Showing posts with label Jamaica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jamaica. Show all posts

October 19, 2018

Inspite of Fear LGBT Took To The Streets in Montego Bay, Jamaica












Alicia Barrett/Gleaner Writer

 Some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) group took to the streets of Montego Bay, St James, on Sunday to make it clear that they would like to be accepted in society the way they are.
In a well-organised march, the LGBT community managed to evade the eyes of the wider public as they used a deserted roadway in the parish. In a three-minute video, persons were seen gyrating and having a good time as music blasted in the background.
Organiser of the march and president of Montego Bay Pride Maurice Tomlinson said that the event was a success and incident-free even though there was fear among the revellers.
"At the outset, there was fear. Many persons who were on the march were skeptical, but the police had a large presence. I think there were about 25 of them and the roads were blocked off, so it would be hard for anyone to come on the march and do us any harm," he said.
Tomlinson told The Gleaner that the LGBT community is aware of the homophobic society that they live in, and so it was a pleasure to see that so many persons walked bravely to showcase that they are someone as well.
"We hoped to get at least 50 LGBT Jamaicans to bravely walk despite the very real fears that the community feels as a result of the alarming levels of homophobic violence and views that exist in our society. However, more than 100 persons showed up," he said.



NOT DENIED RIGHT

The march, which was called 'Walk for Rights', was done at the end of their annual Pride week. Tomlinson said that it was a new development as the LGBT community tries to raise awareness among the nation.
He said that they were no longer willing to accept the denial of their human rights by some members of society and the Government, and through the march, they aimed to open the minds of people and stop homophobia.
Head of the Corporate Communications Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Assistant Superintendent of Police Dahlia Garrick said that the permit was sought and given to the organisers for the 30-minute event. She said that the JCF recognised that the human rights of every citizen should be respected, and as such, they were not denied their rights.
"We ensured that their human rights were observed and respected, and they were given the highest level of professionalism," she said.
Tomlinson said: "Montego Bay Pride deliberately coincides with this holiday (National Heroes Day), which celebrates our heroes who struggled and sometimes died for complete liberation of all Jamaicans. Our heroes' many sacrifices were also made for LGBT citizens."
He added that there were more marches in the pipeline, and they were hoping that more groups and organisations, including corporate donors, would assist in the upcoming events.

June 26, 2018

Celebrating Gay Pride When Being Gay is Illegal in Jamaica








Life as an LGBTQ person in Jamaica can be fraught. Homophobic and transphobic violence persists in the country, and sex between men is still illegal (anti-sodomy laws date back to 1864, a cruel vestige of British colonial rule). The mob killing of LGBTQ teen Dwayne Jones in 2013 was particularly vicious; last year, the designer and stylist Dexter Pottinger, a former face of Jamaican Pride, was murdered in his home.
Suelle Anglin, an associate director at Jamaica’s foremost LGBTQ advocacy organization, J-Flag, wants you to know that these headlines don’t tell the full story. “One of the main narratives is that we are one of the most homophobic places on earth,” she says. “That [reputation] came from back in the ‘90s, when things were really bad for LGBTQ people. Not that everything is now peaches and cream. But over 20 years, so much has changed.”
In July, J-Flag is throwing its fourth annual Pride event, a week-long celebration of LGBTQ lives fueled by soca music and free-flowing rum. It’s a testament to the pockets of solidarity and strength within the country, and the networks that, once underground, are edging into the light. Here, in her own words, is Anglin on J-Flag and Pride in Jamaica.

Pride in Jamaica is one of the best experiences you can think of. It’s a week of diverse events, so no matter where in the community you fall, it caters specifically to what you need. We have a sports day, a family fun day, health care, a religious service, and a beach picnic and cooler fête. And we also have a breakfast party, which starts from about five in the morning. We don’t have a parade that’s similar to what they do in America—we have never heard that people here have wanted to do a march.
In Jamaica, dancing and fashion is a very big part of who we are. At the beach party, people really come out dressed to the nines: rainbow umbrellas, rainbow bags, rainbow towels. Last year, I saw a lesbian couple with their dog, and the dog was dyed in rainbow colors. We have a lot of music: soca, hip-hop, pop, reggae, dancehall. It’s about enjoying our Jamaican culture in a Pride-inclusive space. Big Freedia performed, and it was really amazing. She said that if she had known this was the vibe of Jamaica Pride, she would have been here every single year. I’m a lesbian—out and proud. When I came out in 2011, the scene wasn’t as open. A lot of the events took place underground, and it was more like, "I tell you, and you tell your friends, and then you show up." The first Pride in Jamaica in 2015 was the first Pride I attended, ever. I really felt, "Oh, my God, are we really going to be able to do this in Jamaica?" There was a flash mob in New Kingston, in Emancipation Park, and Ellen Page was here filming for Vice. It was a very surreal feeling for people to be that open and that visible, on such a big scale.
I think now, things are pretty open—there’s been a tremendous growth regarding visibility. Businesses are saying that they are welcoming to the community, and there is an active LGBTQ party promoter scene. If you ask older people in the community, they’ll tell you that back in the day when they had parties, it was in very far, secluded venues—no hanging about—as opposed to now, where people are having events in very open, visible spaces.
The theme for this year’s Pride is "centering LGBTQ people in Jamaica’s future." That’s important because LGBTQ people in Jamaica are Jamaicans. They should be able to enjoy our music and culture, to go to different health facilities to get health care, and to get the best education, without harassment and bullying in schools.
I think that a lot of the reasons why a lot of LGBTQ people left back in the ’90s, and even consider leaving now, is because they feel as if Jamaica here is not their Jamaica. They feel as if they can’t enjoy the spaces that they should be able to enjoy. And when we send people away, we force them to adapt to a different culture: a different food, a different music, a different everything. We want to ensure that we are creating spaces here in Jamaica so that LGBTQ people can live their best lives. They can have their family, they can work, they can party, and they can enjoy everything that makes us Jamaican.
Occasionally, we get homophobic comments when we post things online. But in the three years that I’ve been with J-Flag, we haven’t had threats at any of our events. We provide security, and we have a good relationship with the police, so we have officers at our big Pride events. I’ve never felt scared at Pride in Jamaica, but I have felt anxious. Last year, we had between 1,000 and 1,500 people at our beach party and cooler fête. I’d never been in a space with so many people from the community, in such an open place. I was like, "I can’t believe I am in Jamaica, and I am in a space like this.”

.      
      GQ




January 31, 2018

Jamaica Finally Does Something For Safety of LGBT by Barring Preacher Whose Message is Death to Gays


Controversial US Pastor Steven Anderson reacts as he leaves the Botswana Department of immigration after being issued a deportation order by Botswana authorities, on September 20, 2016, in Gaborone.
Add caption




Image copyright Steven Anderson was deported from Botswana in 2016 after he said homosexuals should be stoned to death


A controversial US pastor was prevented from boarding a flight to Jamaica after the authorities there decided to deny him entry. 
Pastor Steven Anderson, who is based in Arizona, runs the Faithful Word Baptist Church which says that homosexuality is an abomination and should be punishable by death.
Officials said his statements were "not conducive to the current climate".
Mr. Anderson has been barred from South Africa and deported from Botswana. 
The pastor had planned to travel to Jamaica with his 14-year-old son to carry out "missionary work" when he was prevented by airline officials from boarding the plane on Monday.
"I had a connecting flight in Atlanta, so as soon as I got to Atlanta, Delta Air Lines told me that they received a notification from Jamaica that I was not going to be allowed to enter," Mr. Anderson told The Gleaner newspaper.
"I was kind of surprised that Jamaica would ban me for my views on homosexuality," he added.
Jamaica has laws criminalizing gay sex and rights groups have warned that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people face frequent discrimination.
But LGBT rights activists in Jamaica started a petition asking the Jamaican government to ban Mr. Anderson and it was signed by more than 38,000 people. 
Jay John, who launched the petition, said he was very pleased with the outcome and called it a "victory". 
"His literal interpretation of the Bible regarding the killing of gay people should not be echoed in a society like Jamaica," Mr. John had argued. 
In September 2016, Mr. Anderson was deported from Botswana after he said on a local radio programme that homosexuals should be "stoned to death".
A week earlier, he had been banned from South Africa, and before that, from the UK.

January 21, 2018

If You Are Already in Jamaica Stay in Your Room, British Gov Warns



This blog has warn torurist but particularly Gay Men, Lesbians and Trans many times to stay away from Jamaica. Now the warning comes to all British Tourists from their government and that should go for Americans also.




 


British tourists are being warned they should stay inside their resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica. 
The Jamaican government has declared a state of emergency in the St James parish, after a number of "shooting incidents". 
The Foreign Office has told British tourists to stay in the confines of their hotels as a "major military operation" takes place. 
About 200,000 British tourists visit Jamaica every year. 
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "[Tourists] should follow local advice including restrictions in selected areas, and exercise particular care if travelling at night. 
"[They] should stay in their resorts and limit travel beyond their respective security perimeters."
Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness
Image captionJamaica PM Andrew Holness says the government had been planning the operation "for some time"
On Thursday the country's prime minister, Andrew Holness, said the state of emergency was "necessary" in order to "restore public safety" in the St James area. 
Chief of defence, Major General Rocky Meade, said forces were targeting gangs, with "particular focus on those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns, and extortion".
He added: "We ask that you co-operate with the troops." 
State of Emergency declared in St James Parish which includes Montego Bay, in response to recent violence including shooting incidents. Follow local advice including restrictions in selected areas, exercise particular care if travelling at night. http://ow.ly/fu4A30hRMc5 
Simon Calder, the Independent newspaper's travel editor, said gang crime in the area had been "intensifying".
He told Radio 5 live: "Last year there were an average of six killings a week - and since the start of the year it has got even worse."
It also estimated there had been 38 killings across the country in the first six days of 2018, compared with 23 over the same period last year.
Montego BayImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTourists are drawn to Montego Bay's white sandy beaches
As the UK Foreign Office has not warned against travel to Jamaica, Mr Calder said holiday firms have no obligation to offer customers alternative destinations. 
He added: "I've never seen Foreign Office advice quite like this before. Normally the UK government says either 'it's OK' or 'don't go'."
A military checkpoint in Montego BayImage copyrightBECKS PALOU
Image captionBecks Palou says the military told her group it was fine to travel around the country

 Bristol-based Becks Palou is part of a group of friends on holiday in Montego Bay.

They left their hotel early this morning to drive to Kingston, the capital, after staff said it was safe to travel. 
Ms Palou, who is originally from Spain, said they were delayed by stops at military checkpoints but were able to reach their destination.
She said: "When we went out on the road, we arrived at the checks and we were let through. Soldiers felt it was fine to travel. 
"It feels safe, more than usual because the roads are quieter."
Sean Tipton, from the Association of British Travel Agents, said that hotels in Montego Bay have "very strict security" which means tourists can feel safe.
He told the BBC: "If you look at the incidents that have occurred, they have been directed at local people. 
"It's obviously terrible for them, but in terms of instances affecting tourists, I haven't actually come across one in Jamaica for quite some time."
He also stressed the importance of following the advice from tour operators and the Foreign Office and not leaving resorts unless on an organised excursion.

Are you in Montego Bay? Have you been affected by recent events? If it is safe to do so, you can share your experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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."


December 13, 2016

$3Mil EU Boost ($170Bil) to Anti Gay Jamaica But No Strings Attached for LGBT Rights



If you visit Jamaica and you believe in Civil and human rights for the gay community, you really don’t. Nothing makes a people change their prehistoric ideas about others than money and financial development. Not impending war, not criticism. But financial ties when cut will make common sense change over ideas implanted by colonial powers a couple centuries ago.”  (adamfoxie)



While making it clear that Europe would prefer if Jamaica expands gay rights and abolish the death penalty, the European Union's (EU) new representative in Kingston insists that these would not be conditions for the island to continue to receive EU economic aid.

" ... There is no conditionality," Malgorzata Wasilewska, the head of the EU Delegation in Jamaica, said in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner.

"It never has been, and it never will be," said Wasilewska in response to questions if the EU would demand movements from Jamaica in line with the trends in Europe.

"But if in the course of our cooperation any of our values are not respected - for example, if we implement a project and during the project, there is a clear violation of human rights in the implementation - of course, we would raise that and have a conversation about it," added Wasilewska.

Over the past 40 years, the EU has provided Jamaica with official development assistance of approximately €1.2 billion, or J$170 billion. Some of this money has been direct budgetary support, which has helped the island meet crucial fiscal targets under its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


$3-BILLION BOOST

Only last week, the EU provided a grant of €24 million (more than J$3 billion) to support Jamaica's Justice System Reform Programme.

Of this amount, €22 million was in the form of budget support, while €1 million will be offered to civil-society organisations, through calls for proposals to contribute to improving access to justice, with an emphasis on vulnerable groups. The remaining €1 million will go towards providing technical assistance, evaluation and audits, as well as communication and visibility services.

But the issue of gay rights and the death penalty, subtexts to EU-Jamaica relations, are not areas where the long-time friends see eye to eye, and there have been concerns that the 28-member bloc will use its financial might to force the island to fall in line with its position on these issues.

Most of the money the EU has given Jamaica has been grant resources for sectors such as education, human-rights awareness, security, agriculture, and rural development, but there have been concerns expressed recently as more and more Europeans start looking inwards.

Wasilewska last week admitted that the EU does not see eye to eye with Jamaica on issues such as the death penalty and LBGT rights, but said that would not impact the billions of dollars in aid provided to the island each year.

"We will continue having a dialogue on values that are important to us and they will include conversations on the death penalty and LBGT rights, on equality of rights to all citizens. I am convinced that the dialogue will be an honest and frank exchange between equals," Wasilewska told The Sunday Gleaner on the fringes of a meet-and-greet session in Kingston.

In June, all 28 EU member states reached a consensus on LGBT rights and agreed at the Council of the European Union to work against "any discrimination" against LGBT people, and to ramp up pan-European efforts on equality.

The council urges individual national governments "to consider working together with the European Commission with regard to its list of actions to advance LGBTI equality", and "to take action to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity".

Jamaica has shied away from any such commitment, with the recently introduced Charter of Rights failing to recognise same-sex unions or provide any specific protection for members of the LBGT community.

The death penalty has been abolished in all EU states and is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

Locally, parliamentarians voted in 2008 to retain the death penalty, even though no execution has taken place in decades.

  

June 9, 2016

Growing Gay Up in Jamaica {Award Winning Novelist}



                                                                         


Living as a closeted gay man in Jamaica drove novelist Marlon James to such despair that he once wrote he knew he had to leave "in a plane or a coffin." 
He left, on a plane for the United States, seemingly confirming Time magazine's 2006 headline that the Caribbean island was "The Most Homophobic Place on Earth." 
Back for the Calabash International Literary Festival, which features poets, novelists and writers from across the globe, the 2015 Man Booker Prize winner said his own story was actually more complicated. 
"The thing about Jamaica, for such a small country, is that there are 10 different Jamaicas and the one you live in is not necessarily the one that everyone else lives in," said James, 45. 
He described his milieu as for the most part "uptown," very different from the Jamaica that makes headlines as a place where gay people are beaten to death by mobs. International media painted a one-sided picture of his home country, James said. 
"They have a narrative that Jamaica is a place where these anti-gay Gestapos are running around killing people that they are just so desperate to get that narrative." 
Rather than a fear of being killed, the "coffin" comment he wrote in a 2015 New York Times article referred to touching rock bottom and contemplating suicide as he struggled with his identity. 
"I didn't think I could live here as a gay man. But I didn't need a beating to find that out," he said. 
The divide between the better off "uptown" and underprivileged "downtown" creates a constant tension on the island, one addressed in "A Brief History of Seven Killings," James' novel about an assassination attempt on Bob Marley that catapulted the author to global fame. 
The class divide is especially acute for gay people. 
A poor gay Jamaican can face violence on the streets, but an "uptown" gay Jamaican can be tacitly accepted, or at least tolerated. 
"It's the one country in the world I have a right to be in. In the sense that I can step into Jamaica with a sense of entitlement because I am entitled to my country," said James, who lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College. 
"Which is not to say I'm kidding myself that everything is fine or that I could walk down the street holding some guy's hand or anything like that." 
"The reason that homophobia is so acute in Jamaica is because the church supports it," said the former church-goer who underwent attempts to cure him of being gay. 
But James also acknowledged churches as the "lifeblood" of many communities and a constructive force. 
James has come back to Jamaica three times so far this year, and credits the Calabash Festival for the publication of his first novel. It was at a workshop at the bi-annual event that U.S. author Kaylie Jones convinced James to resurrect the book after multiple rejections. 
"This is also a place where I discovered so much of the world of literature. This is the place where my mind was first blown, in a way. It's a sense of familiarity and family and also discovery. Also, it's nice seeing a beach," he said, sitting by the Caribbean Sea. 
James said he was not ready to move back to a country he had left when he was 37, because of the opportunities for writers in the United States. 
"There's a literary community, there's support, there's infrastructure, there are grants. There are all these things in place to help the writer where I live that are just not here." 
by Rebekah Kedebe

December 15, 2015

Heroes Fighting Anti Gay JAMAICA’s Laws and Stigma



                                                           

“If you take a trip to Jamaica and is not a fact finding trip but a vacation trip when you can get what they offer there in other islands you are helping the people that are killing gays there and are obstructing the work that so many are trying to accomplish by those who put their life on their line everyday.” Adam
In a country that criminalizes homosexuality and where violence against LGBT people has been disproportionately high, gay rights campaigners are daring to launch a legal challenge to try to end Jamaica’s ban on homosexuality.

Reports say that campaigner and attorney Maurice Tomlinson has filed a claim with Jamaica’s Supreme Court in order to challenge aspects of the law that ban sodomy and criminalizes male-male relationships as “gross indecency.” Tomlinson, who is supported by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the group AIDS-Free World, fled Jamaica in 2012 and now resides in Canada. He has returned to Jamaica for this legal challenge, after a similar challenge that was started in 2013 ended due to the plaintiff, Javed Jaghai, whom Tomlinson represented, backed out because he feared violence and persecution.

Tomlinson, who is a senior policy analyst at the Legal Network, is arguing that the ban breaches his rights: ”The law is a gross violation of my human rights and those of all LGBTI people in my country,” Tomlinson is quoted as saying. “It directly infringes numerous rights guaranteed by Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and also fuels horrific violence.”

He goes on to say, “The criminalisation and marginalisation of consensual sex drives gay men and other men who have sex with men underground, away from desperately needed HIV prevention, treatment and testing services.”

The law, The Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA) carries three broad provisions (Sections 76., 77. and 78.) which in order criminalize “buggery,” the attempt to “commit the said abominable crime” which could technically be used to criminalize other acts, and finally “outrages on decency” which means that men who are even suspected of seeking out a same-gender relationship could be punished. There are other aspects of the law that empower officials to break up Pride parades and to go into people’s homes without warrants if they suspect criminal activity under this act.

In the most harsh cases for crimes relating to “buggery,” violators may face up to 10 years in prison. Same-gender relationships between women are technically not criminalized, but they are certainly not yet accepted and other laws could be used to penalize those relationships.

Jamaica’s anti-gay laws are rarely invoked in any wider sense, yet as we’ve learned from other countries the very fact of there being a ban creates state-sanctioned stigma and acts as a means for citizens and even law enforcement agencies to threaten, intimidate and even extort LGBT people. In addition to this, LGBTs in Jamaica have faced high levels of violence, disproportionate levels of joblessness and homelessness, and poor health care access. Despite indications a few years ago that in terms of policy the government might be energized to tackle discrimination against LGBTs, no such efforts have materialized and the government is characterized as having very little political will to make any such change.

Despite this, grassroots activism and a general softening of attitudes among the public does seem to be providing a more positive outlook. For example, Jamaica’s LGBT community was able to hold its first set of Pride events this past summer, including parades, flashmob events and other small gatherings. These events went off peacefully and largely without interference from officials, marking what LGBT rights groups in the region say is a significant milestone in LGBT rights progress. Civil rights groups also attest that while LGBTs in the country do still face disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination, those incidents are decreasing and there is a general trend, if not toward acceptance then to at least tolerance.

As such, Tomlinson’s lawsuit may be coming at the right time when Jamaica is ready for change, and when the courts might sense the public shift on homosexuality and reflect that. Unfortunately, as with any significant legal change for a disfavored class of people, there is a chance that this high-profiled case could spark a backlash. If the government were to choose any time to act, now would be it. For example, looking at anti-discrimination opportunities and hate crimes legislation to emphasize that the government does not condone violence or discrimination against LGBT people.
       
       
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    ABOUT STEVE WILLIAMS

    Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human rights, animal welfare and health care reform. He is a published author, poet and citizen journalist, and a scriptwriter for computer games, film and web serials.

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