Americas

Jamaica: To boycott or not?

Tens of thousands of Jamaicans turned out for the anti-homosexuality rally on Sept. 27, 2015. (Michael Gordon photo courtesy of the Jamaica Observer)

Tens of thousands of Jamaicans turned out for the anti-homosexuality rally on Sept. 27, 2015. (Michael Gordon photo courtesy of the Jamaica Observer)

After the most recent report about a savage slaying of a gay couple in Montego Bay while they slept, AND the callous response of some community members who deemed it just another “fish-kill,” (fish being a derogatory term for gay) AND the expected non-conviction of the perpetrators, AND the fact that Jamaica was the first country to impose sanctions against South Africa for Apartheid, I have been asked by Global North allies if NOW is the right time to call for a boycott of Jamaica.

This is a reasonable question because we have had similar murders in the past and the complicity of the community and the disinterest of police have allowed gay murderers to remain at large. BUT, I am still opposed to a boycott, at least for the time being.

Headline in The Gleaner on May 27, 2016.

Headline in The Gleaner on May 27, 2016.

A boycott would likely cause more harm than good to the very people that we are trying to help. LGBTI Jamaicans would become the scapegoats for an already poorly performing economy and that would possibly increase the number of vicious anti-gay assaults.

With very few Global North countries offering hassle-free travel to Jamaicans, many of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTI community would not qualify for visas and so they would be doomed to stay on the island and face the wrath of the bigots.

So, for now, I suggest that persons who want to register their deep distress with the treatment of gays in Jamaica do the following:

1) EDUCATE yourself and others about your own countries’ struggles with homophobia so that you can respectfully engage with Jamaicans on this issue. Humility helps;

2) WRITE to Jamaican officials to condemn the recent murders and urge a thorough investigation. Google the Jamaican government ministries such as tourism, foreign affairs and national security to find email addresses for the relevant government representatives. Visiting diplomats have told me that the Jamaican government is very conscious about its international reputation;

3) ENCOURAGE your elected officials to constructively engage with Jamaican leaders about these assaults by, among other things:

  • Reminding Jamaica about the many international human rights standards that the country voluntarily signed on to and which these attacks violate, and
  • Selling the positives of inclusion such as more peaceful and harmonious societies;
Promotional photo for Jamaica Pride 2015 (Photo courtesy of J-FLAG)

Promotional photo for Jamaica Pride 2015 (Photo courtesy of J-FLAG)

4) DIALOGUE with Jamaicans you encounter about human rights for LGBTI people when you have a chance;

5) BE A VISIBLE LGBTI OR ALLY when you deal with Jamaicans. People mostly fear what they don’t know, so help them dispel the myths;

6) CONTACT local LGBTI groups to show solidarity with the liberation struggle; and

7) SUPPORT groups working for LGBTI liberation in Jamaica. This can be financial or otherwise. Sometimes it does take cash to care.

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