The situation in Jamaica concerning the status and well-being of its homosexual citizens continues to evolve in a one step forward-two steps backward manner. The video above, featuring former Miss Jamaica World (1998) and Miss Jamaica Universe (2004) Christine Straw with her gay brother, Matthew, was launched by the advocacy group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) at the beginning of this month.
The video was designed as a PSA (Public Service Announcement) and was intended for airplay on Jamaica’s main TV stations, CVM and TVJ. Apparently in yet another display of media gutlessness both stations have declined to air the PSA in fear of public reaction.
Prominent Gleaner columnist and TV show host Ian Boyne devoted his entire Sunday column to the subject:
It is to our shame that Jamaican gay people cannot come on television, show their faces, debate their homosexuality with heterosexuals, go back home in peace and to their jobs and live normal lives the next day. If we lay claim to being a pluralistic, democratic society and not an autocracy like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Burma, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, gay people should be free to express their views without fear of violence, harassment or victimisation.
But what about the view that homosexuality is against Jamaican law and, therefore, it would be improper to show such blatant disrespect for Jamaican law by parading gay people on air, or showing an ad effectively calling for a softening of attitudes to these persons engaging in lawbreaking?
Of course Jamaica being the morally upright, unswervingly ethical society it is could never contemplate showing homosexuals who may have breached the country’s antiquated buggery laws on air. No it takes a zero tolerance approach to homosexuals. In a disturbing inversion of logic serious and serial criminals like David Smith and Christopher Coke have yet to be brought to book in Jamaica for crimes far more damaging than buggery while the US subjects them to the full brunt of its justice system. Smith, who has just been sentenced to 30 years in the US was a regular on air in Jamaica, in print and on radio and both political parties willingly accepted donations from him. But can a homosexual openly occupy public office or appear on TV? No way!
To their credit the People’s National Party seems to have started some kind of soul-searching on the matter although the motive in doing this might be a purely opportunistic one. Anthony Hylton, chair of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Policy Commission, was quoted in an Observer article observing that it was time for the country to initiate a dialogue on such matters as the death penalty and homosexuality.
The people in Europe are saying what kind of people are we, why are we so hostile to homosexuals, for example, and yet we know why, because we have a different cultural perspective, but we have to manage that dialogue with them, otherwise they’re going to say why are our taxpayers’ money going to these brutish people?”
According to Hylton, if we don’t deal with the issues, “we are going to be marginalised economically”.
As I said the unprecedented soul-searching seems to be prompted more by fears of not being able to access funding from the ‘developed’ world rather than a genuine desire towards greater tolerance of difference and ‘diversity’.
Meanwhile in the absence of a shelter or any facilities they can access homeless homosexual males are driven into the streets of Kingston where they resort to prostitution to make a living. According to Chairman of JAMAICA Aids Support for Life (JASL), Ian McKnight, “…while the issue might not sit well with a number of taxpayers, the situation transcends personal or religious beliefs and, instead, is a matter that should be tackled by the administration.”
McKnight was quoted in the Observer saying that though “it would be very costly to house all the homeless living in abandoned buildings and gullies in the New Kingston area…shelter should be provided for those forced out of their homes and communities and onto the streets as a result of their sexual preference.
“Many of them, he said, are vulnerable to being beaten by the police, attacked by men riding motorbikes and stoned by those bent on ridding them from society.”
So despite Jah Cure’s hauntingly beautful song–one of the most outstanding reggae songs in decades some say–there is no unconditional love for all Jamaicans. Cure, a reformed inmate who did time on a rape charge, is another lawbreaker that Jamaicans have more time for than their own children with alternate sexual orientations.