Monday, April 27, 2009
Jamaica...the land that is known for its beautiful beaches, laid back mentality,and advertises a wonderful love of life has forgotten to mention that it is one of the most homophobic places in the world! Under Jamaican law homosexuality is punishable by ten years of hard labor. While an adult male sexually assaulting a teenage girl only warrants seven. There’s something very wrong with this picture! Why should the lifestyles of two consenting individuals and what they do in the privacy of their own homes concern another? Living in Jamaica as a GLBT (Gay,Lesbian,Bi-Sexual,or Transgendered)has been compared to living in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban! There are vigilante groups combing the streets with automatic weapons killing without remorse, having no solid proof of their victims sexuality--exacting a “Sexual Salem Witch Hunt”!
In the U.S. the GLBT of San Francisco has launched a boycott of Jamaican tourism and products. This protest starting in San Francisco have worked there way to New York City. This grassroots protests though well intentioned, were not sanctioned by J-FLAG (Jamaican Forum for All Sexual and Gays) are considered to be causing more harm than good. These protests are thought to single out certain corporations such as Red Stripe Beer. This company in 2008 took a bold step by denouncing homophobic behavior and pulled sponsorship from those who violated the rights of GLBT.
It has been stated by a J-FLAG representative, “We believe that any overseas entity or organization seeking to agitate for change in a context with which it has only passing familiarity should first do its homework to ensure that it does not do harm ... to the cause of the local community whose interest it seeks to defend,” But it is believed by many from other countries, that if economy pressure is not enforced, this unjust and inhuman behavior will continue. The GLBT are not asking much from the Jamaican government. Their only demands are:
1.For Jamaican officials to publicly commit to the ending of gay bashing on the island and improving the human rights situation.
2.A statement from the Prime Minister clearly and unequivocally condemning violence against GLBT people and expressing regret for past violence.
As a heterosexual male I am just an outsider looking in. I can empathize with both sides of the GLBT movements. The non-Jamaicans see a horrible injustice that they wish to end. Were the Jamaican citizen believe these well intentioned acts are just adding fuel to the fire. I believe that homophobia is a horrible sickness if not treated will spread like any other disease. In my opinion wide scale boycotts are not always the answer because they also harm the innocent. Knowledge is the best weapon. I have known and love many Gays,Lesbians,and Bi-Sexual--now after learning of the horror being inflicted upon these people in Jamaica, until there is a change I will never set foot, or endorse this place in any way!
Sources:San Francisco Bay Times,New America Media,Jason McFarlane,J-FLAG,Camille Atkinson of Associated Content,Red Stripe Beer