Time to Break the Silence on rights for GLBT Jamaicans
Kingston --- May 17, 2010
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is observed annually on May 17th and celebrates the removal of homosexuality by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from its list of mental illnesses in 2006 which put an end to over a
century of homophobia in the medical field. It also marked a major milestone in the recognition of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. In Jamaica, the day was observed with a half an hour ‘Stand Against Silence’ outside the Emancipation Park. Approximately 30 persons converged on the location, some with their mouths covered, depicting the theme ‘Break the Silence! End the Fear.’
According to Jason MacFarlane Programme Manager of Jamaica Forum of Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), ‘As Jamaicans we remain un-emancipated as long as there are laws which criminalize the private intimate acts of consenting adults. J-FLAG organized today’s event to increase awareness about the reality of homophobia that is faced by members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Jamaica as a result of these laws. It is time for the silence to be broken and for the change makers to have some frank conversations. The simple and clear message that we are sending is that homophobia is damaging the lives of many of us Jamaican citizens and there is no rational basis for this homophobia.’
Yvonne Sobers of Families Against State Terrorism (FAST) was outspoken in her support. "Gays and lesbians have rights as human beings and as Jamaicans. An African proverb says, 'If the fire of the law dies here and burns there, it is not operating properly.' If we remain silent while some have their rights infringed, we cannot expect equal rights when we need systems to work for us. We benefit most if we ensure that the fire burns brightly for everyone, and that the state operates properly by respecting the rights we all (without exception) have as human beings."
In keeping with the bold words on his placard “Stop the Hate Before Too Late”, Maurice Tomlinson of AIDS Free World reiterated his organization’s stance on the position “The irrational hatred and fear of gays drives this vulnerable population underground away from effective HIV prevention interventions. The result is that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has become entrenched in Jamaica, representing a direct threat to the health of the entire Jamaican community. This is one of the reasons why we have willingly cosponsored this event.”
Another co sponsor of the event was UNAIDS which was represented at the Stand by Jamaica’s Country Coordinator, Pierre Somse. Dr. Somse proudly displayed his placard ‘Privacy is Everyone’s Right’ echoing the call made internationally by his boss Michel Sibide , “UNAIDS believes in the fundamental rights of the human beings and sees how catastrophic a situation is created when those rights are taken away. We are committed to working with Governments to ensure that the rights of all, inclusive of the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender persons are protected….” See UNAIDS Press Release attached.
Maria Carla Gullotta, Coordinator of the Jamaican group of Amnesty International, said “Amnesty International Jamaica is in full support of human rights for LGBT people because each one of us is 100% entitled to have the same rights and same dignity. We urge Jamaica to re-think what has become such an acceptable discriminating choice. There will not be any possibility to have a better world until all citizens have the same rights.
President of the European Union Missions, Ambassador Jesus Silva, offered support to J-FLAG in its demands for a policy of human rights that includes the non-discrimination for reasons of gender or sexual orientation. Speaking on behalf of Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain, Silva reiterated such a position as being “one of the priorities that inspire the policies and relations of the European Union.” (See letter attached)
Andrea Chin See, Board Member of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) revealed “Homophobia is fueling the HIV pandemic and complicating our efforts to stop the spread of HIV. If it does not stop, HIV will be here with us for an even longer time.”
Others supporting the call to end homophobia included journalists, representatives from Jamaicans For Justice, the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), Women for Women, The Jamaica Network of Seropositives, Eve for Life, Sex Work Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Red Cross, Sunshine Cathedral/Metropolitan Community Churches, Independent Jamaica Council on Human Rights and the Civil Society Forum of Jamaica.
Other placards read:
‘Teach us True Respect for All’
‘Give Us Vision Lest We Perish’
‘Human Rights for All’
Separate Church and Hate’
‘Out of Many One People’
‘Equal Rights and Justice’
‘Straight but Not Narrow Minded’
‘One Love Jamaica’
‘Repeal Sections 76, 77 and 79’
‘Live and Let Love’
‘Gay or Straight, Let’s All Tolerate’
‘God is Love’
Tel: (876) 978-8988 (o) (876) 844-9366 (m)
P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica
Editorial note the letter from the UNAIDS press release can be found here (click) while the letter from the President of EU Missions can be found here (click)
Though I am happy that there was an event I'm also disappointed that more people from the community were not participants (click here)