Here we are thinking the San Fransican boycott issue was a done deal…

The Gleaner 06.04.09

the gleaner seems to be lagging behind these days in it’s coverage of items don’t you think? See the piece below from the Flair section.

So, gays plan to boycott Jamaica and they are encouraging those who love their gay friends and relatives to do the same. I had to put my frustration in writing. This is Jamaica and we are against homosexuals.
There is no if, but or maybe about it. Why are they forcing us to accept them? We do not have to. We are a Christian country and homosexuality is contrary to our practices, so why should we drop all our morals, values and religious standards just to please their forbidden choice?

Music banned

They banned our music and tried to halt the careers of our dancehall artistes. Now they want to discontinue our products? I can understand the banning of the music because of the violence, but to try and turn people against our country and trying to stop our progress is another thing. We are simply standing up for what we believe in, which is in accordance with the Bible.

Homosexuals are not above our laws. This fact they can’t change.

There are other countries that gays can visit and do what they want to openly. Why not go there? Things like buggery are against our laws (Buggery, Offences Against the Person Act, Section 76.

And why should their family and friends suffer because of them? They should stay away from our tasty food, energetic music, beautiful island and beaches because we won’t bow down to homosexuals?

Instead of simply attacking us and trying to force us to protect and accept you, how about accepting our laws and abiding by them? You are not changing your minds and becoming heterosexuals, and we reluctantly accept that. Likewise, we are not changing our minds, or our laws to please you, so accept this. In the end, if you want to boycott our country, we don’t mind.

– Divine

Do you have something on your mind? Rant and rave about men, women, society whatever you fancy. Email what’s on your mind to lifestyle@gleanerjm.com. Pieces should be no longer than 300 words.

Gays in US ‘Boycott Jamaica’ – Gleaner Story 01.04.09

Sonia Mitchell, Gleaner Writer
A gay-rights lobby last week launched a Boycott Jamaica campaign in the United States city of San Francisco, discouraging patronage of the island’s exports – particularly Red Stripe – to put pressure on government and private-sector interests to rein in a perceived rise in attacks on sex minorities.

The move was launched in the Harvey Milk Plaza – named after a gay-rights activist whose characterisation won Sean Penn the Best Actor Oscar in February.

Michael Petrelis, campaign organiser, told The Gleaner Monday that the catalyst for the campaign was a US State Department report, published in February, citing an escalation of violent attacks against homosexuals in Jamaica.

Petrelis said neither the Govern-ment of Jamaica nor the police had exhibited a commitment to protect gays or encourage tolerance of sex minorities.

Aims to spread message Though not providing specific figures on the size of its movement, Petrelis said the group aimed to spread its message in other US cities such as New York and Chicago.

The boycott has targeted Red Stripe beer, mainly because of the product’s international prominence, Petrelis said. The group is bidding to cut sales of Red Stripe beer in gay bars and restaurants in San Francisco within 30 days. Twelve such establishments have assented to the boycott, Petrelis said. The Gleaner could not immediately verify if Red Stripe products had indeed been pulled.

Petrelis said his group would also dissuade Americans from holidaying in Jamaica. Tourism is one of the island’s foreign-exchange gold mines.

A meeting between the lobbyists and Dr Newton Gordon, honorary consul of Jamaica for San Francisco, has been scheduled for next Tuesday.

J-flag deplores boycott

However, Jason McFarlane, programmes manager at the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), said it deplored the boycott, particularly because Red Stripe had withdrawn support from entertainers – particularly of the dancehall genre – who promoted violence against gays.

“We had spoken to them not to go ahead with the boycott when they first contacted us last week, but they went ahead despite our response,” McFarlane told The Gleaner.

Meanwhile, Maxine Whittingham- Osborne, head of corporate relations at Red Stripe, said the company was surprised by the gay advocates’ apparent random targeting.

“Over the years, by our actions and our policies, we have demonstrated that we do not advocate any bias or prejudice against any individual or group(s),” she said yesterday.

Whittingham-Osborne said Red Stripe had not had any consultations with the group, but did not rule out engaging them in discussions. She declined comment on whether the company was considering legal proceedings against the boycotters.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding earlier this year said his government would not repeal its buggery laws. Attempts yesterday to contact local police about whether attacks on gays had increased were unsuccessful.

A Word on San Fransican Gays Launch ‘Boycott Jamaica’ Campaign Over Rising Violence

by Howie

Over the weekend, Saturday to be precise a small group of LGBT persons launched a public demonstration against Jamaica’s human rights abuses against its gay citizens. The “Rum Dump” as it also named was successful as outlined on
boycottjamaica’s site and http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/

While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE’s boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before. The stories told to us by many victims included hints that we (gays) were getting foreigners to force their nasty lifestyle on Jamaica and other derogatory remarks so the attackers felt justified in their actions.

I ask you our friends to be mindful, JFLAG is slowly working on the ground to reach several objectives which include on going dialogue and other strategies which I am not at liberty to reveal now that I am aware of. Also to consider are the limited resources available for any action that may need to be taken in crisis intervention cases.

Let us remember too that it was Red Stripe, one of the targets of this ban campaign that withdrew financial backing for events and artists who promote violence of any sort against Jamaicans some time ago, we wouldn’t want to erode that small gain now, small as it was it was a step in the right direction.

Thanks to the organizers and participants however for showing concern and for taking the steps to bring the matter(s) to public light but let us communicate before any other drastic actions are taken, I know that there are passionate persons out there to our cause and I am grateful personally and by extension I know the JFLAG team and gays here are thankful too.

One Love

H

JFLAG Open Letter To The Prime Minister (Text)

May 26, 2008

Hon O. Bruce Golding
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Kingston 10

Dear Mr. Golding:

Recently a number of international human rights organisations have called for a boycott of Jamaica over concerns about how gays and lesbians and those perceived to be so are treated in the country. For our part, we at J-FLAG, while disagreeing with the strategy of a tourist boycott, have stated our concern about violence against persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. We note your intervention in the matter in both the local and international media, where you have suggested that the right to privacy is guaranteed and ought not to be violated by the state. Yet, you have confirmed, in a very public way and in a global arena, the view that Jamaica is a repressively homophobic society. Your interview on the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’, for instance, presented the country as one where open discrimination against gays and lesbians is not only commonplace but sanctioned by a long-standing cultural history, ostensibly enshrined in law, and now condoned by the country’s political leadership.
We believe that the atmosphere of violence against homosexuals is sustained in part through the
perception that homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, based on the provision in the Offences Against the Person Act criminalising buggery. While the law relates to all persons engaged in anal sex, it is to be underscored that the offence, driven by a religio-cultural sense of what is biblically appropriate behaviour, is used symbolically and disproportionately against men engaging in consensual sex. This kind of legislating on the basis of religion is problematic because it lacks consistent application; it is not used against heterosexual persons. Further, no other contravention of biblical sexual values—for example, adultery or fornication—is criminalised in Jamaica. We contend that the continued existence of this law is a violation of our right to privacy and makes many consenting adults into unapprehended criminals simply for having sex.
You also seem to have misunderstood our concerns. We wish to state that one of J-FLAG’s primary concerns is the lack of redress for culturally-sanctioned violence against sexual minorities. In your public pronouncements, you have depicted this as constituting a quest ultimately to sanction same sex marriages. We wish to make it unambiguously clear that same sex marriage is not on J-FLAG’s agenda.
We perceive the dragging of this issue into the discussion as a smokescreen that distracts from the real challenges of how as a society we grapple with the violence and hostility that have come to define our engagements around controversial but important socio-cultural issues.
Your statement to the BBC that the country would not be pressured by outsiders into changing its values around homosexuality begs the question of whether you have instead been willing to listen to the many local voices raised about the same concerns. We know that this has not been the case and note that the shutting down of such a dialogue by retreating into a discourse on the cultural right to prejudicial behaviour makes it difficult if not impossible to achieve substantive progress on difficult questions in the society.

Sincerely,

Jason McFarlane,
Programmes Manager,
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays

Boycott Suspended

The tourist boycott of Jamaica has been called off despite an official response from the island’s government that barely mentions homosexuality.

Stop Murder Music Canada (SMMC), the group organizing the boycott, cancelled the action after receiving an official response from Anne-Marie Bonner, the Jamaican consul general.

The response refuses to specifically recognize gays and lesbians as a protected group in Jamaica’s constitution and doesn’t even mention repealing laws against homosexuality.

But Akim Larcher, the founder of SMMC, says the response was enough to call off the boycott. The response was dated May 15, three days after the deadline set by SMMC.

“The letter may not suffice in every respect but it is definitely a step forward that they see a responsibility to protect their citizens,” says Larcher. “There are quite a number of positive things, especially around police and law enforcement.”

SMMC — a coalition of groups including Egale Canada and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto — had demanded that the Jamaican government immediately denounce homophobic violence in the country and begin work on repealing laws criminalizing homosexuality, including sexual orientation in the Charter of Rights and developing education campaigns for the country and for the police.

Bonner’s response doesn’t specifically address any of those demands, although it does address questions of police accountability and structural reform. She writes that she wants to “draw attention to some of the relevant actions being taken by the government of Jamaica:

“A bill for consideration by Parliament at this session to establish an independent authority to have statutory responsibility for investigating instances of abuse by members of the security forces;

“A bill to establish a special coroner to conduct speedy inquests in cases where a citizen dies at the hands of agents of the state…

“Budget provided for continuation of the Citizens Security and Justice Program (CSJP), which had a positive impact on community strengthening and crime reduction.”

The Jamaican Ministry of National Security describes CSJP as a “national crime and violence prevention strategy.”

Bonner writes that “The government is focused on the need to dramatically reduce the incidence of crime in the country, regardless of cause…. You would be aware of the public statement issued by the government on Apr 14, 2008 reiterating its strong condemnation of ‘mob attacks and violence against any individuals or groups for any reason whatsoever,’ whilst underscoring the obligations of the state, in particular the police in such cases.

“In the context of your specific concerns it is to be noted that the constitution and laws of Jamaica provide protection for the rights of all. There is not an intention to write into the constitution specific reference to any particular group, as all groups and individuals have equality under the law.”

Larcher says he is not disappointed by the letter’s failure to mention homosexuality.

“That was totally pretty much expected,” he says.

Larcher admits that the defiant response of Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding also made SMMC think twice about a boycott, as has the possibility Golding may soon call a snap election.

On Apr 23 Golding told reporters asking him about a possible boycott that he had “seen nothing yet to convince” him to repeal Jamaica’s antisodomy laws, saying, “There is a road down which I’m not going to allow this country to go under my leadership.”

But Larcher says the boycott call has had positive effects.

“It has not left us where we were,” he says. “It’s forced the Jamaican government to face the issue head-on. It’s put them on alert. In terms of the international support it has raised the level of support.”

Larcher says SMMC will try to force the Canadian government to use its trade relationship with Jamaica to effect change.

“We will continue to raise the education level here in Canada,” he says. “We will continue putting pressure on the government here to raise human rights and sexuality in the current situation in Jamaica.”

Bonner’s letter also makes reference to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) — the country’s queer lobby group. It is, in fact, the only time the letter uses any words to do with homosexuality.

“You would, I am sure, be aware, that the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays does not support your strategy for a boycott of Jamaica’s tourism and trade….” she writes. “It is to be assumed that, naturally, the views of the persons whose interests are ostensibly being promoted will be respected.”

“We are continuing to have an ongoing dialogue with JFLAG,” Larcher says. “We are going to try to provide more strategic support for them.”

The program coordinator of JFLAG says the boycott proposal has led to additional homophobic violence.

“We’ve had about four cases [of attacks attributed to the boycott] which have come to us,” says Jason MacFarlane. “Our perspective is still the same. A boycott is not helpful, especially since the prime minister has made a statement that he won’t be going down that road.”

Travel agents say that a tourist boycott was not likely to have a major impact anyway.

“I’m not sure if they’re getting a lot of queer dollars so I’m not sure how much impact a boycott will have,” says Deb Parent of Toronto’s Conxity travel agency.

Parent also says a boycott might have hurt gay Jamaicans more than it helped them.

“There are many poor countries around the world where poor queers are part of that tourist economy,” she says. “It might be better to actually make a point of going and hanging out with queers who are on the front line in a way that I, as a Canadian, am not.”

John Tanzella, the president of the Florida-based International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, agrees a boycott would accomplish little.

“Zero,” he says. “If anything it’s going to hurt the gays and lesbians in Jamaica who are trying to survive on visits from gay and lesbian visitors. It wouldn’t be proper for us to go against the wishes of the local gay organization. It would be kind of arrogant.”