Jamaican Tourism Minister Shrugs off Violence Against Gays
April 7th, 2008
Tourism is vital to Jamaica’s economy, with about one third of every employed Jamaican working in a tourism related industry. With their “Come to Jamaica and feel alright” campaign, the island nation seeks to present itself as a paradise for vacationing Americans.
But sadly, the Jamaican society does not seem to believe that reality need live up to their media image.
Recent attention has been given to the violence against gay persons in the country. And resulting from the attacks on gay men, MCC has called on the country to repudiate such violence and to take steps to ensure the safety of the gay men and women who live there.
Now Jamaicans in position of influence have given their response.
Today Radio Jamaica reports that the Tourism Minister is not concerned about the efforts of MCC or other “homosexual groups”:
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett [pictured, top] has brushed off calls by homosexual groups for a tourism boycott of Jamaica and Jamaican products.
But at least one Jamaican business recognizes that anti-gay violence does not sell well outside of a homophobic culture.
Brewing company Red Stripe says it will not sponsor several upcoming concerts in Jamaica because of increasingly violent lyrics.
The company has withdrawn thousands of dollars (euros) in sponsorship from the popular “Reggae Sumfest” and “Sting” reggae show. Musicians are glorifying violence in what has become a worrisome trend, the company said in a statement Friday.
But the actions of Red Stripe did not sit well with Jamaican media. In an article entitled Long live reggae/dancehall, the newspaper contrasted the views of gay activists and the “Jamaican position”. The article quoted the Box Turtle Bulletin as it’s source for the attitudes of such activists and Jamaican religious leaders.
Saw an interesting article on the Internet recently dated February 18, written by a Timothy Kinkaid stating that the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a gay-welcoming denomination, has started a protest against the Jamaican government’s inability – or unwillingness – to crack down on anti-gay violence. …
The article continued, “One might suppose that a call for the cessation of violence was a campaign which all Christians could support. One would be wrong. Not only were MCC’s requests reviled in the Jamaican media, but Jamaica’s Christian community did not take well to being told that they ought not murder gays.
The Rev Dr Merrick ‘Al’ Miller [pictured], pastor of the Fellowship Tabernacle in St Andrew, said that Jamaicans generally deem homosexuality wrong. He said the demands of gay activists who are attempting to force their beliefs on society will in no way influence Jamaicans to change their views.”
Need we say more?
And the Caribbean net news ran a letter to the editor last Saturday expressing indignation that outsiders would consider making purchasing decisions based on Jamaica’s abuse of their gay citizens.
It fully angers me to hear that this group of foreigners think they can dictate the policy and laws of another sovereign nation because they trade products and services with them. It was selfish, shortsighted thinking like this that led to Haiti being in the state it currently is.
I always thought that the laws of a nation were dictated by what that society decided was right and wrong and that we were in a world where, if my countries laws and polices were not the same as yours, we could agree to disagree.
What is missing from the conversation in Jamaica is the voice of reason, the voice of non-violence, the voice of decency. When confronted with murder, the response is, “How dare you criticize me?” and no one seems to find this concerning.
There are many factors that go into the decision of whether to engage in a boycott. One has to consider whether your efforts will be effective and whether the end result will be better or worse conditions for gay Jamaicans. And I’m certain that MCC is more responsible and forward thinking than, say, the AFA.
But whether or not there is a boycott on Jamaican goods, I am certain that I would be afraid to visit there. The physical danger is not minor and I fear that should there be a threat to me, neither the government, the church, or the society would come to my rescue. Further, I would discourage anyone whom I love from vacationing on the island. Those who champion violence against some can champion violence against many.
Perhaps Minister Bartlett shares the homophobia that is rampant in Jamaican society. Or perhaps he fears the condemnation he would receive as a result of being perceived as inadequately hostile to homosexual activists such as me. But if he cares about the future of his nation’s economy and stability, he might be better concerned that his nation not come to be seen by the American public as a hostile and violent place and he might wish to consider that the tourists he seeks to draw do not often share his culture’s fear and revulsion of gay men and women.