JFLAG Opposes Jamaican Boycott
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:
- Jamaican officials publicly committing to ending gay bashing on the island and improving the human rights situation.
- 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.