What are your thoughts???
May 26, 2008
Hon O. Bruce Golding
Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Dear Mr. Golding:
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.
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays
JAMAICA, ISLAND OF HATE — Its Leading Gay Activist Speaks:
“Jamaica is not a safe environment for gay people to survive in, either physically, emotionally, or psychologically,” says Gareth Williams, the 29-year-old former leader of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), the country’s LGBT group. “The climate here is very, very hostile to gay people. We have been hunted and beaten and killed because of who we are,” Williams added. “Families turn against their own members because of sexual orientation.”
Williams spoke to Gay City News from Montreal, where he had gone last week to receive the International Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights given jointly every year by Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS program said that Williams was given the award because, “Against enormous odds and at great risk to his own physical safety, Williams has been a courageous campaigner against human rights violations targeting lesbians, gay men, and HIV-positive Jamaicans.”
“Williams” is the gay activist’s organizational pseudonym, necessitated by the fact that his predecessor as J-FLAG’s leader, Brian Williamson (above), was brutally murdered in his home at the age of 59 in June, 2004 by anti-gay thugs, who mutilated his body with multiple stab wounds.
A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed a joyous crowd that gathered outside Williamson‘s house to celebrate the murder. A smiling man called out, “Battyman he get killed!” (“Battyman” and “batty-bwoy” are Jamaican patois for “faggot”.) Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “let’s get them one at a time,” “that’s what you get for sin,” “let’s kill all of them.” Some sang “Boom bye bye,” a line from a popular Jamaican song about killing and burning gay men that was made a hit by reggae singer Buju Banton. The lyrics from Banton’s song (in patois) are:
“Boom bye bye / Inna batty bwoy head / Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man /Dem haffi dead / Send fi di matic an / Di Uzi instead / Shoot dem no come if we shot dem / Guy come near we / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel.”
Translated into standard English, those lyrics read:
“Boom bye bye / In a queer’s head / Rude boys don’t promote no queer men / They have to die / Send for the automatic and / The Uzi instead / Shoot them, don’t come if we shot them / If a man comes near me / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up badly, like you would burn an old tire wheel.”
(at left in photo, right), (white Shirt)
was murdered on the eve of World AIDS Day last November 30. For a decade, Harvey had directed the outreach program of Jamaica AIDS Support targeting gays and lesbians and sex workers. A gang of at least four armed assailants invaded Harvey’s home, and demanded of Harvey and his two housemates if they were gay — Harvey said yes, the others denied it. The thugs then bound and gagged Harvey and bundled him into a car. Steve Harvey was later found a few miles from his home, dead from bullet wounds to his back and head.
“Steve’s murder was a personal blow for me,” says Williams. ‘We were very close–we grew up together, and we even used to share an apartment. He has left a huge void in my life. We always feel hurt when a gay person is killed, but when it’s your buddy, your friend whom you talked to every day…” Williams’ voice trails off, before he resumes:
“There have been many other murders of gay men and lesbians whose lives have been taken because of their sexual orientation. Just two weeks after Brian’s killing, a young gay man named Victor Jarrett was killed in Montego Bay in a murder instigated by three police officers. I was there. The police had arrested Jarrett and were beating him in the street. A large crowd gathered, and yelled, “Hand the battyman over to us and we’ll finish him off!”
Williams relates other homophobic killings, one that happened “just three weeks after Steve Harvey was murdered last year. A young man named Nokia Cowan was chased by an angry mob who said he was gay — the chased him into the harbor, where he drowned. And just this summer, in June, two lesbians, Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie, were knifed to death, and their bodies were found dumped in a shallow septic pit behind a home they shared in Bull Bay.” A Jamaican newspaper said a “lesbian DVD” had been found near the bodies.
Incidents of anti-gay violence like this, Williams reports, “happen on a daily basis, but the police turn a blind eye to it. I’ve had police officers turning up at my house, calling me ‘battyman’ and saying that I’ll be murdered like Brian and Steve. In February, after a gay man was killed, there was a gang of police outside my house saying the same thing would happen to me.”
If you want to help J-FLAG, e-mail the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Financial contributions may be mailed to:
J-FLAG, P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica, West Indies.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding is being blasted at home and in London for remarks he made about gays and lesbians during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Golding condemned Britain and other Commonwealth countries for criticizing the treatment of gays in the Caribbean nation.
”Jamaica is not going to allow values to be imposed on it from outside,” he said during the interview. Golding is in London on an official visit to the UK.
Asked if he would ever appoint an openly gay person to his cabinet the Prime Minister bristled, saying “never”. Golding told the BBC that he has the right to make that decision and to form a Cabinet that represents the Jamaican people.
Golding has been a staunch supporter of maintaining Jamaica’s sodomy law.
Gay sex is illegal in Jamaica, punishable by ten years in jail, with the possibility of hard labor.
Jason McFarlane, a spokesman for Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), said Golding’s remarks were likely to incite more violence against gays in the country.
The situation for gays in the Caribbean nation has been of concern to other Commonwealth countries and international human rights groups for several years following a number of violent attacks.
Jamaica has been described as having the worst record of any country in the New World in its treatment of gays and lesbians.
One of the most recent attacks occurred on January 29 when a group of men approached a house where four males lived in the central Jamaican town of Mandeville, and demanded that they leave the community because they were gay, according to Jamaican human rights activists who spoke with the victims.
Later that evening, a mob returned and surrounded the house. The four men inside called the police when they saw the crowd gathering. The mob started to attack the house, shouting and throwing bottles.
Those in the house called police again and were told that the police were on the way. Approximately half an hour later, 15-20 men broke down the door and began beating and slashing the inhabitants.
Human Rights Watch, quoting local activists said that police did not arrive until a half hour after the mob had broken into the house – 90 minutes after the men first called for help.
One of the victims managed to flee with the mob pursuing. A Jamaican newspaper reported that blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting he had fallen inside or may have been killed nearby.
The police escorted the three other victims away from the scene; two of them were taken to the hospital. One of the men had his left ear severed, his arm broken in two places, and his spine reportedly damaged.
There have been no arrests.
The attack echoes another incident in the same town on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007 when approximately 100 men gathered outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man.
According to mourners, the crowd broke the windows with bottles and shouted, “We want no battyman [gay] funeral here. Leave or else we’re going to kill you. We don’t want no battyman buried here in Mandeville.”
Several mourners inside the church called the police to request protection. After half an hour, three police officers arrived.
Human Rights Watch said that instead of protecting the mourners, police socialized with the mob, laughing along at the situation.
A highway patrol car subsequently arrived, and one of the highway patrol officers reportedly told the churchgoers, “It’s full time this needs to happen. Enough of you guys.”
The highway patrol officers then drove off. The remaining officers at the scene refused to intervene when the mob threatened the mourners with sticks, stones, and batons as they tried to leave the service. Only when several gay men among the mourners took knives from their cars for self-defense did police reportedly take action by firing their guns into the air. Officers stopped gay men from leaving and searched their vehicles, but did not restrain or detain members of the mob, Human Rights Watch said.
More than 30 gay men are believed to have been murdered since 1997 J-FLAG says. In most of the cases the killers have never been brought to trial.
Arrests, however have been made in several cases which received international attention.
In 2004 Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading LGBT civil rights advocate was brutally murdered. He had been stabbed at least 70 times in the neck. A 25 year old man is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.
In December 2005 Lenford “Steve” Harvey who ran Jamaica AIDS Support for Life was killed.
Harvey was shot to death on the eve of World AIDS Day. (story) His organization provided support to gay men and sex workers. Four men were arrested almost a year later.
In 2006 the bodies of two women believed to have been in a lesbian relationship were found dumped in a septic pit behind a home they shared. The killers of Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie have not been caught.
Students at University of the West Indies in Kingston rioted last year as police attempted to protect a gay student and escort him from the campus. The incident began when the student was chased across the campus by another student who claimed the gay man had attempted to proposition him in a washroom.
The same year a young man plunged to his death off a pier in Kingston after reportedly being chased through the streets by a mob yelling homophobic epithets.
In February, 2007 three men in “tight jeans” and wearing what some witnesses described as makeup were cornered by a mob of 2000 in a drugstore. There were yells of “kill them” along with gay slurs and demands the three be sent out “to face justice”. Police had to fire teargas into the crowd to rescue the three.
Reggae, or Jamaican dancehall music, is blamed for fueling homophobia. Reggae star BujuBanton’s hit song Boom Boom Bye Bye which threatens gay men with a “gunshot in ah head”.
For Other stories go to: http://www.365gay.com/
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.”
Click the title above to link to the page^^^
You Be The Judge
Jamaica’s attitude towards homosexuality is supposed to be moving towards providing equality before the law. So would Bruce Golding ever appoint a homosexual to his Cabinet?
He needs to get real I feel there are gays everywhere.
One Voice Speech
By Dwayne Brown
“Out of many, we are one people” says the Jamaica motto. Is life a mystery, an unseen tale, or a simple spontaneous reaction that brings about instant change? Is this change reversible or irreversible? In Jamaica the cry ‘one too many’ has led to certain cultural and behavioral responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic amongst the Jamaican people. Let’s assume that HIV and men is a spontaneous reaction
Hiv + man → (HIV+man)
Is this a reversible or irreversible reaction? Unfortunately, this is irreversible and is a reality for many Jamaican youth.
In Jamaica, HIV/AIDS is hurting the standard of living and social viability of youth, regardless of their sexuality, ethnicity, class, race, or culture. Even at present, the thought of being infected scares me.
The reality for my friend was not the same. An intelligent young man, who was ready to take on the world, never knew what was in store for him around the corner. On July 15, 2004, his exuberance, dreams and aspirations were robbed by his aggressors who raped him at the age of 18. Four months later he was diagnosed with HIV.
In 1982, Jamaica reported its first HIV case. Since then, the total number of AIDS related case in Jamaica has been 12,063 and deaths, 6,848 respectively…one too many.
The proliferation of HIV/AIDS among Jamaica’s young people is alarming. In 2004, HIV/AIDS was the second leading cause of death for young men and women in Jamaica.
Being sexually active is common among our peers. I can vividly recall the silence around discussing sex and sexual issues in schools and churches.
Furthermore, Jamaica is seen as a Christian country, yet still the churches fail to educate the young people within their congregation and surrounding communities about HIV/AIDS. As a result, we are not informed about how to make right and responsible decisions about our sexual health and we become more vulnerable and susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
We are also vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies. During, my final year of junior high school, almost all the girls with whom I had attended school , had dropped out because of pregnancy. Who are we to blame? We the young people? The government of Jamaica? Or is it in fact our parents? The reality is that far too often we are missing information and are mislead by our parents and the leaders of our society about sexuality, sexual intercourse, and HIV/AIDS.
Contemporary Jamaican society is one of disparity, confusion, and obscurity. The government has said that youth are the priority of the nation, but clearly we are not the #1 among the long list of government priorities.
One too many breaches of confidentiality by health care providers and the lack of youth-friendly services is a crucial concern among young people. The fear of the repercussions of being stigmatized and discriminated against is reflected in the young people’s reluctance to seek health care. (Disparity)
Most recently the government refused, on several occasions, to issue condoms in High schools, although they are aware that young people are sexually active from video recordings of students on the school grounds.
In terms of policy, we have a National HIV/AIDS policy. In it, for example, there is a non-discrimination clause that states “In respect for human rights and dignity of persons infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, there should be no discrimination against workers on the basis of real or perceived HIV status.” However, this is not the reality in practice in the Jamaican work environment.
Discrimination, in my opinion, is the main factor preventing the reduction of HIV infection in Jamaica. Fear of discrimination keeps people from finding out their status and seeking care and treatment if they are infected.
Homophobia also plays a detrimental role once it is perceived that you are gay, by the wider society. Research indicates that homophobia in Jamaica is a powerful cultural influence which forces HIV/AIDS infected and affected young gay men from accessing medical care. I strongly believe that the politicians and wider Jamaican society need to reform its approach to homosexuality in order to reduce HIV transmission among young gay men.
We,the young people of Jamaica, have proactively engaged ourselves in reforming health policies and advocating for changes in the government and health sector approaches to providing health services for youth. We have made strides in raising awareness about these issues among policy makers and our communities. Youth activists in Jamaica are increasingly mobilizing to improve existing policies or make it known when the policies we support are not being implemented.
But when I look within my society, I see a lack of unity and a lack of understanding of the immense amount of struggles and suffering young people undergoe, which leads back to the mystery of life.
Besides the fact that being HIV positive is an irreversible reaction it is not a death sentence∙ We the youth of Jamaica need a reversible to fight against HIV?AIDS and discrimination
The terms “men who have sex with men” and “women who have sex with women” are attempts to move around these rigid classifications.