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Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Ad Encouraging Families to Love Gay Children to Hit TV in August

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kingston, Jamaica —July 28, 2011
“Homophobia must be eliminated [in Jamaica] immediately” was the rallying cry of Pamela E Bridgewater, the United States Ambassador to Jamaica. “The US Mission joins all partners in the fight against homophobia [because] as President Obama says, no one should be hated because of who they love,” she stated.
The US Ambassador was addressing a packed audience at the launch of ‘Unconditional Love’, a new public service announcement (PSA) featuring Christine Straw, former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe, and her brother Matthew Straw on July 28, 2011. Heading the list of endorsees were Hilary Nicholson from Women’s Media Watch, Helin Jenkinson, First Counsellor at the European Union, Dr. Pierre Somse, UNAIDS Representative in Jamaica, Rob Fuderich, UNICEF Representative, Yvonne Sobres, Convenor of Family Against State Terrorism and a number of other human rights and HIV activists.
Unconditional Love tells a heart warming story of Christine Straw who declares her unending love for Matthew, her brother who is gay, while calling on Jamaicans to love their family members and friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). “As Jamaicans we have to stop this stupidity of alienating our [people] because of their homosexual orientation,” stated Straw. “They are our brothers and our sisters and we must love them, no matter what [..] because they need support and encouragement,” she said.
In detailing the impact of homophobia in Jamaica, Maurice Tomlinson, Legal Adviser at AIDS-Free World (AFW) said his organisation was proud to support this collaborative venture which calls on all Jamaicans to live up to their world renowned culture of One Love. He stressed that members of the LGBT community must also strive to understand the source of the lack of knowledge of persons who stigmatize and violate their rights and hurt them. “The empowerment of these individuals is crucial for the breaking down of walls which prevent persons from seeing the true value of the contribution LGBT Jamaicans make to the society” Tomlinson said.
According to Dane Lewis, Executive Director at Jamaica’s only gay rights lobby, Jamaica Forum of Lesbians All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), “it is our hope that this inspiring public declaration of love will motivate other families and friends of LGBT to share their stories of acceptance and that those who are on a journey to acceptance will be moved to love LGBT persons in their lives unconditionally.”
Dr. Pierre Somse of UNAIDS was insistent that Jamaica had to keep pace with the rest of the world and get rid of anything that might retard the gains made in reducing the spread of HIV over the years. “Homophobia is a major stumbling block to effective HIV interventions and unless we guarantee the human rights of homosexuals, all other populations are at risk,” Dr. Somse highlighted.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Yvonne McCalla Sobres of Families Against State Terrorism (FAST), “When the state ignores the harm and hurt being felt by any population, because of their difference this is tantamount to state terrorism. It cannot therefore be business as usual for us here in Jamaica”
Unconditional Love , is another collaborative initiative of  J-FLAG, Jamaica AIDS Support For Life (JASL), the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and AFW aimed at promoting the human rights of persons who are members of the LGBT community by encouraging Jamaicans to be unreserved about who they love’. The PSA will hit TV screens and the internet immediately.

For interviews contact:-
Pierre Somse UNAIDS 960-6536-8 (office) or  919-8537  (cell)
Ian McKnight CVC 631-7299   (office) or   474-8847  (cell)
Kandasi Levermore JASL        978-2345   (office) or   875-2737  (cell)
Dane Lewis J-FLAG  978 8988    (office) or 875-2328 (cell)
Maurice Tomlinson      AFW                                             784-0908  (cell)

JFLAG Launches new Tolerance Campaign

The new one minute Tolerance Campaign called: Unconditional Love, features former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe Christine Straw, and her brother Matthew Straw who is gay.

Christine declares her unending love for Matthew while calling on Jamaicans to love their family members and friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

See the ad below:


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jamaica Constabulary Force Response to Concerns about Gays & Organised Crime

The following is a statement from the Commissioner of Police

Recent statements by Senior Superintendent of Police Fitz Bailey, head of the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in which he identifies persons of the Gay Community as being prominently involved in the ‘Lottery Scam’ an organised and highly lucrative criminal enterprise have evoked concerns from several quarters.

The Gay Community represented by JFLAG, along with Jamaicans For Justice and prominent attorneys are among those expressing concern.
SSP Bailey’s attempt at clarifying his statement and placing it within the context of offender profiling has not fully resolved the concerns of the Gay Community and their sympathisers.

I have discussed the matter with SSP Bailey. He shared information with me supporting his assertion and cited discussions he has had with representatives of JFLAG 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 statements under reference.

The JCF therefore withdraws the statement and expresses regret to all Jamaicans and our international partners for any concern, anxiety and any appearance of unfair labelling which may have been construed from the message.

We wish to assure all that the JCF has no policy of singling out any particular social grouping for special Police 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.

A willingness to listen and to review a position, which generates concern and anxiety in the way the comments of the SSP did, is testimony to our belief in and commitment to this mission.                                                                                                 ​                                                                             

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

J-FLAG Responds to Police’s Assertion About Gays & Organised Crimes

Kingston, Jamaica ---July 12, 2011

J-FLAG notes with great concern the assertion made by Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey, on TVJ’s Prime Time News on Monday, July 11, 2011, that young homosexual men are the main perpetrators of organised crimes in Jamaica.

While J-FLAG is concerned about increasing levels of crime across the island, we question this statement and its validity and caution the police from using stereotypes, such as dress and material lifestyle in their pronouncements regarding perpetrators. This is an irresponsible and incendiary pronouncement, coming from a senior police office. Furthermore, this broad brushing feeds directly into assumptions about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, an already marginalized and vulnerable group, and perpetuates social prejudice, inequality, harassment and violence.

Like all Jamaicans, J-FLAG is concerned about the high levels of crime and violence that exists in our country with organised crime being a major problem facing Jamaica over the last fifteen years. Furthermore, based on reports by the police, criminologists and other experts, Jamaican organised criminals function through gangs whose activities exploit the human condition, utilise extortion and protection rackets, supply illegal goods, and attempt to maneuver and camouflage their ill-gotten funds. This is a feature of a broader societal problem and limiting this to gays appears to diminish the intensity of the problem.

Given that organised crime threatens citizen safety and security and undermines democracy, retards economic development and can contribute to government instability, J-FLAG strongly believes that improving general awareness is critical to Jamaicans understanding their role in combating the various threats and reducing the harms they cause. While we fully understand that an individual’s sexual orientation does not absolve them from being involved in any type of crime, this type of profiling does more harm than good to an already stigmatized, disadvantaged and marginalized community.

J-FLAG also calls on SSP Bailey to furnish more information on the research to which he alluded so that the public can be much clearer on the parameters around which this “research” was conducted and can determine for themselves the validity of the findings shared.

J-FLAG fully supports the efforts of the Government and police to arrest all crimes and mitigate its impact on Jamaicans. We stand ready to partner with the police to reduce the incidence of crime. We invite SSP Fitz Bailey and his team to meet with us to share the types of organized crimes perpetrated by homosexuals, in order that we can support the effort of the police.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our Christian Nation and Human Rights

Jamaicans have recently gone into a flurry over the values and morals we hold as a Christian nation. It is unfortunate however, that though many of us proclaim to be Christians we participate in or refuse to condemn and fight against issues in our society that obviously goes against our Christian values. We must protest all forms of immorality, not just the issue of homosexuality. We must refuse to sell out Our Christian Heritage (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110709/letters/letters7.html) on all issues.

There are a few issues that jump to mind, that we as a Christian nation should be protesting against.
  1. Sexual immorality. Fornication, adultery, lusting and rape are against Biblical principles. Since they are against our values as Christians these should be listed as crimes and placed upon our laws.  We should prohibit all forms of activity and advertisements that may cause persons to commit these forms of sin and crimes.
  2. Gambling. Gambling is against Biblical principles, for this reason it should also be prohibited. All forms of gambling should be outlawed. Horse racing that takes place on a Sunday (if you believe Sundays are for worshiping) or a Saturday, should be made illegal. As a Christian nation we should not condone these activities.
  3. Consumption of alcohol and smoking. Since our bodies are the temple of the living God, we should ensure that, persons do not destroy this temple, through destructive activity including smoking, illicit substances, and consuming alcohol to the point of drunkenness.
  4. As a Christian nation with Christian principles we should up hold the worship of the One True God. The God of the Christians, Yahweh. All other religions should not be allowed to practice their beliefs, as they are not worshiping the one true God. Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, other forms of Spirituality, should be outlawed.

These are just four of a range of issues plaguing our society today. As true Christians we must tackle all, and not become selective in the issues we speak out about.

Of course I am not against human rights for GLBT folks (I’d be against myself), this just goes to show that there are multiple issues that should be tackled and not just the issue of homosexuality. It highlights the hypocrisy that exists.

Now the more serious discussion lies in the human rights issues we as GLBT Jamaicans are fighting for.
Since the passage of the New York bill on gay marriage, there has been an increase in letters both pro-gay and anti-gay. One of the letters spoke of the economic gain of legalising gay marriage; I respect that view, I however prefer to tackle this issue from the human rights perspective, particularly as we will start hearing the 'selling out' arguments, as above and in this letter to the editor- No interest in gay tourism. 

Jamaicans have gone into a flurry of Biblical quotes and drawing upon the Bible for why Jamaica will never allow gay marriage. For many, Jamaica is a ‘Christian nation’ having ‘Christian principles’. This post is not to argue the Bible, and what it says or does not, it is to state a few simple facts.

Jamaica is a democratic society. A definition of a democratic society is one where adults hold other individuals, and those in these organizations who are responsible for making decisions and taking actions, fully accountable if their decisions or actions violate fundamental human rights, or are dishonest, unethical, unfair, secretive, inefficient, unrepresentative, unresponsive or irresponsible. For gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) persons in Jamaica, this definition of democratic society is evidently not played out. There are daily violations of the human rights of GLBT persons, and the bodies that should ‘serve, protect, reassure with courtesy, integrity and proper respect for the rights of all’ including the police force and the government are unresponsive, inefficient, and unfair.

Jamaica is a society in which the church and state are separate. Though the major religion in our country is Christianity not all persons in Jamaica are Christians, and the rights of those persons should be respected. Requiring that all persons adhere to the Christian standard and Christian principles go against the right to freedom of conscience and thought given to all under the Jamaican constitution.

The rights which GLBT Jamaicans are advocating for are basic human rights (based on us being citizens of the world), and the rights given to us under the Jamaican constitution (based on our nationality as Jamaicans); including but not limited to the right to life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property and the protection of the law; the right to freedom of conscience, of expression and of peaceful assembly and association; the right to the respect for private life and privacy of home.

The Charter of Rights says that the enjoyment of our rights granted under its Charter should not ‘prejudice the rights and freedoms of others’. Imposing Christian beliefs upon all persons prejudices these rights and freedoms.

What needs do the community have that have been left unattended or barely attended to?
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