Protect lesbian and gay population (Observer Letter)

Dear Editor,

“Corrective rape” is the barbaric practice where men rape lesbian women to “make them straight”. This heinous practice is alive and well in Jamaica but goes largely unreported.

Nevertheless, last year there were six reported cases, and this month two lesbians were raped within days of each other.

The first young lady was walking home when she was brutally set upon and gang-raped by a group of four men from her community.

The men had complained about and seemingly had had enough of her “butch” or manly attire and were also upset that she had all the good-looking women.

They therefore “cut her” so she can better “tek man”.

Two days later the second young lady, a known friend of the first, was driven away in a taxi, held at knife-point and brutally raped after being forced to perform oral sex on her assailant.

She was then dumped partially clothed and told that the next time her rapist would use a condom.

Both rapes were reported to the police. However, it is doubtful the women will follow through with the prosecutions as the stigma and discrimination faced by raped lesbians in Jamaica is much worse than regular rape victims: in the eyes of most Jamaicans, lesbians have dared to challenge the hetero-normative status quo and have therefore somehow caused their attacks.

As a people we should have a national revulsion to such often violent abuse of the rights of Jamaica’s lesbian and gay population. Instead, encouraged by our leaders and laws, many of us wear our homophobia like a badge of national pride.

Maurice Tomlinson

maurice_tomlinson@yahoo.com

ENDS

Good to see that some are finally catching up with the correct terminologies and issues but this issue of corrective rape has been a sore point from late 2007 when several cases came to light especially during my tenure at Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays, JFLAG the problem is it is not a JFLAG representative writing these letters but a paid consultant from AIDSFREEWORLD, why is JFLAG not able to speak on the issues definitively instead of having a quasi spokesperson from another entity?

These are the things that make sections of the community so cynical and wonder what are our advocates as they say they are doing really?

It has taken far too long for this to reach the lexicon of the organization and worse yet to properly engage and address women’s issues and lesbian issues and not leave them entirely to the affiliate WomenforWomen who are not funded or equipped to deal with matters effectively. Let us not forget that Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays was formed out of its parent Jamaica AIDS Support for Life to deal with advocacy issues that they were not equipped to deal with at the time as JASL focuses on HIV/AIDS interventions. The shifting or passing of direct responsibility to subgroups with volunteers is insufficient to address frontline and psycho-social needs of the victims in particular and the greater LGBT body politic. Both JASL and JFLAG to date have no resident Psychologist or Social Worker and have to outsource or refer to paid private practices in most instances if one is fortunate to get that in their case.

Peace and tolerance

H

 

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Gay lawyer demands conflict resolution skills for same sex couples

In a Gleaner letter he wrote:

We need conflict-resolution skills

The Editor, Sir:

Recently the media reported two incidents of vicious domestic murders in which females were killed by their male partners (one’s throat was slit and the other was stabbed to death with an ice pick).
The prevalence of such vicious acts of domestic violence is proof that we as Jamaicans have poorly developed conflict-resolution skills.

Sadly, such incidents are not uncommon, despite the presence of the Domestic Violence Act. This Act was intended to protect (heterosexual) partners from spousal abuse through provisions for, among other things, protection orders (which prohibit a dangerous spouse from entering the space of a threatened spouse) and occupation orders (which allow a threatened spouse to continue occupying disputed premises).

Yet, even with the failings of the Act to curb domestic violence in Jamaica, same-sex couples are left out of even the minimal protections it provides. The Act does not extend to homosexual couples and, yet, we are surprised why violence in these relationships ends up making front-page news.

Endangered partners in same-sex relationships simply can’t get protection from the law and the result is often fatally tragic.

Same-sex couples are no more violence-prone than their straight counterparts. The difference is that the law offers protection to heterosexuals caught in dangerous domestic situations while ignoring same-sex couples.

This constitutes, inter alia, a breach of the right of homosexuals to equal protection of the law. It is high time the Government put an end to such deadly discrimination by amending the Domestic Violence Act to include same-sex couples.

I am etc.,

Maurice Tomlinson

maurice_tomlinson@yahoo.com

Montego Bay

Buggery no shackle, gays want ‘hate crimes’ law (flashback 22.05.08)

Another emancipation day flashback post that I want us to look at in terms of tracking the various points of view presented over the years epecially those that are with merit. I particularly was taken by this letter as it seem to have come from an individual with a fair perspective.

What do you think? …

Have a read:

Buggery no shackle, gays want ‘hate crimes’ law

The Editor, Sir:

I believe the Legislature and Government of Jamaica have missed the point on this whole issue of homosexuality. The fact is, the buggery laws are not a shackle for homosexuals who exist in this country and the decriminalising of such acts would have had little consequence on those men who perform sexual acts consensually among themselves.

In reality, these laws don’t make ‘homosexuality’ illegal as, in its broadest sense, homosexuality includes lesbians as well. So, for our prime minister and government who would much rather political expediency than an ‘objective’ discussion on same-sex relations in our nation, the buggery laws shall remain.

Put reasonable laws in place

The gay people of Jamaica do not need the permission of churches, Government or public figures to live our lives and have sex with whom we choose. However, we do want the Government to put its policy where its mouth is and ensure that violent acts against people of different sexual orientation and also other vulnerable members of society, such as the disabled, mentally ill and even people living with HIV and AIDS, are punished to the full extent that law provides.

This should be done with the creation of a hate crimes law which would serve specific penalties for persons accused of harming or murdering people because of their differences, whether perceived or otherwise.

In reality, it only takes an assumption or a suspicion of being homosexual in some Jamaican communities for someone to be attacked and brutalised. Of the many cases that have come to public attention of ‘gay’ men being beaten and even killed, very few have been as a result of these said men being caught in compromising positions. Yet, they are set upon and, in what might seem like sanctioned events, the all too familiar scene unfolds.

Classic defence

And when someone murders a known homosexual, we are tired of hearing the classic gay defence of ‘he tried to rape me’. What of the many lesbians who suffer in silence after being raped by men who believe they can turn them ‘straight’? Why should they suffer because of circumstance?

Of course, the hypocritical ‘religio-political’ mass of this nation will quickly condemn such efforts as protectionism for ‘sinners’ and the morally decadent, yet they would decry general acts of violence in society. So, I ask, what is the distinction?

Aren’t we all just a bunch of sinners being murdered by a bunch of other sinners? Our Government promised protection for all. ‘All’ should include the yet to be acknowledged homosexual men and women of Jamaican society.

I am, etc.,

JAMES MARCHAND

jtmarchand@gmail.com

Kingston 8

Holding a corner for gays (flashback 26.04.07)

With today August 2nd being celebrated as Emancipation Day as August 1st was on a Sunday let us take a look in the flashback category of posts that appear here and on Gay Jamaica Watch and GLTBQ Jamaica (blogger) as to where as LGBTQI people are we in a so-called emancipated and independent nation.
With a weak Charter of Rights Bill that hasn’t even recognised humans as humans before distinguishing rights to same as to mention any item towards us would jeopardise the political establishment’s popularity, we are still highly a marginalised group held under the thumbs of biblical literalists and misguided christians on the face of it who do not understand or try to understand the thing they so readily condemn.
The article below was an editorial in the Gleaner published April 26, 2007 after a most unfortunate comment by Public Defender Mr. Earl Witter, an agent of the state openly displaying homophobic and stereotypical tendencies or a lack of understanding or ignorance on his part? you be the judge. This is the officer that is charged to protect the rights of citizens who otherwise would not have a voice or financial and legal means to do so in seeking redress for state matters.

One would have thought that in a functioning democracy we would have seen and learnt by now that all citizens are equal.

Emancipation and respect for us anytime soon?

here is the article:

EDITORIAL – Holding a corner for gays?

It is tempting, and perhaps easy, to be sympathetic to Public Defender Earl Witter’s suggestion to gays in Jamaica not to flaunt their tendencies to avoid being victims of violence.

Mr. Witter’s advice is particularly arresting, given his uncharacteristic retreat, in a speech on Tuesday (24.04.07), to the Jamaican vernacular, to tell homosexuals to “hold your corners”.

But while appreciating Mr. Witter’s intent we believe that his statement was unhelpful and his prescription unfortunate. Or perhaps more accurately, what Mr. Witter perceives to be his delicate balancing act is a rather ungainly and ungracious tilt into the arms of the vulgarians. He should instead be using both the real and symbolic authority of his office in breaking new legal ground in the expansion of individual rights and freedoms, as well as the promotion of tolerance.

As we understand it, the job of the Public Defender is to help in the protection of people’s constitutional rights, especially when these rights are infringed by the state. And to be fair to Mr. Witter, in his speech to Rotarians in Mandeville, he did abhor violence against gays and stressed the right of every single individual to protection under the law.

But Mr. Witter also made two other points that are of considerable significance. The first is that buggery, the main act of sex for homosexual males, remains an illegal and punishable offence in Jamaica; the other is that “tolerance has its limits”.

So, in the context of Jamaica’s homophobia and the legal sanctions against buggery, as Mr. Witter’s argument goes, gays should keep their behaviour to themselves and in their bedrooms so as not to “provoke disapproving reactions”.

That’s the easy way. For the question to be raised is what, in Mr. Witter’s view, constitutes provocative behaviour by gays. As the Public Defender should well know, this ‘provocation’ needs not be a public display of affection or anything which the courts would deem to be acts of public indecency.

It is enough for an individual to be assumed to be gay for that person to be subject to physical attacks, as happened to three young men recently at a Kingston mall. They found refuge in a store against a baying mob and had to be rescued by the police. Then there was the case of alleged male cross-dressers being attacked at a funeral service at a church in the same town in which Mr. Witter spoke.

The fundamental test of a democracy is not merely its tolerance of its minority, but how well that democracy protects their rights and freedoms – no matter how much the majority abhor the views and/or lifestyles of the disparaged group.

What we would have preferred and expected of Mr. Witter, therefore, is his insistence that not only should the state have no voyeuristic place in people’s bedrooms, but that anachronistic laws ought to be removed from the books.

He should have insisted, too, on the courage which he suggests is lacking in legislators. Mr. Witter should have demanded, too, that the police, even at this late stage, charge those who attacked the alleged gays at that Kingston mall.

The first stage of compromise is usually the rights of those we abhor, or of the vulnerable, but we don’t usually stop there.

editor@gleanerjm.com

Gays blocked from Hip Strip says attorney

The Editor, Sir:

On Friday, July 9, about 8:10 p.m. a group of men and women, some gay, some not, went for a stroll along the Hip Strip in Montego Bay. Their pleasant evening’s outing was soon cut short when members of the Courtesy Corps contracted by Marksman to the Ministry of Tourism started hurling homo-phobic slurs at the group.

In the vicinity of Doctor’s Cave Beach, corps members blocked the group’s further passage, insisting they were gay and hence not allowed on the Hip Strip. This happened in full view of locals and tourists at that busy Friday-evening location populated with numerous eateries and outdoor entertainment. Yet, I understand these ‘tourist police’, as they are ‘affectionately’ called, have been sworn in as district constables, mandated to uphold the peace. And this is how they did it, by harassing and verbally abusing Jamaicans out for an evening stroll.

This incident is sadly reminiscent of the mob killing of Victor Jarrett on Dump-Up Beach in Montego Bay six years ago. At that time, the police hurled insults at Victor who was sitting on the beach, accusing him of being gay and watching men on the beach. A mob formed which chased Victor into Canterbury where his bludgeoned body was discovered the next day. Needless to say, no one was arrested for this act of treacherous villainy.

Double standard

Admittedly, such actions by regular members of the police force have declined sharply but clearly the tourist police did not get the memo – they are there to serve and protect all individuals on the Hip Strip.

I wonder if they would have been as quick to harass white effeminate or gay North Americans? The clear double standard must stop. All Jamaicans are entitled to basic human rights, including the right to freedom of movement! I know the matter has been reported to Marksman, the police and Tourism Product Development Company. I expect swift and decisive action to be taken against these perpetrators.

I am, etc.,

MAURICE TOMLINSON

maurice_tomlinson@yahoo.com

Use hard evidence for gay rights (Observer Letter)

Dear Editor,

One of the reasons given by our parliamentarians for excluding sexual orientation as grounds for non-discrimination in the proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms is to prevent gay marriages being allowed “through the back door”. This is clearly a red herring as Jamaican gays have not asked for marriage rights.

What they are demanding is respect for their human rights to, among other things, privacy and non-discrimination in employment. Tolerance is what they are seeking, while acceptance remains optional.

Be that as it may, there is no evidence that even if gay unions were allowed, this would lead to catastrophic population collapse due to the abandonment of heterosexual sex; or irreparable harm to children raised in gay households (the two most popular arguments against gay unions).

There is no evidence of population collapse in any of the 22 countries, including South Africa, where gay unions have been legalised. Indeed, it is ludicrous to think that in our highly sexualised society, Jamaicans would suddenly abandon straight sex if gays were allowed to marry or form civil unions.

Secondly, since 2005 the American Psychological Association has reported that “home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth”.

Gays who wish to form stable lifelong partnerships could actually provide homes for numerous abandoned children languishing in state care. Our leaders should decide the matter of human rights for Jamaica’s gay population on the basis of hard evidence and not hysterical emotion.

 Maurice Tomlinson

maurice.tomlinson@yahoo.com

Flawed Sexual Offences Bill (Letter to The Gleaner Editor)

Editor, Sir:

Unprotected heterosexual sex is the main route to HIV/AIDS transmission in the Caribbean, with unprotected homosexual sex a critical factor.

According to a 2007 report on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, cultural factors are fuelling the epidemic in high-risk groups (prostitutes and men who have sex with men). In addition, a 2008 study commissioned by the Ministry of Health showed that about one-third of men who have sex with men were also having sex with multiple female partners.

Shortcomings in the laws
The Ministry of Health cannot now deliver services to these high-risk groups under current laws, let alone the even more stringent laws about to be introduced under the Sexual Offences Bill. For example, under this new bill:
A man who is convicted of buggery (having consensual anal sex with a man or a woman) may now be listed as a sex offender after his 10-year prison sentence ends.

A woman who is convicted of prostitution (having consensual commercial sex) may be fined up to $500,000 and be imprisoned for up to five years. Anyone who lives with a prostitute, or is seen in her company, can be arrested and suffer the same penalties as the prostitute.

It is certainly in our interest as a society to avoid introducing laws almost guaranteed to worsen a potential epidemic.

I am, etc.,
YVONNE MCCALLA SOBERS
sobersy@yahoo.com

Buggery law facilitates corruption in JCF – Observer Letter 25.03.09

Dear Editor,
Prime Minister Bruce Golding seems determined to lead by following. In particular, he seems in tune with public sentiment that favours discrimination based on private acts between consenting adults. Golding has said in Parliament that Jamaica will retain the buggery law, even though there will be no peeping into bedrooms – the prime way of determining whether buggery is taking place.

On the other hand, US President Barack Obama seems determined to lead by leading. Obama’s administration is about to endorse a UN declaration that calls for worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Corrupt police are the main ones to benefit from a buggery law that cannot be enforced. Here is a scenario based on a recent incident. Two men are travelling on a very quiet road when they have a flat tyre. The tyre is fixed, and the driver and passenger are inside the car while the driver completes a call on his cellphone.

A police car stops, and two policemen get out with guns pointed at the men in the car. The men protest when the police accuse them of being homosexuals, and the police say they are charging them with using “threatening, abusive, and calumnious language”. As the exchange becomes heated, the charges escalate to include “obstructing an officer in the pursuit of his duty” as well as buggery. One man tries to remain calm, but the other panics.

Neither is gay, but their careers, reputations, and family lives could be wrecked if they are brought to court on buggery charges.

Then the tone of the policemen changes with the question, “So what you can do for yourselves?” The two men have just $700 between them. The policemen then instruct them to hand over their cellphones for “safekeeping” while they drive in front of the police car to an ATM. Each man hands over $5,000 and the deal is sealed.

Members of the gay community in Jamaica report numerous incidents like this one. The buggery law enables corrupt policemen to engage in extortion and robbery. Worse still, it causes some fathers to avoid the company of their grown sons, just in case corrupt police or a hate brigade make an issue of their being together in a car, on the beach, on the street, or in a bus.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding might want to think again about his position on buggery as a constitutional issue. He might consider adopting the direction in which President Barack Obama is evidently leading Americans, even the conservative right and the fundamentalist Christians. Golding might find that a buggery law has no place in a world that increasingly considers all – irrespective of sexual orientation – as having rights and freedoms that the state is obliged to protect.

Yvonne McCalla Sobers
sobersy@yahoo.com

Response to Shirley Richards’ Letter – All’s not well with sexual mores

Original Letter: All’s not well with sexual mores

S. Richards’ letter in the Gleaner of Tuesday, March 24, is a stark reminder of what drives antigay behaviour in Jamaica: the absence of solid, consistent and coherent reflection on the premises upon which all social exclusion rests. In her letter, Ms. Richards defended the maintenance of the legal provisions against buggery since, as she believes, they exist “to keep what is unnatural from becoming accepted”.
This appeal to ‘nature’ to buttress a legal provision that gives the government the right to peep into the bedrooms of consenting adults is very flawed. Taken to its logical conclusion, governments would be required to ban the cutting of fingernails and hair, the wearing of tattoos and of clothes, and the piercing of body parts because these practices are ‘unnatural’ and what is unnatural should be kept from becoming accepted.

Like the argument that justifies the proscription against sexual activities between men because these acts are ostensibly morally reprehensible, the appeal to nature ignores the fact that for an argument to be valid, it must be applicable to every situation that meets the criteria in its premise. So, if we understand S. Richards correctly, her argument is akin to that of those who treat homosexuality as an exceptional sexual sin. She now claims homosexuality (and alas, only homosexuality between men: the laws say nothing about lesbian sexual activities) to be so exceptional an unnatural act that it warrants criminalisation! So, no one is proposing the criminalisation of fornication and adultery, a logical necessity if we maintain that the anti-buggery provisions are moral in nature, but the criminalisation of sex between men is accepted and promoted as a Christian duty to nation and a dead queen. Further, no one is proposing that we ban unnatural acts such as the placing of dyes under the epidermis or the piercing of muscles such as the tongue, but we are to accept that what two consenting adult men do with their body parts in the privacy of their homes or a hotel room is outrageous that is requires interdiction.

It is time that as a people we begin to examine our prejudices and the assumptions on which they are based and name them for what they are: bigotry of the highest order. Government has no duty to criminalise subjectively defined morality or to legislate against ‘unnatural’ acts, whether they be shaving or wearing of jewellery. In a democratic society, that is left to individuals and their conscience and whichever imams, priests, rabbis or shepherds they choose to listen to. It is time that S. Richards and all who believe like her learn to distinguish their Caesars from their Gods. Jamaica is a democracy, not, as they imply, a theocracy.

Even at the University Level?

This letter appeared in today’s Observer 23.03.09, of course everyone within earshot of the story of the nine year old boy who was killed in St Thomas recently is appalled and it was alleged that he was sodomised by a man of unsound mind, one would have thought that a letter like this would not be coming from someone with a University email address and one wonders now if that campus is indeed an intellectual ghetto as described by a popular talk show host.

Where is the thinking?
Why not wait until the investigations are finished?
What about Innocent until proven guilty?
Doesn’t this writer understands the clear differences between a paedophile and a gay or bisexual person?

Take Action!: flood the email below with your concerns and comments on this awful letter, do so however with love.

The Letter
Dear Editor,

There is a stench in this country surrounding homosexual and bisexual men who constantly sodomise young boys and girls. It was with disgust that I read about the nine-year-old boy whose life was so brutally snuffed out by someone who news reports said was of “unsound mind”.

Are we kidding ourselves, or are we in denial? What is the government doing to protect innocent children from these obvious scumbags of society? Why is homosexuality not a crime, but yet we still have the Buggery Act? And why is it that when these men are “caught in the act” they are not imprisoned? It is appalling to know that some of these men are merely sent off with a pat on the back! What is going on in this country?

Mr Prime Minister, this is a suggestion to you and the people whom you appoint to protect us. Start hanging the bastards! To all the human rights watchdogs: whose rights are more important? The criminals’ or the victims’? This foolishness needs to stop! Murder, traffic violations, illegal taxis, are not the only crimes in this country. Sex crimes are infesting this country like maggots on a dead carcass and we need to come together and put a stop to it!

Brenda Sailsman
brenda.sailsman@uwimona.edu.jm