For anti-gay Jamaicans, chickens coming home to roost

Online coverage from The Gleaner.

Online coverage from The Gleaner.

Jamaica’s legendary homophobia has resulted in some kids being kicked out of their homes as early as 11 years old. Many of these kids end up on the streets and engage in disruptive behaviour.

Yesterday, Jamaica’s major newspaper again reported on this issue which subsequently consumed the talk show programmes all day.

The article carried the very stigmatizing title “Gays Wreak Havoc – Cops Say Homosexuals too Much to Handle”

Jamaican blogger, Annie Paul, wrote this excellent summary of the situation:

Jamaican attitudes to homosexuality force families to evict members who are gay and if society in general then denies the young men decent jobs and the social wherewithal to make lives for themselves the outcasts will then do what outcasts everywhere do for survival: beg, borrow, steal, harass, attack and generally ‘get on bad’.

It’s a predictable outcome. Why are we so surprised?

For her full article, see “…the creation of our collective homophobia?”

J-FLAG has responded to this latest crisis, which it has tried for years to address.

Here is J-FLAG’s press release, titled “J-FLAG supports police intervention in New Kingston”:

J-FLAG wishes to respond to a report in the Jamaica Gleaner on January 25, 2013, that “gays are wreaking havoc” in South East St Andrew and the police are experiencing severe challenges in addressing the unruly behaviour of some homeless gay men.

We want to make it absolutely clear that while J-FLAG advocates for the rights of all Jamaicans, and in particular members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, J-FLAG does not condone any form of misconduct, violent or criminal behaviour.

In addition, while these individuals may be members of the LGBT community, J-FLAG cannot be held culpable for their actions and behaviour. As an advocacy organisation, J-FLAG seeks to ensure that the state provides protection for the rights of all persons and that its services are afforded to everyone, including LGBT people. The organisation provides services for those who have been victims of homophobic discrimination, violence or other forms of abuse. Furthermore, whereas J-FLAG seeks to empower LGBT people to claim their rights as outlined in the constitution, we have always encouraged our constituents to recognize that citizenship comes with responsibilities.

Cooperation with the Police

J-FLAG is fully aware of the extremely difficult and challenging circumstances the police have been facing on this matter. The police in the St Andrew South Division have been very supportive of the promotion of human rights and we have been very cooperative with them in their efforts. J-FLAG empathizes with the police who are also concerned about the safety of these men when they are taken into custody.

J-FLAG, as communicated to the police on many occasions, is fully supportive of their efforts to resolve the issues created by homeless gay men. J-FLAG agrees it is necessary to apprehend and incarcerate persons who commit crimes and understand the necessity of mitigating the impact of lawlessness on businesspeople, residents, employees and commuters. J-FLAG does not in any way consider the police undertaking their duties as homophobic or being anti-gay. This has never been the position of the organisation.

Our Interventions

Like all businesspeople, residents, employees, visitors and commuters of the New Kingston and Golden Triangle communities, J-FLAG is frustrated with the situation, and the organisation has made and continues to make attempts to intervene. J-FLAG has met and collaborated with a broad range of stakeholders, including the Police, the Member of Parliament for the constituency, the Mayor, the Ministry of Health, the Councillor, the Child Development Agency, church leaders and representatives of the business community but the outcomes have not been significant enough to address the behavioural issues from which these issues stem.

In responding to the needs of homeless gay men, we have sought to establish a drop in and residential rehabilitative care centre to meet their basic needs for food and shelter and to provide psychosocial support and skills training. Regrettably, despite the efforts of staff of both J-FLAG and Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and our partners, we have been unable to secure a property to undertake the intervention. In most cases, proprietors are reluctant to sign a lease agreement with us because of the fear that incidents such as that which occurred on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 will cause damage to their properties.

Jamaican member of parliament Julian Robinson

Jamaican member of parliament Julian Robinson

There have been several interventions over the years by our partners. As noted by the Member of Parliament, Julian Robinson, these interventions have failed to yield the desired results. Some of these have been discontinued while others are still being conducted. Currently, J-FLAG provides meals three times weekly for thirty homeless gay men and where possible, the organisation assists with family reintegration. We have also been working with HEART Trust NTA to assess their skill levels to determine the possibility of enrolling them into job training programmes. However, J-FLAG does not have the financial and human resources to provide these men with all the services they need.

This untenable situation is a feature of a broader societal problem facing many persons who are affected by high levels of prejudice and discrimination meted out to them in communities across the island. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the Government of Jamaica’s support for people who are homeless is severely inadequate.

As J-FLAG recognise that the solutions require a board response, we invite businesspeople, residents, employees and commuters to continue to work with us to develop a plan of action to be sent to the Member of Parliament. It is very clear that this situation is an urgent one that requires intervention from the highest offices of government, including the Prime Minister, Hon. Portia Simpson Miller.

J-FLAG urge all well thinking Jamaicans who are concerned about the impact of these activities on our economy to support the organisation and its partners in their efforts. and we continue to work towards making Jamaica a safe, cohesive and just society.

About Maurice Tomlinson

Maurice Tomlinson of Jamaica was the inaugural winner of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award and has been involved in HIV/AIDS and LGBTI activism in the Caribbean for more than 12 years. An attorney-at-law, he leads and supports legal challenges seeking the repeal of anti-sodomy and homophobic laws around the Caribbean. Contact him by email via 76crimes (at) gmail.com.
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One Response to For anti-gay Jamaicans, chickens coming home to roost

  1. Pingback: Film to show bravery, risks for LGBTs in Jamaica | 76 CRIMES

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