Activists protest jamaican homophobia

Published: August 6, 2014

NEW YORK – On the 52nd anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from the United Kingdom, human rights activists renew their calls for the repeal of that country’s buggery law, which effectively criminalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) life.  Violation of the colonial-era law carries a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor.  However, the consequences reverberate throughout Jamaican society, helping to fuel widespread anti-LGBT violence.

The U.S. Department of State, the Organization of American States, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and Amnesty International have condemned the history of violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals in Jamaica and called for repeal of the buggery law.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has failed to act to repeal the law despite indications during her 2011 campaign that she would work with the LGBT community.  Since then, activists have filed two suits against the law.

In June, thousands of Jamaicans rallied in support of keeping the law and against the “homosexual agenda” after the government had been reportedly discussing the possibility of repeal.  Few voices openly favoring repeal have been heard within Jamaica.

Several activists at today’s protest have either been forced to flee to Jamaica or have family and friends under threat there.  Dwayne Brown, founder of JamaicaIn June, thousands of Jamaicans rallied in support of keeping the law and against the “homosexual agenda” after the government had been reportedly discussing the possibility of repeal.  Few voices openly favoring repeal have been heard within Jamaica.

Several activists at today’s protest have either been forced to flee to Jamaica or have family and friends under threat there.  Dwayne Brown, founder of Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, said, “From the safety of our adopted sanctuary countries, we demand an end to the grave injustices perpetrated against our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Every day, they must fight for their lives.” 

“Jamaica’s ‘Emancipendence’ celebration is an appropriate time to reflect on the realization of the dream of inclusion captured in our motto ‘Out of Many One People,’” stated Maurice Tomlinson, a prominent human rights lawyer forced to flee Jamaica.  “We are standing today, as Jamaicans in the Diaspora along with our allies, to affirm that ALL Jamaicans are citizens and deserve the full rights of our citizenship.”

Jason Latty, President of the Caribbean Alliance for Equality, said, “It is imperative for the survival and vitality of the Jamaican people that we move swiftly to repeal the buggery law.  My organization is outraged about the increasing acts of terror directed against LGBT Jamaicans.  A nation that does not respect the life and dignity of its people is a nation on the decline.”

Edwin Sesange, Director of the Out and Proud Diamond Group, stated, “This is the time for Jamaica to practice love for all.  The buggery law should be scrapped immediately before more lives are lost.  The government of Jamaica and its citizens should work towards achieving equality and justice for all its citizens, including LGBTI people.”

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