J-FLAG continues to observe and articulate the implications of the absence of a specific legal instrument to protect and promote the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jamaicans. While the enactment of laws alone will not change the engrained discrimination within our society, the presence of discriminatory laws coupled with the lack of specific protections continue to contribute to the high incidences of stigma, discrimination, harassment and other forms of abuse as well as death of Jamaicans who are, and in some cases perceived to be gay or lesbian.
In 2010, J-FLAG received and documented over forty incidences of human rights abuses meted out to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Jamaica. For example, there were two mob invasions of the homes of men suspected to be gay in February. On separate occasions, two females were raped by men who attempted to sexually cleanse them and make them heterosexual women. Additionally, two gay men were violently murdered including a cross-dresser known as “Charm” in December 2010, because they identify as gay.
Since Jamaica gained Independence from Britain in 1962, parliamentarians have continued to ignore the rampant breach of rights meted out to all persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jamaicans. Sexuality-based oppression in Jamaica is also enforced by many entertainers, religious leaders, educators, police officers, doctors and nurses.
Since January 2007, J-FLAG recorded the homophobic murder of eight men and more than one-hundred persons who have been victim of incidents ranging from bribery to serious bodily harm. Countless others have been stigmatized and discriminated against, beaten or forced to leave their communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The discriminatory laws in Sections 76 and 77 referring to “Unnatural Crime” and 79 – “Outrages on Decency” of the Offences Against the Person Act that remain on the books as relics of our British colonial past are often used by persons to silence, suppress and intimidate gay Jamaicans or those offering much needed services and support.
Despite the acknowledgement that gay Jamaicans are vulnerable to stigma, discrimination and violence, this has had no effect on Jamaica.
We urge parliamentarians to recognise the effect these discriminatory laws have on our society. We urge them to remove these laws which can hinder our goal to become the place to live, work, raise families and do business.
We the undersign believe that an important step to begin this process in the proposed Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms which in its current state does not prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation.
Let us not forget these damning words from the Prime Minister on the Charter of Rights Debate in effect denying our rights in the precinct of our Parliament:
".....those values from time to time as humanity proceeds will be placed under stress and there is the pressure for change as indeed there is now, a society must determine the changes it will embrace and the changes it will reject and defy. We are determined to resist the pressure to recognise homosexuality as an acceptable form of relationship between human beings.
Do we run risks in doing so Mr. Speaker? Yes we do, Have attempts been made to discourage tourists and investors from coming to Jamaica? Yes, not once not twice several times and quite recent times, the gay rights lobby is international it is strong it is aggressive, it wheels significant influence and have conquered important councils of power and authority with which we have to interact but we remain steadfast in our determination that the values and culture must be protected and preserved. Other countries are free to make their choices, we must be free to make our own."