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JFLAG Opposes Jamaican Boycott

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2009

The Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG), while grateful for the support, has come out against the Jamaican boycott:

While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE’s boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before.

I mentioned my reluctance in joining the call for a boycott, and this was one of the main reasons. It continues to give me great pause, and I do not take these concerns lightly. But when I read the State Department Human Rights Report on Jamaica, it is clear that violence against LGBT people is already at a crisis level. Jamaica is a small country. It’s estimated population of 2,804,332 is similar to the populations of Kansas, Arkansas or Mississippi. Imagine the outcry we would be hearing if any one of those three states were experiencing the scale of violence that LGBT people in Jamaica are experiencing already without the boycott.

As I see it, it’s damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t. What do you do in the face of this scale of violence, and how do you weigh taking action against the threat of more violence? Do you take the modest step of declaring that you won’t spend your money on that nation, or do you remain silent and hope for the best?

I am also cognizant of the fact that others have been calling for this very step for a very long time. Every time we post a story about a murder or attack in Jamaica, we get comments and emails asking why there isn’t a boycott already. And after looking at the situation for the past few years, I’ve come to the point of wondering the same thing.

Some anti-gay Jamaicans are already charging that we are trying to force our values onto that nation’s society. But the only value we are discussing is a decrease in violence, a value that all of us should be able to agree on. That’s why the goals are very limited to two very achievable and modest aims:

  1. Jamaican officials publicly committing to ending gay bashing on the island and improving the human rights situation.
  2. A statement from the Prime Minister clearly and unequivocally condemning violence against GLBT people and expressing regret for past violence.

We’re not demanding that Jamaica changes its laws. We’re not asking Jamaicans to change their religious views. And we’re not asking Jamaican politicians to “embrace” anyone. In fact, there’s nothing the least bit radical or controversial in either of these goals. All we’re asking is that Jamaican officials defend the lives and safety of Jamaican people.

LGBT Americans, it can be argued, have an obligation to be informed of what LGBT people around the world are experiencing. LGBT Americans, unarguably, have the right to make informed decisions in how they spend their money. We are asking that you consider the events over the past year and make your decisions according to your conscience.

And speaking of spending money, I do think there is one more important thing you can do. JFLAG provides emergency services to LGBT citizens in Jamaica, and their needs are great. Please donate, and be as generous as possible.

Comments

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Pender
March 30th, 2009 | LINK

People discuss boycotts as though they are giant, centrally-controlled corporate endeavors. They aren’t. They’re a huge number of individual people like me individually deciding that we don’t want our individual money helping the economy of one of the most virulently, violently bigoted governments in the world.

As to the response (that the Jamaican gestapo will redouble its violence if I spend my money this way) — well, sorry, but it’s not my job to pay ransom to quasi-terrorist organizations no matter whom they hold hostage. I’m going to wash my hands of that whole horrible country. May it sink into the depths of the Atlantic.

HappyCat
March 30th, 2009 | LINK

Damned if we don’t, Damned if we do. As you stated you didn’t take this decision lightly. One of the things that can be done is to let the company we are boycotting know the reason why. I will not buy Chick-Filet. I have written them and told them why. I have never gotten a response, so I guess they believe they can survive without my family’s business. I actively spread the word to new friends that I make, and I let it be their choice.

I can not see my money going to places that use the profits to discriminate against me. If the situation does get worse for our LGBT brothers and sisters in Jamaica, it needs to be brought into the light. hopefully more people will take part to where the Haters decide it isn’t in their best interest to Hate.

D M Herzer
March 31st, 2009 | LINK

I think that there was already an unofficial boycott in place. Our “leaders” are just catching up. What self-respecting LGBT would spend money to travel there? I haven’t bought red stripe beer for months since I heard about the violence…I poured out the remaining stock at work…don’t tell my boss.

Attmay
March 31st, 2009 | LINK

Jamaica is a terrorist state.

grantdale
March 31st, 2009 | LINK

Having raised the attention, what did they imagine would happen — that gay tourists would flock to a dangerous location simply to prove people wrong???

Urh, no.

We decided long ago to avoid all such locations; if we can, and when we know.

We don’t buy products from Jamaica, nor will we visit there. We also ask where the coffee is from — and refuse if it’s from Uganda or Kenya. We will not buy steel buckets or brooms from China, because many are made in prisons. We will also not buy “Made in USA” jeans… from Guam. We have a deliberate 3-year cycle of donations. Etc. Etc.

We’re not boycotting. We’re refusing. We have a long, long list.

But no fricken way or hell on earth are we two about to holiday in Jamaica. We’re clearly not welcome, and clearly we would be in danger. Stuff that.

Noel Coward must be spinning in his gayest of gay graves.

cowboy
March 31st, 2009 | LINK

I wouldn’t go there even if Kenny Chesney personally invited me.

John
March 31st, 2009 | LINK

What the Jamaican government might not have realized just yet is that most tourists are skittish about any potentially violent place. Sure, there are adventure tourists who will risk what ever in war torn areas, but they are a distinct minority.

As more people become aware of “mob violence” that isn’t addressed by the police, it isn’t going to matter who the intended victim is. These people are going to stay away.

Jamaica may not think that they have a problem, but if people don’t feel safe, nobody is going to go there.

Alex H
March 31st, 2009 | LINK

I won’t be going to Jamaica anytime soon and I cringe every time I hear that whining voice singing in the stupid Jamaican tourism commercial about “Let’s get together and be all right.” Please!

Boycott. Period.

The violence will continue against LGBT people in that region, no matter what we do, so don’t give into these terrorist threats.

Dave
April 1st, 2009 | LINK

Some anti-gay Jamaicans are already charging that we are trying to force our values onto that nation’s society.

The unending cry of the oppressor.

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