Jamaica was recently selected to chair the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Ironically, our homophobic laws and practices cuts the country off from a very lucrative segment of global tourism, namely gay travelers. Together, the estimated spending power of this group is about US$140 billion annually. Just a portion of that sum could effectively eliminate Jamaica’s national debt, which currently stands at about US$20 billion.
Jamaica’s financial situation has steadily worsened since its independence 51 years ago. Recently our dollar, which was worth more than the U.S. dollar at independence, crossed a psychological barrier and now values less than 1 U.S. cent. Thanks in part to our spiraling debt and worsening economy, we have had to enter into yet another painful agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Incidentally, we had bid farewell to the IMF a few years ago with much bravado. Now we are back with our tails between our legs begging for assistance.
Recognizing the tremendous value of the “pink” tourist dollar, many Caribbean nations are now aggressively marketing themselves as gay-friendly destinations. For example, Curacao will be holding its first-ever national gay Pride this year and the event is being supported by the government. Even countries with anti-gay laws like St. Lucia and Dominica have welcomed gay cruises. Many taxi-drivers I have met in these countries claim that gay tourists are “huge” tippers and craft-vendors rejoice as their exquisite souvenirs fly out of their stalls. An amusing story was told to me by one store owner in Dominica who said she loved gay tourists as they always bought out her entire stock of sarongs!
Despite this potential windfall, the Jamaican government desperately clings to an archaic British-imposed colonial law as a sign of our “independence.” This act of national suicide is being carried out to appease the island’s powerful fundamentalist religious groups whose leaders live palatial lives from the tithes and offerings of an increasingly poor and struggling Jamaican populace. But, at least they have the “luxury” of their bigotry!
The whole situation would be hilarious, if it weren’t so desperately tragic.
- Another homophobic attack in Jamaica (76crimes.com)
- Boycott Jamaica to push for an end to anti-gay attacks? (76crimes.com)
- Another anti-gay mob attacks in Jamaica. Why?? (76crimes.com)
- Jamaican culture minister: Block anti-gay comments (76crimes.com)
- Film: “The Abominable Crime,” Documentary about Being Gay in Jamaica debuts in US (repeatingislands.com)