The demonstration is said to have drawn more than 1,000 activists, high school and college students, community leaders, and general members of the public. A petition was also circulated for people to sign during the demonstration. In the meantime, another group was demonstrating; Jamaicans residing in New York, led by Sons and Daughters of Jamaica, also took to the streets to protest in front of the Jamaican Embassy.
Their protest, however, was for the “white” people to stop pressuring Jamaicans to endorse homosexuality and is further encouraging the Jamaican government to say no to any form of international pressure on this issue. While all this hot air was blowing up north, business in Jamaica continued as usual. Not a soul seemed to care about what was going on in New York. I checked with some members of Jamaica’s GLBT community, and most of them did not even know about such a protest. But why should they even bother to care? If your guess is as good as mine, then you should know: these foreign demonstrations will not change anything in Jamaica.
Last June saw the start of Jamaica’s biggest gay debate ever. While the momentum is now hugely subdued locally, international advocates continue to support the debate through periodic activities. Still, Jamaican leaders continue in their usual jolly ways, and gay Jamaicans continue to forgo some basic rights and freedoms available to our counterparts in other territories. Most if not all of the efforts being initiated by non- Jamaican international organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and U.K.’s Out- Rage!, continue to meet bitter (in the Jamaican sense) opposition and nonchalance from policymakers and upholders of the Jamaican Constitution. Not surprising, none of the efforts since last June has garnered any success in Jamaica. This is hugely as a result of the approach. The Jamaican Constitution is very clear about addressing the right of citizens. In this case, the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender in the island are not protected.
How do Jamaicans who are being affected by this injustice seek redress? The first step is to contact your local member of Parliament (MP) who is also your representative in the House of Parliament. Voice your dissatisfaction to the person you voted for. And if you are not participating in local elections, you are adding to the non-existent voice of the gay community. Urge your MP to introduce or support the introduction of legislation to protect gay people in Jamaica.
This is your country, and no one could ever tell you that you are a “white foreigner” trying to push homosexuality down the throats of any Jamaican. Failing to hear from your MP in a favourable way, then the other option is to file a lawsuit against the government of Jamaica in the Supreme Court of Jamaica, citing failure on its part to protect you as a GLBT citizen of Jamaica. This is where an organisation like the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) would play a critical role, since the group has already created a niche of support organisations, willing to back their advocacy both financially and emotionally. If the Supreme Court of Jamaica is not able to provide adequate redress, then the Court of Appeal of Jamaica is available to challenge the judgment of the Supreme Court. If the Court of Appeal is unable to tell the Jamaican government to repeal buggery laws and write into the Jamaican Constitution that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unlawful, then the appellant can now take the matter to the British Judicial Committee Privy Council. Remember: The Court of Appeal is the highest court within Jamaica but is subjected to the appellant jurisdiction of the Privy Council.
This approach is something that should have long been explored by the great minds at J-FLAG. And now that the Caribbean
Court of Justice may sooner or later take the place of the Privy Council, there is no telling what regional mentality we will be subjected to for the next century. The GLBT communities in several islands throughout the Caribbean, especially the member states of the Caribbean Community, continue to suffer at the hands of this so-called cultural homophobia, which is simply another form of oppression. It is, therefore, my message to
the people who are genuinely seeking to help gays living in Jamaica to reflect on the legal procedures outlined by the Jamaican Constitution before deciding to challenge local laws. Additionally, I call on the responsible ones at JFLAG to reposition their approach from an overseas base to a local one.
Jamaicans are very proud, and when it comes to a matter concerning homosexuality and gay rights, no Jamaican government is going to surrender to any form of foreign influence. We must also remember that in recent months, more than a dozen U.S. states have stated non-categorically that they will not give gay people the right to be equal through a denial of the right to get married. The U.S. is Jamaica’s biggest market, whether it is tourism, dancehall music sales or otherwise. This should clearly indicate that Sandals, Elephant Man and all the others would not fail to eat their bread. The Jamaican government will not see gay rights as a priority unless Jamaicans get on the boat and paddle for their own rights, using their own laws that are available to challenge any form of prejudice and injustice.