International Day of Action against Jamaica’s Buggery Law

also see from Gay Jamaica Watch: Independence Skewed & Still No Justice at 52 and Parliament seeks submissions for sexual offences bills

jamaica protest nyc

Originally prepared by Melanie Nathan

NEW YORK – On the 52nd anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from the United Kingdom, human rights activists renew their calls for the repeal of that country’s buggery law, which effectively criminalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) life.  Violation of the colonial-era law carries a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor.  However, the consequences reverberate throughout Jamaican society, helping to fuel widespread anti-LGBT violence.

The U.S. Department of State, the Organization of American States, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and Amnesty International have condemned the history of violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals in Jamaica and called for repeal of the buggery law.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has failed to act to repeal the law despite indications during her 2011 campaign that she would work with the LGBT community.  Since then, activists have filed two suits against the law.

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In June, thousands of Jamaicans rallied in support of keeping the law and against the “homosexual agenda” after the government had been reportedly discussing the possibility of repeal.  Few voices openly favoring repeal have been heard within Jamaica.

Several activists at today’s protest have either been forced to flee to Jamaica or have family and friends under threat there.  Dwayne Brown, founder of Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, said, “From the safety of our adopted sanctuary countries, we demand an end to the grave injustices perpetrated against our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Every day, they must fight for their lives.”

“Jamaica’s ‘Emancipendence’ celebration is an appropriate time to reflect on the realization of the dream of inclusion captured in our motto ‘Out of Many One People,’” stated Maurice Tomlinson, a prominent human rights lawyer forced to flee Jamaica.  “We are standing today, as Jamaicans in the Diaspora along with our allies, to affirm that ALL Jamaicans are citizens and deserve the full rights of our citizenship.”

Jason Latty, President of the Caribbean Alliance for Equality, said, “It is imperative for the survival and vitality of the Jamaican people that we move swiftly to repeal the buggery law.  My organization is outraged about the increasing acts of terror directed against LGBT Jamaicans.  A nation that does not respect the life and dignity of its people is a nation on the decline.”

Edwin Sesange, Director of the Out and Proud Diamond Group, stated, “This is the time for Jamaica to practice love for all.  The buggery law should be scrapped immediately before more lives are lost.  The government of Jamaica and its citizens should work towards achieving equality and justice for all its citizens, including LGBTI people.”Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 7.35.25 PM

“In Jamaica, people masquerading under the guise of ‘religious’ leaders have carried the banner for hatred and violence directed against LGBTI people,” said Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York and Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute.  “Ending the buggery law will help Jamaica celebrate the diversity of God’s creation and honor the value, dignity, and worth of all life.”

“We plan to hold internationally coordinated protests every Independence Day until all Jamaicans can be considered free at last,” concluded Dwayne Brown.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 7.23.45 PMProtests were also held in London- attended by Edwin Sesange, Director of the Out and Proud Diamond Group.

ENDS

Question is are some of the cases being put forward as homophobic actually are?

Crisis communication is so important but one had to wonder what is the use of such protest when we are not sure if the politicians are being reached in private deliberations with some effect as I am sure the folks on the other sides are also using diplomatic pressure to bear as well.

This protest also seems to be going against the JFLAG turn on the call for a full repeal instead to a more sensible middle road of decriminalization seeing that rape is not covered under the present structure. But as usual the late in the day turn by the goodly J has gone unheard in the noise following the June 29th antigay protests by religious groups.

see this post on the JFLAG change in position: JFLAG Clarifies its Agenda

(their actual position actually changed in 2012)

The narrative for antigay groups such as the recently formed Jamaica CAUSE and Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship or Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society is a full repeal and that is what they are campaigning on via public advocacy, so what are Maurice Tomlinson et al saying to the world that we want to continue a fight unclear as to what we actually want or is this another image suring tactic disguised as protest for rights? We need to be credible in these things and stop the fiddling around.

The aims of the struggle has to be specific and not one group saying one thing or going in one direction while others are on a frolic of their own. As for the quoted sections by the author the buggery law does not in effect criminalizes LGBT life as she puts it but an act as carried out by some gay, bisexual and even heterosexual persons, this vagueness as well in the public advocacy and foreign support though welcomed sometimes just seek to could the thrust and plant all other kinds of ideas in the minds of the public including anti gay voices.

Peace and tolerance

H

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Gov’t Hush Hush On Gay Pressure …As Promoters Forced To Pull Queen Ifrica From Canada Show

Hasani Walters, Gleaner Writer

Queen Ifrica

Pressure from the Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA), a Canadian gay-rights group, has led to the removal of dancehall/reggae artiste Queen Ifrica from the roster of performers at the Rastafest International Reggae Concert which was held at Downsview Park, Canada, yesterday.

Early last week, a Facebook campaign was launched by the group in an effort to prevent Queen Ifrica from performing at the stage show.

“The campaign was started because we discovered that Queen Ifrica was slated to perform at an event called Rastafest in Toronto. Off the heels of her recent homophobic outburst (at the Grand Gala) days after the death of Dwayne Jones, our members felt disrespected that she would be allowed to perform in our country. It’s a gross double standard on her part, to even travel to Toronto, one of the most diverse countries in the world, to perform for money,” a representative from JAGLA told The Gleaner prior to the show.

Lobby pleased

In a press release to The Sunday Gleaner, the group expressed their support of the move by the promoters to withdraw the entertainer from the line-up.

“This is a welcomed move by the promoters. We have to send a clear message that persons who make comments that jeopardise the well-being of members of the LGBT community in Jamaica will not be welcomed in Canada. We hope that other homophobic persons will use this instance as a reminder that acts that incite hate will have negative consequences. We hope as well that the Government of Jamaica will move swiftly to put in place measures to protect members of the LGBT community,” the release stated.

Efforts to contact Queen Ifrica proved unsuccessful. However, in an earlier interview, when asked about her utterances at the Grand Gala, Queen Ifrica said that she had only expressed what she believed in.

“Like myself, I think they are exercising their right to speak for what they believe in. However, I think it is unfair for them to incriminate me when there is no incrimination there. I simply spoke for what I believed in. They should simply speak from what they believe in but not try to tarnish my character in the process,” she said.

The Government was also hush-hush on the matter, as efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna only returned an emailed response from Sasha-Gay Lewis, the senior communication officer at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, which read, “We have no comment.”

A statement by Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) stated that the group took “note of recent local and international developments subsequent to Queen Ifrica’s performance on August 6, 2013 at the Grand Gala”.

J-FLAG also acknowledged that less explicitly anti-gay music is being produced and broadcast in Jamaica. They believe, however, that dialogue is important in order for a greater understanding about the impact of anti-gay sentiments on the exclusion of and hostility towards LGBT people in Jamaica.

ENDS

also see: Queen Ifrica’s “Freedom of Speech” & advocacy found wanting it is indeed sad that yet again the guardians of the local struggle have become so impervious to the population that another group overseas has had to step in in frustration it seems on the face of it with JFLAG’s stewardship especially after the exclusion of the homeless men from the symposium on homelessness in Kingston on May 17th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia since then many persons have been up in arms about that and have been very critical of the J’s overall advocacy some of whom were once staunch supporters. So pronounced is the discord that JFLAG own staff especially the Programs Manager have been removing themselves from engaging the community on a whole on social media. It is sad that this new group although with good intentions have left us with a black eye and another layer added to the struggle that of the lobby now stifling free speech. Persons overseas who have our interest at heart NEED to take the lead from persons on the ground as there are consequences for such agitations, indeed all public agitations have such and are to be expected but care must be taken and proper communications and strategising be done prior to execution.

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JFLAG’s initial reaction was what actually set the stage for this latest impasse for all intents and purposes their continued over intellectualized style of crisis communicating has landed us in drama again. The very first sentence in their press release labelled Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel as vitriolic and carrying some anti gay animus; for God’s sake will the J just get direct with the cynical public that they want to convince so much so that Tony Rebel in that ill fated interview on Nationwide Radio where Mr Rebel humiliated the ED of JFLAG Dane Lewis as he asked Dane where did he Tony said any anti gay remarks that were suggesting violence and Mr Lewis could not then came the laughter and ridicule of the use of the words “vitriolic and anti gay animus” and he basically mopped up the floor with the press release and Dane fumble while cleverly forcing Mr Lewis to an apology, however Dane stopped short of a public apology and instead suggested they meet face to face but even that was met with laughter yet again as Mr Rebel suggested meeting in private may have some sexually suggestive undertones. It was that sequence of events it seems that have caused this new Canadian based group to be formed and acting on their own devoid of the real thrust that is the Stop Murder Music Campaign. Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel are in my eyes second tier homo-negative reggae acts and not as vitriolic as labelled by JFLAG landing us with a backlash we may yet to recover from in years to come.

Peace and tolerance

H

Boom bye bye? (Observer Editorial)

WE share the immense feeling of disappointment and pain that has met the sad pass to which Mr Mark Anthony Myrie — ‘Buju Banton’ to his legion of fans — came Tuesday in a Tampa, Florida court.

Through his first trial, and the second, we had hoped that the gun and drugs charges against him would have been proven false, and we desperately wanted to believe that his boastful talk about drugs was just him running off at the mouth and nothing else. Clearly, the 12-man American jury felt otherwise.

The artiste was found guilty of three charges — conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence, and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence. He was found not guilty of a fourth charge — attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.

We are in wonderment at the complexities of fate, that Buju Banton should be so brought low at the height of his musical career, his moment of triumph winning the coveted Grammy Award for his Before The Dawn album, from which some creative soul at the Observer quoted on the front page of yesterday’s edition.

Banton means much to reggae as a musical genre. The ‘Gargamel’ as he is also fondly called, had often been spoken of in the league of artistes named to bear the standard after the late great Jamaican reggae superstar, Mr Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley. His charisma, articulation, stage presence and penchant for hit-making songs, have endeared him to many here and overseas.

This has added to the pain of his guilty verdict in the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court where supporters wept openly.

Of course, not everyone is in tears. It is widely known that Buju Banton was regarded as the arch-enemy of gays and lesbians, following the release 15 years ago of his song, Boom Bye Bye, which is treated by the gay community as the anthem of the perceived campaign by reggae artistes to advocate violence against them.

The gay community, led by a radical group calling itself Outrage! has staged protests against Banton and several other Jamaican artistes, some of whom have since been refused American visas.

It is difficult to convince some Jamaicans that the gay community is not behind the alleged entrapment and eventual conviction of Buju Banton.

If any good can come of this bad situation, we hope that its important lessons will be learnt. Mr Myrie, after all, admitted what was caught on tape, that he “talked the talk” about drug dealing to someone who turned out to be an informant and he tasted a white substance said to be cocaine. Even if all that was done in innocence, juries are not mind-readers and they look at the evidence presented to them.

Drug dealing has wreaked havoc in this world, particularly in the United States where they go aggressively after suspected dealers. If you have no intention to become involved in the drug trade, stay away from people who are. And especially do not brag about something as serious and dangerous as drugs.

We sincerely hope that Mr Myrie will win his appeal, if he follows through on what is not going to be an easy road. Otherwise, we hope that his sentence would not be too onerous and that he will return to Jamaica to continue to thrill his fans.

Too bad for what has happened, but it certainly is not the end of the road.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Boom-bye-bye_8423522#ixzz1EsyZqsQk

Also see:

Bustamante and Buju Banton

By his own account, national hero Sir William Alexander Bustamante was born on February 24, 1884, which would be 127 years ago today. He died on August 6, 1977 at the age of 93. This national hero who was Jamaica’s first prime minister in political independence was decorated with British, Jamaican and other honours, and is arguably the most decorated Jamaican in history.

Two days ago, Mark Myrie who goes by the stage name “Buju Banton” was found guilty in Florida, USA, of dealing in cocaine. Is he really guilty or has he been framed? I do not know, but in any case it is another sad episode in the life of a popular entertainer. In the now defunct Jamaica Herald, on November 2 1992, some 18 years, three months and three weeks ago, my column was entitled, “From Busta to Buju”. At the time, it was in the news that Buju Banton’s song Boom bye-bye was causing a furore in the powerful gay communities in North America and Europe. It all happened when someone translated the lyrics into the sort of English that would be understood in North America.

(Left) BUSTAMANTE… most decorated Jamaican in history. (at Right) BANTON… didn’t seem to learn from earlier experience

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Bustamante-and-Buju-Banton_8419470#ixzz1Et06Sbmx

Also please see Caribbean Law TV’s interview with Professor David P. Rowe following the guilty verdict in the second trial of Buju Banton’s narcotics case. CLTV talked to Professor Rowe about the federal government’s process in bringing its second case, the way the defense made its arguments and the substance of the verdict.

Also see Barbara Gloudon’s opinion piece that appeared in the Jamaica Observer and posted on Gay Jamaica Watch –

Barbara Gloudon: “It isn’t the gays who’ve sent him to prison, despite all the Boom-Bye-Bye controversy. It wasn’t because he’s a black man from Ja”

As taken from the transcripts themselves in the conversation between himself and the informant (Buju didn’t know it at the time) he seems clearly interested in doing business, get the full 62 paged document here:http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2010/PDFs/banton.pdf he referred to snitches and that he didn’t event trust the privacy of the very conversation he was having then with the man named CS.

Peace and tolerance

H

 

Some More Opposing views to the San Fran Boycott

“Boxturtle” April 18th, 2009

– Another Gay Jamaica denouce boycott and its because he as no choice but because he talking the truth just read what he says and understand.

As a Jamaican gay activist living in Jamaica, I find the approach of these boycott organisers offensively paternalistic. Certainly it is well known that Jamaica is a violent and hostile place for gay people. But gay people here have been resisting that violence for some time. And as difficult as it is to see or as unsatisfactory as it seems to outsiders, everyday that there is one fewer homophobic attack or that we are able to speak in a forum about our challenges is a day of progress for us; everyday a group of gay men can go to a concert or play and be safe is a day or progress for us; everyday an obviously effeminate and feminised actor can go on stage unharmed and be the lead in the most popular plays in the country is progress for us. Our aim is to expand those small spaces. Some of us here prefer to frame our struggle as being about social transformation, not particularist rights.

People need to understand that we are not starting from the same place the boycotters are. This is why their context-devoid analysis is so puzzling. In one breath they castigate Red Stripe for not being strong enough in their support yet they claim that homophobia prevents gays from speaking out in the country. If homophobia has an impact on who speaks, it is more likely to be on those entities that are not specifically into the promotion of gay rights. Gay rights advocates have been speaking out, albeit, anonymously (and increasingly confidentially) but we are the gay rights activists, not Red Stripe. Red Stripe has more reason to be fearful about the repercussions of supporting gay rights than gay activists do.

Look guys, the last time we had foreigners calling for a boycott, there was a spike in homophobic violence in the island. When that happened, there were no foreigners around to help us deal with the fallout. Will the principals involved in this call be here this time around when those of us who are activists and who are becoming increasingly visible are the targets of a backlash? Will they help the gay community here when its voices are silenced?
Let me end by stating that there is a clear difference between martyrdom and victimhood. If we become martyrs in our own cause, very well. But we do not wish to be turned into victims of the excessive goodwill of others.”

“It was highly questionable from the beginning for Boycott Jamaica to take one statement from one Jamaican LGBTQ activist out of context to support their action, as a trump card to the nearly-unanimous opposition to their boycott coming from Jamaican LGBTQ people, but now we know that not even that person supports the boycott.Mr. Henry raises many of the same points I’ve lain out before on Bilerico: that any boycott or action that performed on behalf of another group of people should go through them first, that the groups’ specific action is counterproductive to the goal of reducing homophobic violence in Jamaica, and that Red Stripe is a particularly poor target for this boycott because of its history as a corporate ally to Jamaica’s LGBTQ community.

I’ve asked the organizers (to no avail) repeatedly for even an argument as to why they think this boycott would reduce violence instead of handing Jamaicans in general a scapegoat (LGBTQ people) for economic woes that are likely to come anyway as the recession continues. There is a risk with any demonstration or action, and the people who will suffer if the action fails are the ones who should be able to decide, themselves, what level of risk they’re comfortable with.Furthermore, the boycott organizers are not the experts on Jamaica here.

Jamaican LGBTQ people are far more knowledgeable about their own country than almost any American is. Boycott Jamaica has repeatedly tried to ignore JFLAG’s opinion by making the dismissive argument that Jamaican LGBTQ people can’t speak on their own behalf and need generous Americans to do it for them, generally pointing to that one statement from Gareth Henry as proof of their claim.The real question here is if there was any way at all for Jamaican LGBTQ people to express their opposition to the boycott and be taken seriously by the American boycotters. I hope that Gareth Henry’s statement causes some people to at least examine their positions more closely.” – strongjamaican

Jamaican overseas comments on the San Fran boycott

Thanks to Fiyu Pikni for this comment on our post below, thought it was important to post it as the dialogue continues on the issue.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about this renewed effort to influence change for the better, by our international allies.

I made the following comment on an article which supports the boycott: http://www.boycottjamaica.org/blog/huffington-post-time-to-boycott-jamaica/

“As a gay Jamaican, I am heartened by the efforts of our international allies, who are trying to increase general awareness of Jamaica’s homophobia, and what it means for queer identified individuals there. I agree with your approach, in that we need to be more proactive in our advocacy, if the Jamaican government is ever to recognize queers as citizens with inalienable rights.

That said, I am perturbed by the actions taken by boycott groups thus far, for they are exceedingly insensitive to the socio-cultural reality in Jamaica. Do not misinterpret me- doing nothing is not an option, but I hope that those who desire to boycott Jamaican products, for example, are sufficiently aware of the real challenges faced. Jamaica’s most homophobic citizens are perhaps the most likely to react with belligerence to the boycott efforts. Jamaicans do not like to be told what to do, or think. Generalization, yes, but i can promise you that this is the reaction the efforts you are supporting will yield. This will in turn make people more hostile towards queer identified individuals, and less receptive to issues affecting LGBT individuals.

The task at hand should really be to have the government decry violence against people of a queer orientation, and enact legislation to guarantee protection for them. They aren’t very empathetic to our cause now, and will be even less so once these boycotting efforts are in full gear.

Unless you are working directly on the ground, and with politicians, to get support for these legislative efforts, the goal of the boycotts will not be achieved. Further, whatever lofty goals one has to change the way Jamaicans perceive queers must be reevaluated. Pushing Jamaicans further into poverty will NOT make them more sympathetic of the needs of disenfranchised queers.

So I ask. In tandem with your support for the boycotts, are you also working directly with the LGBT rights advocacy group on the island to see what else can be done on the ground, with a grassroots approach. Are you encouraging people to write letters to the various members of parliament, who will ultimately have to vote on proposed legislation?

This problem will not be solved easily, because homophobic people are not rational, and so our cries will continue to fall on deaf ears, at least for a while. Clearly then, the issue must be approached in a holistic way, lest we exacerbate the dangers faced by queers, and particularly gay men and transgender individuals, in Jamaica.”

With each passing day however, I am more supportive of the boycotts. Let’s face it- as good a job as J-flag is doing, the Jamaican populace as a whole, and the Jamaican government, are not softening up to the idea that gays have a fundamental right to life and liberty. For many, we don’t exist as an oppressed minority. They often speak of foreigners imposing their immoral beliefs on Christian Jamaicans, completely oblivious to the reality that there is a sizable queer population in Jamaica, as in every nation. People need to learn, sooner rather than later, that this is not a matter of getting them to accept homosexuality…rather, our efforts should be geared at reinforcing the ideal that all Jamaicans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, possess certain inalienable rights that the government MUST protect- after all, is that not their mandate?

If only our justice system was more efficient, I would study law just so I am able to understand better the Jamaican constitution, and consider ways I could sue the government for acting in ways towards homosexuals that are unconstitutional… anyway, I digress.

I am tired of being silenced. I am tired of being Mr. sensitive nice guy, who must always accommodate the bigotries of Jamaica’s ignorant populace. Perhaps this boycott, if successful, will have innumerable adverse impacts on Jamaica, but the harm inflicted upon queer Jamaicans, whether through verbal or physical violence, should be of equal concern. There is no greater evil…

I will reiterate that I do not believe boycotts will ever twist the arm of the Jamaican government sufficiently for it to decriminalize buggery, and decry discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation/ gender. Ultimately, our members of parliament will have to vote on the matter, and I am sure that there isn’t very much support for our cause. Perhaps in a generation or two, but until then, what do we really have to lose?

I believe Jamaica’s unapologetic stance against homosexuals is as bad as it can ever be… Surely, the boycott efforts will serve to inflame some people’s homophobia, but it is not making them any less violent or intolerant than they were already prone to be.

I am somewhat unhappy with the very firm stance J-FLAG has made on the boycotts. Yes, I agree that there are other ways to go about this, and indeed the boycotts alone wont work. And yes, targeting Red Stripe was a bad move on their part.

But seriously JFLAG, seriously, wa wi fi du now? Jamaican gays literally live in fear. I LIVE IN FEAR. Last summer I was walking through town when a man shouted out behind me, “a wan a dem dat ino.” I was on my own, briskly walking to my destination- I don’t even care to hang out in public anymore…And my heart skipped a beat, because I wasn’t sure if his next uuterance would be, “come wi brush im.”

Now I know that you are fully aware of the dangers faced, and are doing what you believe is the best approach to dealing with the situation, which happens to be a diplomatic one… It is my belief however, that your approach has some limitations. Perhaps if we had more than one Queer rights groups, which had different philosophical views about the best approach to ending active discrimination, then we could be a bit farther along in our efforts. I need not mention the influence of political and social radicalism in the queer movement which began after Stonewall, in 1969 I believe.

In the absence of another organization with a more extremist temperament, the boycott efforts in the US by the various organizations, will potentially serve us some good. I guess time will tell.

Gareth speaks…..

End the call to boycott Jamaica

I think it is disingenuous of Michael Perelis and the group in San Francisco to use my release of last year to support your boycott issues of this year. I was part of the Canada based attempts at a boycott last year. We learned numerous lessons from that attempt, not least among which is the fact that the lives of LGBT persons in Jamaica are at risk. I have therefore changed my strategy and will do nothing without the inclusion of my colleagues in Jamaica .

I implore you to do the same and do not support your present efforts. The struggle to gain rights and freedoms for the LGBT community in Jamaica will never be won by groups acting independently, but through a coordinated effort of selfless persons, groups and organizations both locally and internationally.

This call for a boycott of Jamaica is outrageous and counter productive. The attack on Red Stripe is appalling and unacceptable, of all the cooperate organizations in Jamaica ; they were the ones who were willing to stand out and denounce violence against any group of persons. This self seeking effort / campaign of the group in San Francisco need to end now. JFLAG has stated they do not support the boycott and that need to be respected. If the community that you claim that this boycott will benefit is not in support what is your purpose of continuing? It is only when we work together we will make the difference

Gareth Henry Former Co-Chair and Program Manager
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays

Other Points of view on The San Fran boycott 2

by Carrie –

Gay rights activists in the United States are preparing a national boycott of Jamaica, known by some as “the most homophobic place on Earth.” The boycott will officially launch on Wednesday, at New York’s Stonewall Inn, with activists dumping Myers’ Rum and Red Stripe beer (both Jamaican products) down a sewer. In addition to liquor, the boycott will target tourism — a significant aspect of Jamaica’s economy.
At first glance, this appears to be a worthy battle for LGBT activists to take on. Instead of constantly focusing on same-sex marriage legislation, why not consider those living in parts of the world where gays and lesbians are continually beaten and murdered because of their sexual orientations?
Well, there’s one significant issue with the boycott: Jamaica’s LGBT population is opposed to it.
According to a press release from Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG), the boycott would most likely hurt, rather than help, the lives of LGBT Jamaicans. From the press release:
Jamaica’s deeply ingrained antipathy towards homosexuality and homosexuals is a social phenomenon that will not be undone by boycott campaigns or government dictate. It requires the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees LGBT people….It is important that our international allies understand the nature of our struggle and engage us in a respectful way about it.
The organizers of the boycott have heard JFLAG’s perspective — and have decided to continue with the boycott anyway, arguing that LGBT Jamaicans are not in a position to support a boycott, as it would endanger their lives.
Now, personally, I’m uncomfortable with boycotts of this nature under most circumstances. While it’s certainly true that damaging a nation’s economy is a powerful way to communicate a message to a governing body, it’s also true that such significant economic interference can negatively affect the lives of innocent civilians. In this case, damaging Jamaica’s economy will affect the lives of the country’s LGBT citizens — a community already marginalized and faced with the reality of homophobic violence.
But in this case, I think the boycott is particularly inappropriate. To ignore the years of work JFLAG has tirelessly put into creating a safe environment for LGBT Jamaicans is to undermine the very people these American activists claim to support. Disrespecting a community in the name of activism is offensive and inappropriate. And given the history of queer persecution in Jamaica, there is no evidence that the boycott would diminish the homophobic violence that plagues the nation. Though the activism behind this boycott may be well-intentioned, it is certainly misguided.
Do any of you support this boycott? If not, what alternatives, if any, are there for helping the LGBT people of Jamaica in a respectful manner?

Other Points of view on The San Fran boycott

Gay Jamaicans Voice Support for BoycottsPosted April 15th, 2009 by Michael Airhart

Some Jamaicans are speaking out in favor of efforts to boycott Jamaican goods or music until leaders take serious action to reduce antigay vigilantism.
Perhaps most prominent among music-boycott supporters is Gareth Henry, who was the co-chair of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays until he was forced to flee the country for Canada last year. J-FLAG publicly expresses disagreement with the boycott, but according Xtra.ca, Henry says that JFLAG can’t be seen to publicly support a boycott.
“They can’t be the ones to call for the boycott,” he says. “They can’t be that voice. But the gays, lesbians and queers on the ground are supportive of a boycott.”

Henry says he’s tried talking to the government.
“We have tried numerous approaches, numerous dialogues with government officials,” he says. “They have been non-responsive to the call. We have to hit people where it’s going to hurt, where they’ll feel it. In the Jamaican context talk is cheap. After 10 years of JFLAG’s existence what else can we do?”

Meanwhile, Stop Murder Music Canada (SMMC) — which advocates a boycott of Jamaican musicians whose songs contain violently homophobic lyrics — is now calling for a boycott of Jamaica if the country’s government doesn’t take action on homophobic violence by May 12.
Xtra.ca reports that Canada’s reggae community is split on the issue.
Christian Lacoste, an openly gay Montreal reggae fan who runs the website Murder Inna Dancehall, supports both the boycott and an official immigration ban on visits by homophobic dancehall artists. But Cezar Brumeanu, who runs the Montreal International Reggae Festival and that city’s House of Reggae nightclub, opposes a boycott.

Another boycott supporter: Jamaican blogger Dave, supports BoycottJamaica.org, a newer boycott of Jamaican goods and tourism. Dave — who is forced to remain anonymous to protect his safety — says:
This could potentially devastate my country during this global recession but this is basically the only thing I can do to improve my living conditions without putting myself in physical danger. Jamaica sucks when it comes to addressing LGBT issues and I am tired of living under these stupid conditions. Obviously, LGBT issues require much more attention Worldwide, even in the US, but Jamaica just refuses to even give us any basic rights. And they NEVER speak out against violence against gays. I don’t F-ing care how long it takes, just Boycott our asses and pass the word along.

The goals of BoycottJamaica.org are modest: There is no requirement that Jamaica affirm same-sex orientation or legalize same-sex intimacy. Instead, BoycottJamaica calls for Jamaican officials to publicly commit to ending antigay violence, and for the Prime Minister to clearly and unequivocally condemn antigay violence and express regret for past violence.
But they refuse. Until Jamaican leaders declare a halt to antigay vigilantism, a boycott appears to be the only way for LGBT people in the United States, and their allies, to tell Jamaica that they will no longer subsidize Jamaicans’ war against their gay neighbors and against basic human decency in exported music.

Hat tip: Box Turtle Bulletin

Press Release – No to Boycott in San Francisco 12.04.09

Please see letter sent to our international allies from JFLAG, friends and supporters below indicating that we do not support the boycott in San Francisco.

April 12, 2009

Dear Friends and Supporters:

We thank our international allies for their continued interest in the state of LGBT affairs in Jamaica. Your support over the years has strengthened our voice and made it possible for us to make progress where we hardly thought it possible. One of the most significant ventures in which our international allies have collaborated with us was the SMM campaign that started in 2004, and which culminated in a local debate about the appropriateness of violence and hate in Jamaican music played in public places. Despite the occasionally homophobic rant by rogue deejays, we have seen a general decline in the level of homophobia coming from new Jamaican artistes and in new music from Jamaica. We have also seen corporate sponsors withdrawing their support from music that promotes violence or discrimination against any group.

It is with this in mind that we find it unfortunate that a campaign has been launched calling for the boycott of two Jamaican products, one marketed by a company that unequivocally distanced itself from the hostility and violence typical of Jamaican music towards members of the LGBT community. In April 2008, Red Stripe took the brave and principled stance to cease sponsorship of music festivals that promoted hate and intolerance, including that against members of the LGBT community. The naming of Red Stripe, therefore, as a target of this boycott is extremely damaging to the cause of LGBT activists in Jamaica.

In the global arena in which we operate today, events in one place can and do have repercussions in another. Concomitantly, information about occurrences in different places across the globe is easily accessible everywhere. We believe that any overseas entity or organisation seeking to agitate for change in a context with which it has only passing familiarity should first do its homework to ensure that it does not do harm to its credibility and ultimately to the cause of the local community whose interest it seeks to defend.

It is unfortunate that the organisers of the current campaign to boycott Jamaica have failed in the key area of fact finding. The misguided targeting of Red Stripe does tremendous damage to a process of change that we began almost 11 years ago. The boycott call has now left us not only with our persistent day to day challenges but with a need to engage Red Stripe and attempt damage control as a result of actions that we did not take. Against this background, we would like to reiterate that while we appreciate the support given by our international allies, and understand their impatience for change, we who live in Jamaica best know and understand the dynamics of our situation. We also know that change is a slow and tedious process and those who engage in it must be patient.

Jamaica’s deeply ingrained antipathy towards homosexuality and homosexuals is a social phenomenon that will not be undone by boycott campaigns or government dictate. It requires the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees LGBT people. We have been doing this through a small but growing group of increasingly aware opinion leaders who are concerned about the damage homophobia does to our society. We need those ears to continue being open to us and we need the relative safety that some of us have been given to speak to them.

It is important that our international allies understand the nature of our struggle and engage us in a respectful way about it. Unless they are willing and able to lead the struggle in the trenches as we have done, it is important that they be guided by us. To do otherwise would be to act in a manner that destroys the space for dialogue that we have managed to create over the past decade and to set back our struggle. It is for this reason that we urge those in the international arena who seek to act in our name and on our behalf to do so not only with the utmost care and responsibility but also with due consideration for our efforts and concerns as members of the local activist community.

Sincerely,

Jason McFarlane
Programmes Manager
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays – J-FLAG
Tel: (876)754-8704
Website: http://www.jflag.org
Blog: http://jflag.blogspot.com/
email: jflagoffice@gmail.com, admin@jflag.org

Gay rights activists clash over tackling Jamaican homophobia

By Mathew Hywel of PINK NEWS

US gay rights activists have launched a campaign encouraging the boycotting of Jamaican products and services as a protest against the island’s treatment of gays and lesbians.

However, a Jamaican LGB organisation has said the campaign will damage their cause as one of the products targeted, Red Stripe beer, is openly supporting the anti-hate movement.

A campaign website, http://www.boycottjamaica.org/ was set up by former Human Rights Council Spokesman Wayne Besen, along with prominent LGB rights activists Jim Burroway and Michael Petrelis, and campaigns for Jamaica to become a pariah state until social attitudes on the island towards homosexuality change.

Jamaica is considered to be one of the most homophobic countries in the world, where gay sex between two men can carry a ten-year jail sentence or hard labour. Sex between two women is currently legal.

Mr Besen told the Huffington Post: “Why boycott [Jamaica]? Because Jamaica is on a downward spiral and suffers from collective cultural dementia on this issue. There is clearly a pathological panic and homo-hysteria that has infected this nation at its core.

“Jamaica is an island of self-righteous hypocrites. The Bible is used to rationalise brutality, and vigilante violence is justified with talk of virtues and values. But, the island is quite comfortable with ganja and gratuitous sex for heterosexuals.”

The website calls for boycotting of specific of Jamaican products sold in the US, including Myers Rum and Red Stripe beer.

In an open newsletter, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) responded to the website’s demands:

” … we find it unfortunate that a campaign has been launched calling for the boycott of two Jamaican products, one marketed by a company that unequivocally distanced itself from the hostility and violence typical of Jamaican music towards members of the LGBT community.

“In April 2008, Red Stripe took the brave and principled stance to cease sponsorship of music festivals that promoted hate and intolerance, including that against members of the LGBT community.

“The naming of Red Stripe, therefore, as a target of this boycott is extremely damaging to the cause of LGBT activists in Jamaica.

The letter added: “Jamaica’s deeply ingrained antipathy towards homosexuality and homosexuals is a social phenomenon that will not be undone by boycott campaigns or government dictate. It requires the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees LGBT people.”

Last month, it was revealed that gay men in Jamaica were at a higher risk of contracting HIV due to discrimination.

The prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, also recapitulated his government’s attitude towards homosexuality:

“We are not going to yield to the pressure, whether that pressure comes from individual organisations, individuals, whether that pressure comes from foreign governments or groups of countries, to liberalise the laws as it relates to buggery,” he said.