July 14, 2011, Melanie Nathan
When I was a young girl I loved Jamaica – although I had never been there. I loved it all because of a song that my Dad would sing to me – by Harry Belafonte and although I may have the words wrong, this is how I remember it:-
“On the way where the nights are GAY and the sun is shining from the mountain top; I took a trip on a sailing ship and when I reached Jamaica I made it stop! And I’m sad to say, I’m on my way; won’t be back for many a day, my heart is down my head is turning around – I had to leave my little girl in Kingston town” (Jamaica Farewell)
I sing this song to my children and we always shed a tear at the heart-wrenching words – But now alas our hearts break for our Jamaican brothers and sisters who suffer so greatly as outcasts.
I am sharing two Articles by my esteemed fellow blogger and activist, Paul Canning from the United Kingdom:-
Paul Canning’s piece in LGBT Asylum News:
Jamaicans continue to experience human rights violations at the hands of their family, friends, neighbours, landlord, police or mobs because of their sexual orientation. Since January 2011, fifty-one incidents, including mob attacks, physical abuse, home evictions, and discrimination were reported with forty-seven of these meted out to males. Similar to national statistics on crime and violence, young people, 18 to 29 years, continue to be the main victims of violence based on sexual orientation. Young people made more than 30 of the 51 reports.
“On average, J-FLAG has documented between 30 and 40 cases annually over the past three years, but we have seen an increase in the number of reports which shows that homophobia based harassment and discrimination continues because of the lack of protection of the human rights of homosexuals living in Jamaica by the state,” says Dane Lewis, Executive Director at J-FLAG
“There is a Policy Statement on violence against persons based on their sexual orientation, agreed by Cabinet on April 7, 2008, to support this, but there is no hate crime law,” Corbin Gordon, J-FLAG’s Programme & Advocacy Coordinator highlighted. In a communiqué with the organisation, Prime Minister Golding said that the Government’s position has been that violence against gays and lesbians is unequivocal. It should be condemned, discouraged, investigated, persecuted and punished with vigour and determination. Read More…
Cross-post of Article by Paul Canning:–
One of Jamaica’s most senior police officers has said that “80-90%” of organised crime on that island is conducted by gay men.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Fitz Bailey, the Head of the Organized Crime Investigation Division (OCID), made the claim Monday 11 July at a press conference (video). After he received criticism, Bailey has defended the claim, saying it was based on “research”.
The largest Jamaican LGBT organisation J-FLAG called the comments “an irresponsible and incendiary pronouncement”. The Civil Society Forum of Jamaica also complained.
Gay Jamaica Watch commented:
“Sadly the reality is there are some in the LGBT community who may be involved in illegal activities and that may put an ugly face to the community in the eyes of the police and by extension the public but to simply label generally gays as criminals I am not so sure the other non gay underworld bosses are going to take kindly to this assertion.”
The blog points out that the supposed criminality of gay people has been raised before in Jamaica, by MPs and public defenders amongst others.
Jamaican police have been heavily criticised for corruption and a long history of extra-judicial killings. The UK has sent senior police officers to advise the force and Bailey himself has just returned from training in the United States.
Jamaica’s leading newspaper The Gleaner editorialised:
If Mr Bailey’s observation was not so seriously dangerous, you might have just considered him funnily silly. The problem, though, is the potential effect of Mr Bailey’s ludicrous statement.
A grave possibility is that Mr Bailey will have stoked homophobic rage, leading to assaults on presumed gay males on the assumption that they, even on the flimsiest of evidence, were responsible for this or that crime.
We believe that Mr Bailey is at his most perspicacious when he keeps his mouth shut.
Update: The Police Commissionere, Owen Ellington, says that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) withdraws Bailey’s statement.
In a statement this morning, Ellington said that he had spoken to Bailey and that the JCF regretted any prejudice that might have arisen from the remarks.
“He shared information with me supporting his assertion and cited discussions he has had with representatives of J-FLAG (the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays) about the problem. He fully understands the basis of concern for the safety and well-being of members of the gay community who may be targeted by misguided individuals simply because of the statement’s under reference,” said the commissioner.
He assured the public that the JCF has no policy of singling out individual social groups for special attention.
“Our focus is on enforcing the laws without fear, favour, prejudice or ill-will. The JCF stands willing to receive and deal dispassionately with feedback from our publics. Our mission remains to serve, protect and re-assure all,” said Ellington.