Showing posts with label Homophobia in the Caribbean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homophobia in the Caribbean. Show all posts

December 16, 2016

The Jamaican Gay Flotilla Running for Their Lives {In the Caribbean?}




“Even if every gay Jamaican ran away from the island there would still be a population of younger gays there and new gays will never stop because they don’t go to Jamaica to be gay but are born of Jamaicans. They are your own and is immoral to mistreat them. Just like we have our own gays here and are learning to follow what Jesus, Mahatmas Gandhi, Martin Luther King have said about treating others unlike us.”



Introduction:
I would like to share with you my dearest reader this posting from Julie Compton and posted on NBC News on OutFront which is a weekly NBC Out series profiling LGBTQ people who are making a positive difference in the community.

I have written and posted what others have written about the situation of gays in Jamaica. Jamaica a tourist destination on the mid american hemisphere of the Atlantic. I keep asking for those that care about LGBT civil rights and human rights to think more than twice before planning vacations there. Why? The US government together with the UK and the European Union have failed to convince the government there that they have created an atmosphere of fear and homophobia based on incidents in which out gays or suspected gays have been beaten and killed.

 Such a situation should not be allowed to continue on a nation that is even economically supported by the EU. Even homophobic Cuba have a better governmental and societal conduct towards gays currently than Jamaica. Yet you keep seeing those high rise ships stopping buy to bring money to the island. After the failure of those countries I mentioned which are the closest to Jamaica to have them see the sun light of equal rights which a society derived from slaves should be able to understand better than anyone else the morality of having people share the benefits of the society they share and pay taxes to maintain in an equal footing. Morality does not comes from religion or any book no matter how important, morality comes from treating the fellow man like we would want to be treated ourselves and having the ability to understand that people are different and do things in the bedroom differently and nobody should judge that. Consenting adults have a right to live their lives without being judge by their government or the rest of the population.
Again I ask of you if you are  planning to share your money there to reconsider. There are so many Caribbean beautiful islands where you could do better with your money and at the same time tell Jamaica that is time to join the 21st century in the way they treat their LGBT population. It is their population born to them and they should have the same respect you give to yourselves.
Adam Gonzalez, 
Publisher of adamfoxie blog International

                                                                _*_


Gay refugee Gareth Henry spends his free time saving the lives of LGBTQ people in Jamaica who need help escaping persecution or even death. The Caribbean nation remains one of 76 countries where consensual same-sex relationships are criminalized. 










Jamaican LGBTQ activist Gareth Henry Gareth Henry

The 39-year-old, who lives in Toronto, was an outspoken activist in the small island nation he once called home. A former co-chair of the advocacy group Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), Henry frequently helped people report anti-gay hate crimes to police. He said 13 of his friends were killed in homophobic attacks. 
"With all these things happening, they go unnoticed, they go unheard, because the violence against the gay community has been normalized," Henry told NBC Out. "It's intense that people have been paralyzed by fear, and they just live a day at a time and anticipate and hope for the best, and that's no way for humanity to exist or to be." 
Henry's efforts to create change led law enforcement to target him, according to the activist. He said that in 2007, a group of policemen beat him in a pharmacy while a jeering crowd looked on. It was the third time they attacked him, he said. He soon went into hiding. Later that year, while stopped at a traffic light, an officer unexpectedly approached his car. 
"[He] knocked on the window and said to me they have found me, and they going to kill me," Henry said in his Jamaican patois dialect. Terrified, he filed for refugee status and fled to Canada the following year. "Moving to Canada was an opportunity for me in choosing between life and death," he said. 










Jamaican LGBTQ activist Gareth Henry Gareth Henry

In Canada, Henry found work at the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, where he currently serves as interim director. When he's not working, he volunteers for Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian nonprofit that taps into the spirit of the Underground Railroad by helping relocate LGBTQ people who live amid persecution around the world. 
The activist told a number of horrific stories involving refugees he helped over the years, many of them young "gully queens," a Jamaican term denoting LGBTQ outcasts who make their homes in sewers and cemeteries throughout the island. His list is long: a 29-year-old whose intestine was almost completely ripped out by pit bulls; a young man who was disfigured by an angry mob who doused acid over his body; a transgender man who was sexually assaulted by men who wanted to "correct" his gender identity. But the refugee who stood out the most in Henry's mind is a young man whose mother reached out for help. 
"I was touched by that, to see her being proactive and contacting Rainbow Railroad to say 'I have a gay son, he needs to leave.' It's profound. You don't always find that necessarily happening, but that's what you want to see happening in our world, in our society, is where parents stand tall with their gay and lesbian and trans kids and embrace them and support them as best as possible," he said. 
Henry feels no sense of pride in his nationality but realizes there are gay Jamaicans who have a different perspective. 
"They don't have the experience of responding to multiple emails, telephone calls [and] Facebook messages from people who are balling their eyes out on the brink of death. I had a friend just last year, he was asking for help, but Rainbow Railroad didn't have the funds to help him. He committed suicide. And people don't know these things," he said. 










Jamaican LGBTQ activist Gareth Henry Gareth Henry

Through his work with Rainbow Railroad, Henry assisted 60 refugees relocate to new countries in 2016. Many of them were Jamaican. 
"You know, people moving away from their homeland doesn't change the situation. It's not a solution, but it is what we do in the interim to save people from being murdered. It's giving people a second chance at life," Henry said. What's more important, he added, is reversing what he called a culture of hatred against LGBTQ people. 
Homophobia is a legacy of colonial rule in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, where same-sex relationships were originally criminalized under English law, according to a report commissioned by J-FLAG. Advocacy groups are pushing for progress, with Jamaica holding its second LGBTQ Pride parade earlier this year. During the ceremony in the capital city of Kingston, the mayor spoke out in support of the community. But Henry believes real change will only come when politicians do more than simply talk about the need for equality. 
"Don't just go on a platform and say it because it is a politically right thing to say. No, do it. Let the people see. Challenge society. Challenge Jamaicans, the society, to do something different," he said. 
Henry shares his Toronto home with his fiancé, who is also a Jamaican refugee. His mother, sister and nieces fled to the Canadian city as well, after they came under threat in Jamaica for supporting him. Aside from his family, Henry lives for the people in his homeland who he works tirelessly to save. 
"Rainbow Railroad is what I live and breath," he said. “That's what keeps me going -- knowing that we can help people and creating this access for an opportunity for someone to be safe and have a second chance at life."


May 22, 2015

Pres.Obama Sends Gay Envoy to Homophobic Uganda through Homophobic Jamaica




Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
 submitted on buzzfeed.com the following story about this welcome decision by President Obama. Imagine sending a gay emboy to make the case to one of the most homophobes countries in the World.
 The U.S. State Department’s newly-appointed special envoy for LGBT rights, Randy Berry, is planning a visit to Uganda in July, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
The State Department could not immediately provide further details of the trip or what Berry hoped to accomplish in a visit to the country at the center of one of the longest running international confrontations over LGBT rights. Ugandan and American LGBT activists have previously criticized the U.S. response to the passage of a sweeping anti-LGBT law in 2014 for being slow and sending missed messages, but the law was struck down in August of that year. Attempts to restore the law have so far failed to gain traction in the face of apparent opposition from President Yoweri Museveni.
Berry, who was selected for the post in February and began work in April, will first be doing swings through Latin America and Europe in the coming weeks, said the State Department spokesperson. Berry told attendees at an event at the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday that he planned to visit more than 15 countries in the next month, according to a source in the room. 
On Tuesday, the State Department announced that Berry will fly to Jamaica on Thursday, which has some of the highest rates of anti-LGBT violence in the region.

May 12, 2015

Barbados in a Gay/Homophobic Pickle





 

"A Barbados bus driver and fellow passengers verbally abused a female passenger last week because she was a lesbian. The bus conductor proposed that her throat should be cut, and none of the passengers objected.

That would be raw meat for gays to do a bus boycott in Barbados and a tourissm boycott in the surrounding areas like New York and other cities in the US and UK,Canada.  The amount of tourists that visit there is very strong and this is a country solely dependent on tourism. 
That is the pickle!

A Barbados gay-Man and writer and natural of Barbados,   defends his country in a very strong but sympathetic way and write the remaining story on 76crimes.com:

I am a great fan of Barbados, where I lived and studied law over a decade ago. I have always considered the country to be one of the most progressive states in the region, as seen in the fact that, for a small resource-poor country, government investment in education traditionally put many other territories of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to shame.

Barbados is also the Anglophone Caribbean state with the most robust international human rights obligations, and is the only CARICOM country that recognizes the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This Court has repeatedly issued decisions condemning discrimination against LGBTI people.

At the same time, Barbados has the harshest anti-gay law in the western hemisphere, life imprisonment at hard labour, for even private acts of anal intercourse between consenting adults. This British colonially-imposed statute is rarely enforced and theoretically it poses an equal threat to heterosexual private intimacy. However there is overwhelming evidence that to the general public, politicians, and powerful preachers, the aim is to criminalize gays. The law also appears to be constitutionally entrenched and at least one government Minister has recently spoken out publicly against LGBTI human rights. 

Maurice Tomlinson and Tom Decker presented the training session about LGBTI people to Barbados police and others. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)
Sponsors of the training program were the Barbados Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business; the  Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; and the Movement Against Dissemination Action Coalition (MOVADAC). (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)
Sponsors of the training program were the Barbados Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business; the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; and the Movement Against Dissemination Action Coalition (MOVADAC). (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Maurice Tomlinson and Tom Decker presented the training session about LGBTI people to Barbados security personnel, government workers and community members. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

At the end of an intense and transformative week I was privileged to participate in a public panel discussion on LGBTI human rights at the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. There was standing room only in the moot court and the event brought home forcibly to me that Barbados is at a critical juncture in its development. How the island chooses will determine if it retains the coveted position as one of the most prosperous countries within CARICOM, or slips into a serious depression.

During the question and answer period that followed the panel discussion, Christian fundamentalist and UWI lecturer in sociology, Dr. Veronica Evelyn, claimed that Barbados faced the choice of supporting human rights for gays (which she termed “sexual fluidity”) or preserving the distinctive Christian conservative “culture” that had come to define (and perhaps, in her mind, enrich) the state. As with most Caribbean fundamentalists that I have encountered, Dr. Evelyn displays a case of cognitive dissonance as she does not seem to appreciate the irony of using a Western imposed religion to define her country’s culture, while at the same time rejecting other global trends as impositions. 

God is Sovereign        

Dr. Evelyn and her equally vociferous husband claimed that if Barbadian businesses were “forced” to cater to LGBTI people that would constitute an adoption of homosexuality by the business owners. This argument is about as sensible as saying that if a bakery sells a cake to a Rastafarian, the bakery thereby endorses Rastafarianism.

There was also an equally misguided evangelical supporter of Dr. Evelyn’s in the audience who prefaced his submission with the statement “God is sovereign” with arms outstretched like Christ the crucified, thus signalling the end of any discussion, but then proceeded to pose questions. This gentleman asked me if I would take the case of the U.S. bakers fined for discriminating against a gay couple. I told him that I am not fond of taking losing briefs. This is quite unlike some of the lawyers being paid millions of dollars to defend un-winnable marriage-equality bans in the U.S. So, if the business had been a church (not a stretched analogy, by any means) that existed to serve persons of a particular faith, and they were being forced to cater to non-believers, then I would support a claim that their religious freedoms were being infringed. But a secular business set up to serve the public must do just that — serve the public.

Tourism to survive now Homophobia for afterlife

Clarifying this issue of supposed “persecution” of Christian business owners is very urgent for Barbados. This is because the country is overwhelmingly religious and depends heavily on high-end tourism from countries with strong protections for LGBTI people. At the same time, the World Bank recently stated that the island’s economy is struggling, with a lower growth projection than Haiti. Let that sink in. Furthermore, stringent IMF conditions are beginning to bite and workers are being laid off, social services are being cut, and I have been advised that some suppliers are even denying credit to the government.

Tourism is an important industry for Barbados, which depends on maintaining a good reputation among citizens of countries that recognize the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Ya-Goo.com)
Tourism is an important industry for Barbados, which depends on maintaining a good reputation among citizens of countries that recognize the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Ya-Goo.com)

This economic crisis is not surprising, as high-end tourism took a significant hit during and after the global financial meltdown. Many travellers are now demanding cheaper options and I suspect that the opening up of Cuba will be particularly difficult for Barbados. This is because Cuba will be much less expensive but equally exotic. Even more impressive is the fact that the communist state is becoming very LGBTI friendly. For example, the daughter of the Cuban President held a symbolic mass gay wedding last weekend, as a hopeful precursor to full marriage-equality on the island. This is happening at a time when gay tourism is estimated to be worth US$2 billion annually. Other islands in the Caribbean, such as Curacao, are therefore making a play for gay tourists and our allies, by marketing themselves as inclusive.

Become LGBT tolerant now or See the after life Now too

Therefore, Barbados can either a) try to become more tolerant of LGBTI people and thereby remain a viable player in a lucrative tourism market, or b) reject human rights for gays in order to pacify people like Dr. Evelyn, and suffer the economic consequences.

These stark choices were forcibly brought home during last Friday’s panel discussion. For example, a mother visiting from Toronto pointed out that her lesbian daughter had taken one of the island’s public buses that week and she was verbally abused by the driver and passengers. The bus conductor also stated that the young lady’s throat should be cut, and none of the passengers objected. I hasten to point out that this is NOT a common occurrence in Barbados and research shows that the island is the least homophobic in the Anglophone Caribbean. However, the fact that the conductor felt at liberty to make this outrageous threat, and he was not challenged by ordinary Barbadians, is a worrying development.

It also shows the fragility of the country’s tourism product and the real potential for the goodwill enjoyed by Barbados in the eyes of many visitors to be easily destroyed by random attacks against LGBTI people. I rather doubt that this mother will be keen to recommend the island to her gay and lesbian family members or friends.

So, to ensure that Barbados does not miss out on a resurgent global tourism market, I would like to suggest that the country adopt the perspective of a St. Lucian bus driver who I met some time ago. This Christian man stated that when gay cruises come to his island, he ignores his fellow bus drivers who refuse to take the passengers on island tours. Instead, he welcomes the visitors into his transport, but as a “precaution,” he turns up his rear view mirror so that he does not see what is going on the back seat. At the end of the day, he collects his fare (as well as a big tip, so he said) while not having to change his views on homosexuality. His satisfied passengers also give glowing reviews of the island and encourage valuable repeat business.

 LGBT are Human Rights

Recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people is a pressing human rights issue for Barbados, particularly because of the country’s domestic and international obligations. The public health argument for LGBTI human rights is also impatient of debate. For example, UNAIDS and the regional HIV and AIDS coordinating mechanism, PANCAP, have identified that homophobia is driving men who have sex with men (MSM) underground, away from effective HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support interventions. Anti-gay stigma and discrimination also forces many MSM to form relationships with women as “masks” or “cures” for their homosexuality. Apart from the psychological trauma to men, women and sometimes children when these pairings collapse, there is also the risk for HIV to bridge between the straight and gay populations. This is one reason that the Caribbean continues to have the second-highest HIV prevalence rate after sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, and as described above, there is a significant economic incentive for Barbados to become more inclusive with regards to its LGBTI citizens and visitors. The question is, will the country “turn up its mirror and drive” or will it put on blinkers AND dark glasses for fear that it may actually get somewhere?

March 18, 2015

World Court Challenge Against Homophobic Caribbean Islands


                                                                               


A gay rights activist will challenge the governments of two Caribbean islands to overturn a law that prevents gay people from entering their countries.
The current immigration laws in Trinidad & Tobago and Belize bar "undesirable” persons from entering - a list that includes homosexuals, prostitutes and other marginalised groups.
In both countries same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal. In Belize it has been criminalised since 2003 and is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. In Trinidad the penalty is 25 years for "buggery offences" and five years for other sexual acts. Despite these sentences, both the anti-buggery laws and those preventing LGBT entry are often unenforced.
The case has been brought by Maurice Tomlinson, who will be in court on 17 and 18 March.
Maurice Tomlinson, gay rights activistMaurice Tomlinson, gay rights activistTomlinson is a prominent Jamaican LGBT and HIV activist and has taken his case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). He hopes that a CCJ ruling will declare the laws a violation of his right to freedom of movement in CARICOM, requiring the governments to change them.
He contests that the laws restrict his freedom of movement and breach his rights as a Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) national. Both governments dispute his submission.
“It remains at the discretion of the immigration officer,” says Tomlinson. “The government has said in their submissions that they don't plan to invoke it. However, at a previous court appearance one of the CCJ judges asked why the law was not repealed, since there was no intention of enforcing it, and the lawyer for Trinidad said that the law was necessary to keep out "terrorists."
While it is the first time the immigration laws have been legally challenged, they gained national attention in 2007 when Elton John was due to perform at a jazz festival in Trinidad and Tobago. Many church leaders in the region condemned the decision, with the Archdeacon Phillip Isaac suggesting his presence on the island could tempt locals “towards pursuing his lifestyle”. Demands to ban his entry were rejected by The Tobago House of Assembly and he was granted a special permit to enter.
Though Tomlinson is hopeful, it is unclear whether the CCJ will present its final decision on the 18th.
“I think that I have a very strong case, but I suspect the court will reserve its judgment,” says Tomlinson. “If I am successful, I expect that the CCJ will declare that the laws are in violation of the right to freedom of movement in CARICOM, and require that the governments change them.”
Tomlinson was forced to flee Jamaica after a national newspaper published pictures of his same-sex wedding. As a result he received numerous death threats and was afforded little help from the police. He now lives with his husband in Canada and has to take security precautions when returning to Jamaica.
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued Precautionary Measures on my behalf requiring the Jamaican government to protect my life,” he says. “I now have a strict security protocol when I visit Jamaica for cases.”
Tomlinson is also involved in a number of other court challenge to some of the regions other anti-sodomy laws. He is providing external counsel on a case brought by AIDS-Free World on behalf of two gay men to challenge the Jamaican anti-sodomy law before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He is also going against two Jamaican TV stations that he says refused to air an advertisement in which he calls for respect for the rights of homosexuals.

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