscape
Nearly all mediums of media had a thing or two to say or publish in 2009 on GLBTQ issues but in fairness most of the publications were fair and some even went as far as to examine Jamaica’s homophobic problem, strong articles by commentators such as Ian Boyne, John Maxwell and Martin Henry were crucial in that examination.
The juxtaposing of religion, sexuality and gender issues were refreshingly good to see coming from the aforementioned as prior t recent times their writings were somewhat of a biased nature. What was clearly lacking was the standpoint of the gay community on a whole and this is where JFLAG has been faulted for not adequately having a pubic presence except for the occasional letter to the editor and second hand reporting by journalists on conversations held with persons within the group, they came for heavy criticism yet again by the community for the poor editorial condition of their website and seeming lack of engagement with the GLBTQ community. Although there were negative letters, articles and editorials as well in some print media and gossip tabloids (notably the Xnews and Observer Chat) the strong articles helped to bring balance to the scene and the editors of the respective papers and news rooms clearly are realizing that people can’t be led anymore and that the issues are being looked at with more scrutiny. There is still more interest that needs to come from the gay community.

JLFAG presence on radio was light in 2009 in discussing issues such as the Buju Banton arrest in December, the John Terry murder case and the San Francisco protest of Buju Banton’s album tour.

One ugly media moment was the now infamous Raggashanti interview of an alleged drag queen who was arrested by Police in Central Jamaica after herself and a man were caught in a compromising position in a car in a public place. The police soon realized he was a cross dresser and the story made headlines. The Observer Chat carried a full photo of the assumed cross dresser and insinuated that the members of the Police were allegedly courting her for sexual favours. The exchange was irritating for some and many were very upset at the Chat’s article which named JFLAG in an alleged telephone interview saying that she was OK and never suffered any harm following the media’s interest in the story and the television footage. The mother paper to the Chat, The Jamaica Observer was however irresponsible in it’s handling of this story and published full face photos of the cross dresser.
Transgenderism was highlighted in a piece in the Jamaica Observer and its impact from dancehall culture, media in general has been slowly playing catch up on this issue as the public’s understanding and that of the gay community’s tolerance is still far behind.

Outlook and possible hot beds for 2010
All in all 2010 is already a dramatic year generally for our nation with the present economic woes facing us and the fledgling IMF deal the administration is trying to pin down with a letter of intent. The john Terry, Rudejam Founder and Restaurateur murders are to be watched closely this year as the respective trials and investigations proceed.
The Homeless MSM situation at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and its outcome are also of concern. It is hoped that there will be some compromise reached between the Board and the Executive Director who has tendered her resignation or maybe a new organization formed to deal with the issue of these men who clearly need all the support possible at this time. She is known to have powerful connections to funders having herself worked with major agencies in her tenure elsewhere, details of these possible new initiatives are being held close to the chests of those involved but if it comes to fruition let us hope that it may serve the men in the group for their development.
The intervention strategies by JFLAG, The Ministry of Health in as far as HIV/AIDS and social support are to be watched too as some funding should be available for this year for them.
Transgender interventions and initiatives are expected and more informative activities such as workshops and seminars are urgently required to bring into focus the widely misunderstood group.

If anything was left out let me know please and thanks.

Here is wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and thanks for your continued support, comments and suggestions. Please keep on supporting this blog and other similar typed initiatives.

Peace & Tolerance
H

California Assembly sends message for LGBT Immigration Rights

by Melanie Nathan (lezgetreal)

41-28 votes

California’s Assembly has sent a message today – that it demands full immigration equalityfor its same-sex partners. Alice Kessler of Immigration Equality worked tirelessly to bring this to the Floor and now with her at the helm I have no doubt that it will pass the California State Senate, whereafter it is State Law. Immigration falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Law. So in effect a same-sex Californians who are married or in a domestic partnership with a foreigner, cannot sponsor their spouse to stay in the US and is hence subject to separation or exile, regardless of whether there are children or not.
In effect California is asking the Federal Government to do something about the plight of binational couples, the majority of whom it is believed are from California.
AJR 15 is a Resolution that expresses its support for the Federal bill, UAFA, Uniting American Families Act , introduced in this the 111th Congress by Congressman Jerold Nadler, (D) of New York.
UAFA places the words “permanent partner” next to “spouse” in the Immigration and Nationality Act, thereby giving gay and lesbian partners the right to sponsor foreign partners.
According to Kessler, this will now move to the Senate in January or February of next year. It ought to be a powerful tool from the citizens of California to send a message to our Representatives in Congress to sign as co-sponsors for UAFA and if already signed on, to find a way to move it forward.