Homophobia in Jamaican Culture

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Sex Weirdness

“…a crowd of about 100 men gathered outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man. The crowd broke the windows with bottles & threatened to kill the mourners. Police were called to the scene, but refused to intervene. Officers stopped gay men from leaving & searched their vehicles, but did not restrain or detain members of the mob who threatened mourners with sticks, stones, & batons as they tried to escape.”

“…a crowd in Montego Bay attacked three men alleged to be gay who were attending a carnival. Witnesses said the crowd chased the men down the street, slashed one man with knives & beat him with a manhole cover. According to local press reports, at least 30-40 people beat another man as he sought refuge in a bar, tearing his clothes from him & striking him as he bled severely from a head wound.”

“…a mob of at least 200 in Kingston surrounded & attacked four men…calling for the men to be beaten to death because they were gay. When police arrived, instead of protecting the
victims, the officers verbally abused them & struck one in the face, head, & stomach.”

Jamaican homophobia

Advocates of Gay rights have been campaigning since the 1990’s for both the repeal of Jamaica’s antiquated laws prohibiting homosexuality and a cessation of the very vocal hostility from some of the biggest names from the island’s legendary music scene. Name acts like Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton (notorious for his hit ‘Boom Bye-Bye’, advocating the shooting and burning of gays), Capleton, Elephant Man, Sizzla and Vybz Kartel are all guilty of inciting hatred; most publically refusing to apologise when challenged.

This is no wonder when you consider the stance of the Jamaican government – in a 2009 parliamentary debate, the Jamaica Labor Party’s Ernest Smith stated that “homosexual activities seem to have overtaken this country”, calling for life sentences for homosexuals and describing them as abusive and violent. The same month he was quoted by a Jamaican newspaper as saying that the ‘Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays’ should be made illegal, adding: “How can you legitimize an organization that is formed for the purposes of committing criminal offenses?”. With a recent poll showing that 96% of Jamaicans were opposed to any attempt to legalise homosexuality, police abuse and harrassment commonplace and Human Rights Watch reporting that violence against homosexuals “ranging from beatings to brutal armed attacks to murder” is rife, what will it take to remove this darkly ignorant strand from Jamaica’s otherwise rich and diverse culture?

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