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Monday, May 28, 2007

The truth about Jamaica (follow up from Island of Hate)

By Cheril N. Clarke

I had more to say on the topic...

It is not a new revelation that the majority of the citizens of Jamaica are intolerant of members of the LGBTQ community. Not many people are surprised when something hateful is said, when the lyrics of dancehall and reggae music call for the death of gays or when someone is publicly humiliated or event brutally killed because of their sexual orientation. No, not many are surprised, but when is it enough to not only know, but do something about the hatred that runs rampant? How long will people have to hide in fear for their lives simply because they are not heterosexual? Just how many more people have to be stoned, raped, burned, stabbed, beaten with wooden planks, hospitalized or killed before something is done? It's not enough to say, "That's a shame," and keep on going with our lives while others are dying. Since Jamaica's Prime Minister refuses to repeal the anti-sodomy law something else has to be done to force his hand or remove him.

Recently, there has been a disheartening wave of violence against gays and lesbians, and it has washed up on the Internet for all to see. Among them are the photographs of a cross-dressing man has probably sparked the most talk about the subject. In addition to him, however, were gay youths who were pelted in Montego Bay, three suspected homosexual men who were assaulted by an angry mob and a group of mourners reportedly attacked by a mob armed with machetes, knives, bottles and stones. This is not new. This has been going on for years unstopped and is now spinning even more out of control. Countless men and women have been attacked because they were either gay or suspected of being gay. A wise person once said "you can measure how civilized a nation is by observing how they treat their minorities." By this measure, it is clear that Jamaica is far from civilized.

Forget about all of the beautiful images you see on your television inviting you to your "home away from home." Forget the nice weather and the pictures of "paradise" you see in advertisements. Though I recognize that not every citizen of Jamaica detests to gays, I still agree with a Time Magazine article that called Jamaica the "most homophobic place on earth." The fact that a mob of people with hate-filled eyes can beat a man or woman to death in the middle of the street in broad daylight says much about this country as a whole and their attitude towards killing—a universal crime.

Regressive groups of Jamaicans continue to condemn and attack gays and the country's leadership does nothing about it. In Jamaica if you're gay you're worse than a disease. You sicken the majority, you offend, you're a criminal, you deserve to die a violent death and have your grave danced upon by people who celebrate the end of your life. In 2004 and 2005 respectively, two of the island's leading gay rights advocates, Brian Williamson and Lenford "Steve" Harvey, were ruthlessly murdered. Since then homophobic violence continues to escalate unchecked and rather noted as a source of national pride.

Brian Williamson

Why do Jamaicans hate gays?

Like almost any anti-gay person you may ask why they feel will say it is because it is ungodly and against their beliefs of what is right and wrong. They will say it is disgusting and unnatural. Fine, they are entitled to their opinion, but they should not be able to dictate the lives of others. They should not force others to fear for their lives, seek asylum in other countries or live with suppressed desires so they, the anti-gays can live comfortably. Whether homosexuality is moral or immoral is not the right question because no one can pinpoint a single authority on morality. Your God may not be my god and your religion may not be my religion, thus the rules of your religion should not apply to me. What gives one the right to impose their views upon another? If a heterosexual is free to express him or herself in any manner they choose why should a homosexual be denied the same right? To answer that one must first acknowledge homosexuality as different, not necessarily unnatural. As old as homosexuality is and the documented evidence of it in nature among animals dispel arguments that is unnatural.

Because one is a minority does not mean they do not have rights. Does not the Jamaican constitution state, "no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience, and for the purposes of this section the said freedom includes freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance"? I won't spend too much time talking about religion because everyone is entitled to believe whatever he or she chooses. We will forever disagree on religion, but one thing that should be common for all is human rights.

There are certain things that should be respected as basic, fundamental rights. When the public defender advises LGBTQ people to "hold their corners," and states that gays and lesbians should be aware of the "repulsion that others feel" it confirms that their government is failing them on the most basic level of human rights. Yes, people should have discretion and be aware of their surroundings. People should not, however, be forced to live in situations that can be rectified.

Are heterosexual Jamaicans justified in their behavior?

No, they are absolutely not. Again, I don't want to spend too much time discussion religion because it is something that is between each individual and their god if they choose to have one. For the sake of having a foundation, however, I must at least bring it up again because many Jamaican citizens are deeply rooted in Christianity. Fine, they have a right to be, but where is the consistency in the following of the doctrine? You cannot get up, go to church, kill someone, go to sleep and go on as if everything is okay. You cannot harass someone because your holy book tells you their life is wrong, yet in your own life you have no problem indulging in the sex trade with young girls, stealing or raping. What kind of selective religious following and societal standards are those? I wonder what would happen if the many gays in Jamaica came out of hiding armed for a bloody revolution to at least start the process of being respected and accepted as a member of society.

In the 2004 case of the young man whose father encouraged a mob to beat up his son because of suspected gayness what would have happened if that young man had a gun of his own and began shooting them? What if gays got fed up with just trying to survive rather than having the right to live in peace? Will that time ever come or will we all be successfully "eradicated" by —those who dance to the slow beat of our hearts as they die whether physically or emotionally?

Is reggae and dancehall music contributing to the problem?

Yes, it can be stated with confidence that dancehall music encourages violent behavior. Many people are aware of Buju Banton's popular song "Bum Bye-Bye," that threatens gay men with a gunshot in the head and recommends pouring acid on them and setting them on fire. ACID and FIRE. Sizzla's lyrics call for the shooting of gay men, Elephant Man brags that gay men should die, "Please mark we word/Gimme da tech-nine/Shoot dem like bird" and "When you hear a lesbian getting raped/ It's not our fault ... Two women in bed/ That's two Sodomites who should be dead." Let's not forget Beanie Man's "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays," Bounty Killer's suggestion to burn "Mister Fagoty" and make him "wince in agony," and then there is washed up Shabba ranks', "If Jamaica would a legalize gun / to kill battyboy would be the greatest fun." There are plenty more including "Chi-Chi Man." Strip the rhythmic beats and listen to the lyrics. Listen to what people are dancing to as if it's anything festive about murdering one who has done nothing the people who wish him death.

What's worse is that Jamaican politicians incorporate these types of songs in their political campaigns. Am I wrong to wonder if police blotters lie when they state that many crimes against gays are internal and are crimes of passion? Can I really believe the law is on the side of gays when their political leaders incorporate these songs in their campaigns? No, I don't believe that.

Jamaica and Crime in general

As mentioned early despite the beautiful images of Jamaica we may see in advertisements the small island has a staggering crime rate, perhaps more than one thousand murders a year. The Jamaican government is able to toot low crime rates for tourists because most tourists either arrives on cruise ships and are only on the island a few hours or spend their vacations on all-inclusive resorts. To read more about the racism, harassment, theft, road-blockages, stray bullets, rape and of course homophobia, visit Jamaica Crime Risk Advisory for Tourists.

Back to homophobia, it really saddened me (angered too) to receive the amount of responses to a MySpace bulletin I'd posted about some citizen's of Jamaica's "Gay Eradication Day." ERADICATION, which by definition means to remove or destroy utterly; I wonder what would happen if someone said all Jews must leave today, or all whites or all Chinese must leave today. How would people respond to that? The proclamation may as well have been a genocidal statement.


This is genocide, plain and simple. Despite the ugly truth about the "home away from home," Americans keep visiting the island. I'm sure many are unaware of what really goes on, particularly in reference to LGBT people. Right here right now I ask every person reading this whether they are gay or straight to think about it. Absorb this info and think, if you are straight, think about your gay sister, your brother, about your cousin, your aunt, etc. The truth is every family has at least one gay person in it. Whether they're out or not, every family has at least one! Think about them the next time you book your travel and decide where to spend your money. Tourism is one of Jamaica's main industries. One American dollar equals about Sixty-Nine Jamaican dollars. If you have $5000 allocated for a trip there that would be $347,500 Jamaican Dollars. Multiply that by the hundreds of Americans who visit every year and think about how crippling it would be to Jamaican tourism if not only gays, but every American who supports Human Rights refused to visit until they treated us all fairly. Keep your dollars in communities in which you and your family can feel safe.

It's not fair that my sister can go and be comfortable with her husband, but I can't go with my wife without having to look over my shoulder every five minutes. If this were any other minority would it go ignored for so long? I highly doubt it. I'm not saying that any country or anyone has to sound trumpets and roll out a rainbow carpet. All I'm saying is that I don't want to dodge bullets, machetes and have to duck to avoid being hit by bottles and stones. I'm not saying that I want to "flaunt" my relationship in front of anyone, I'm saying that if out of habit I touch my wife's knee that I don't have to worry about a mob gathering around us. Basic civility and respect toward a fellow human being is what I'm talking about. Human Rights. Do not lower my self-worth. Do not deem me as less than, and do not justify violence and ignorance with a holy book that I am FREE to believe or not believe in.

With all that I've stated I don't want to act as though Jamaica is the only place in the Caribbean or in the world, for that matter that is deeply homophobic and intolerant toward gays. Jamaica is just the worst, having the harshest anti-sodomy law (by the way, you'd be surprised how many states have this law on the books). Barbados, Bahamas and St. Martin are not welcoming either. We are being denied are fundamental, basic human rights. Those who live there cannot live in peace. They have to hide and suppress or flee and abandon their homeland because they are not welcomed.

One of the responses I got from someone who is from the islands but now lives here was,

"That's why I moved out of the Caribbean. The people are too judgmental and hypocritical. My baby and I are both from there. We went through enough with our families and so called friends. It's made us not even want 2 take a trip back home. I've had bottles thrown at me. One time an ignorant guy pulled a gun on us. They're not as accepting as in the US. That's why I call GA home now."

True there are places right here in the United States that can be dangerous for a homosexual, but the difference is the law. The difference between the US and these islands is organizations like HRC and Garden State Equality that will not allow vicious beatings to go unchecked.

I don't believe this is only a gay issue. It is a Human Rights issue and we all must join together to help those that are being oppressed. It ought to be freedom for everyone or freedom for no one. Every group of people have found themselves the minority and oppressed at one time or another throughout history (Jews, Irish, Blacks, Women, Poor, Native Americans, Christians, Pagans, etc). Right now it is the LGBTQ community, but who will be next? It is a vicious cycle and history tells us change only happens when caring, courageous people come together to make it happen. I urge everyone now…


Don't contribute to a society that allows fellow human beings to be treated as inferior.

To help LGBTQ people in Jamaica visit: JFLAG


  • At 18/7/07 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you choose to boycott Jamaica then fine by us but don't say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and then try to push down all the negatives down peoples throat. Yes it is true that us Jamaicans are homophobic, but guess what everywhere in the world you go there are homophobic people. The way that we go about expressing our feelings is wrong and don't get me wrong I do not believe in them hurting people at all. But that is our culture, we grew up being told that two people of the same sex is not right, so you can't just expect us to say ok well Americans don't think that it is right that we are homophoobic so we are going to change our beliefs. The country is slowly changing and change takes time. I remember when I was there, no one could show or even have any indication that they are gay or lesbian in jamaica. Now they are about and yes a lot of them get hurt but there are quiet a few that knows what kinda country they live in and knows that change takes time. I have a friend in Jamaican right now that is gay and he is happy and yeah there are places he don't go and things he don't do, but at least he can tell the people closes to him. I hate when people say things like how much crime is in Jamaica and that it is not all beachs and beautiful scenery. But when you state it, it seems like Jamaican is the only place in the world that there are crimes. Just like everywhere else in the world we have the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have a brother that lives in Philly and he told me the other day that there has been almost 300 killing so far in philly not all of Pennsylvania. Yes we might not be as big as they are but there is ugly anywhere in the world that you go. Then back to this boycott thing, if the economy is not growing, then how can we as a nation grow. There is a saying,"the devil find idle hands work to do". That is why the crime rate is so high in jamaican, because of currupted politicians and the fact that people have nothing to do. Imagine going to school and getting a world renown education and nothing to do with it. I have more to say but I am sorry I have to get back to work. I will say that you made some really valid points but please think things all the way through before you write them down for the world to see.

  • At 18/7/07 3:50 PM, Blogger said…

    To the poster:

    Thank you for your heartfelt comments. The author of the opinion/editorial (Cheril N. Clarke) has been notified of your reply and will be given every opportunity to respond to your concerns.

    Thank you for sharing your views.

  • At 18/7/07 6:53 PM, Anonymous Cheril N. Clarke said…

    Thank you for your response. I never stated that Jamaica was the only place, but that it is among the worst.

    I said, "True there are places right here in the United States that can be dangerous for a homosexual, but the difference is the law. The difference between the US and these islands is organizations like HRC and Garden State Equality that will not allow vicious beatings to go unchecked."

    I do agree that change takes time, but I don't see a big change in JA any time soon. Until then, I won't go and stay at a resort where I may be paying a person's salary, who at night may harm me physically because of who I love. I would, however, support organizations to strengthen people in the LGBT community there. I heard about a Reggae Compassion Act. That is a good start considering the influence music has.

    Also, I don't speak as simply an American. I'm not even American, I'm a Canadian permanently residing in the US and my parents are Jamaican. The issue of JA hits home for me as well.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to read it and for your response.


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