The Issue Of Homophobia In Jamaica 

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The laws come from outdated religious mindsets from the seventeenth century when the majority of blacks in Jamaica were slaves. The mass use of slavery during this time is a contributing factor to the homophobia. Plantation owners were forced by law to teach Christianity to slaves. Christianity was not quite tolerant of intersex relations. Use of slavery in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth-century is a contributing factor to the nationalistic feel of homophobia. Up until 1870, the Church of England was the established church among the British colonies. One of the responsibilities of the church was to provide religious instruction to slaves. Of course, the teachings of the bible included the anti-gay remarks, that we’ve all heard at one point in time. In Leviticus 18:22, it states the following: “You must not lie down with a male in the same way that you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable act. ”

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The bible condemns sexuality activity that is not between wife and husband. But the bible also states that a consequence of rebelling against your parents is punishable by death. If we followed all the teachings of the bible we’d all be dead at some point. Slaves were forced into Christianity, once freed the teachings by the English church did not leave.

It’s safe to say Jamaica is widely known for its homophobia; you see it in their culture every day. From the music played over the radio to films and even the Rastafari religion. There are quite a lot of musicians who advocate for the mass murder of “chi chi man” a. k. a gay men. In T. O. K’s most popular song “Chi Chi Man”, the group calls for the collective murder of men in gay bars. Its lyrics:

“From dem a par inna chi chi man car / Blaze di fire mek we bun dem! From dem a drink inna chi chi man bar / Blaze di fire mek we dun dem!” (“Those who gather in a fag’s car / Blaze the fire, let’s burn them! Those who drink in a fag bar / Blaze the fire, let’s kill them!”)

These lyrics evoke a deep hatred for gays that translates to violence and murder. This is just one instance out of many other songs and artists that dehumanize LGBTI individuals in Jamaica. The “Stop Murder Music” campaign was a direct response to the dancehall genre. Gay and Lesbain activists have been trying their hardest to stop the spread of hateful lyrics across the world. Its campaign has started efforts in trying to get funding pulled from live shows, organize boycotts and protest when the artist performs. It had some success in the united states and Europe, where LGBT movements have had some stride. Major performances have been canceled, sponsors of the artist have pulled out and boycotts have brought attention to the issue. However, it is a risk to attend these boycotts in Jamaica, as they are a hot pot for anti-gay violence.

During the early morning on July 22, 2013, 16-year old Dwayne Jones was murdered, beaten to death by a mob in the street. He was left bleeding, beaten twice until his death. The previous day, Jones went to a house party in Kingston, Jamaica, the capital and largest city. He attended this house party dressed in women’s garb or drag. When he noticed an old female friend from church, he revealed his identity to her, almost immediately afterward a mob formed around Jones questioning his sexuality. He was with two of his transgender friends, one of whom was raped by the mob, she was forced to flee to the nearby woods. Jones’ family did not claim the body as his father and neighbors disowned him at the tender age of fourteen.

This case attracted international outrage. This one out of many results of homophobia in Jamaica. Gay rights activists are the most at risk. Organizations such as J-FLAG (Jamaica’s Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays) work from an undisclosed, secret location. Those who work closely with the organization must use fake names to protect themselves. In 2004 two known members of J-FLAG were murdered in their homes. Brian Williamson, co-founder of J-FLAG was found dead in his apartment, stabbed seventy- seven times. Williamson was known to make appearances advocating for human rights. Once the murder was announced on the news, a crowd assembled outside of the apartment chanting homophobic slurs, slogans, and lyrics. These are two examples of murder, however, there are many accounts of physical assaults and even arson. J-FLAG recorded 231 incidents of attacks against LGBT people, including home invasions, physical assaults, and mob attacks, between 2009 and 2012.

The majority of the time, LGBT individuals are hesitant to report assaults due to discrimination by police. “ In only 4 of the 56 cases of violence documented by Human Rights Watch were victims aware of any arrests of suspects by the police. ” Police won’t investigate hate crimes against the LGBT community. Probably because police are often perpetrators of violence themselves. An example of police discrimination would be when seventeen-year-old Kevin G, was badly beaten by his brother in February 2013, when he went to the police station to report what had happened, the police did nothing, reportedly calling him a “battyman” and “a fish”.

On top of the many disadvantages LGBT individuals have to go through, they must also deal with healthcare discrimination. Often being turned away because of the sexual preference/identity. The fear of negative responses keeps LGBT individuals from seeking the help they need. One story told to Human Rights, talks about a young transgender woman who was humiliated and slashed by the doctors and porter at Kingston Public Hospital. Anne I, went to the hospital for stab wounds she had received after an attack, upon examing her, the doctor discovered she was trans and began to call other nurses and doctors into the room to look at her sex organ. When she returned for a follow-up on her wounds, she was physically assaulted again by one of the porters, he had pulled a knife on her and slashed her neck. She was placed in a room by nurses to be protected but was left untreated overnight. How can we expect LGBT to seek medical help when they are being assaulted in hospitals?

J-FLAG and other organizations have tried to appeal “The Offences Against The Person’s Act” but have not been successful. Many Jamaican citizens do not want the law to be removed. The 150- year old law has been tested and challenge but it will not budge. Some believe the law does more good than harm but that is not the case. People are dying at excessive rates, there’s nowhere they can go, the hospitals and precincts can not be trusted. The last option would be to flee the country, however many of these people are poor and cannot afford travel visas to more tolerable countries. Violence and discrimination should not an everyday occurrence for these individuals. There needs to be a serious change in the public attitude towards LGBT peoples. Removing the anti-buggery laws from the government can be the first step in changing the human rights situation in Jamaica.

31 October 2020

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