Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for September, 2009

British Consul Killed In Jamaica In Anti-Gay Attack

Jim Burroway

September 11th, 2009

British Consul John TerryViolence against gays in Jamaica is continuing unabated. Honorary British Consul in Jamaica John Terry was found dead at his home in Montego Bay. Police say he died of asphyxiation after being repeatedly beaten, possibly with a lamp. Police say neighbors found his naked body laying in the yard with a cloth and cord tied around his neck. A trail of blood was found throughout the property.

Police are investigating the possibility that the attack might have been an anti-gay attack, citing a handwritten note on Terry’s body describing him as a “batty man”, a pejorative term for a gay man. The note warned, “This is what will happen to ALL gays.” It was signed, “Gay-Man.”

While London newspapers are reporting the gay angle — even the conservative Times of London mentioned the note as an indication of the murderer’s motive — but the Jamaican news media has been silent on the issue. The Gleaner’s report on the murder completely ignored the evidence of an anti-gay bashing

Jamaica has become notorious for its ongoing anti-gay violence. The U.S. State Department singled out Jamaica for “human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents.”

Terry,  65, had lived in Jamaica since 1967 where he represented the British High Commission for the popular resort area of Montego Bay.

Live Nation, Ticketmaster Promote Murder Music Concert Tour

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2009

Live Nation and Ticketmaster are promoting a new concert tour by Jamaican danchall artist Buju Banton who is renowned for lyrics calling for the murder of gay people. Announced concert venues include such cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas.

Buju Banton has a long history of performing songs advocating violence against gay people, including one song, “Boom Bye Bye” which calls for gay people to be shot in the head with automatic weapons, have acid poured on them, and burned “like an old tire wheel.” UK LGBT Activist Peter Tatchel called the song “probably the most murderous incitement recorded by any singer anywhere in the world.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirmed that Buju Banton was among six men involved in a gay bashing in June 2004 in Constant Spring, Jamaica. UK

The portions of Buju Banton tour promoted by Live Nation will hit House of Blues franchises in four cities: Chicago (Oct 1), Las Vegas (Oct 15), Dallas (Oct 20) and Houston (Oct 22). House of Blues is owned by Live Nation.

Ticketmaster is promoting not only the four House of Blues dates, but also thirteen other concerts across the country. Concerts being promoted by Ticketmaster include: Philadelphia (Sept 12); Bladensburg, MD (Sept 13); Revere, MA (Sept 18); Newark, NJ (Sept 20); Norfolk, VA (Sept 25); Richmond VA (Sept 26); Detroit (Sept 30); Cincinnati (Oct 2); Columbus, OH (Oct 3); Minneapolis (Oct 4); San Francisco (Oct 10); Los Angeles (Oct 14); and Atlanta (Oct 24).

According to VH1, other cities on the tour include Providence, RI; New Haven, CT; Charlotte and Raleigh, NC; Richmond, VA; Denver; Aspen; Salt Lake City; Eureka, CA; Albuquerque; Charleston, SC; Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Ybor City, FL.

Jamaica’s Culture of Torture and Death

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2009

jamaica-flag.bmpJamaica is an evil place to live if you are gay. This we have reported on this many times.

The Associated Press has an article that reports, yet again, the daily torture and careless cruelty that Jamaicans impose on the gay sons and daughters of that island.

By now, you’d think I’d be immune to yet another Jamaica story. But this paragraph got to me.

Sherman, meanwhile, is simply trying to move on with his life. But he said he will always remember how, after his attack, patrolmen roughly lifted his bloodied body out of their squad car when a man admonished them for aiding a “batty boy.” A woman shamed them into driving him to a hospital; they stuffed him in the car’s trunk.

So predominant is hatred of gay people there that it outweighs basic decency – simple compassion you’d show a dog.

Showing Christ

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2009

Christians speak of “showing Christ” to the world around you. Sadly, too often this is expressed in forms of self-righteousness and public condemnation of others. Frankly, I often think that if this is Christ that you are showing me with your arrogance, condescension, and careless condemnation of those whom you don’t think are as good as you, then I want nothing of him.

But some have found a Christ to show the world that is quite unlike the one whose primary purpose seems to be passing laws to impose religious adherence by non-believers. Their Christ is more interested in helping the needy, healing the hurting, and loving the loveless.

Such a Christ is observed in the actions of Christians in Worcester County, Massachusetts. They have become a haven of safety and help to gay men and women from around the world who are fleeing oppression and torture in their homelands. (Worcester Telegram)

For the past year, Hadwen Park Congregational Church has provided gay immigrants with food and money for clothes and rent, as well as spiritual and emotional support. Lutheran Social Services, which helps many immigrants apply for asylum, established a program to help gay immigrants apply for asylum.

Immigrants such as the Ugandan tortured for two days by men trying to get him to give the names of the patrons of his gay bar. Or the Jamaican who was beaten by crowds four times. Or the Lebanese man sent to the hospital with a broken neck.

The United States government allows those persecuted for their orientation elsewhere to see asylum in America. But few social service programs are available for these victims of brutality, and they are not allowed to work while waiting.

The church’s program is unique in the United States, church members believe; the Lutheran Social Services asylum program for gay immigrants is one of only a handful nationwide.

And theirs is no hand-off missions program designed to placate liberal guilt.

The church started by feeding the gay immigrants with its food pantry, then paying their rent and cell phone bills. Parishioners took immigrants on shopping trips for clothes and other essentials. Two parishioners offered to host two immigrants in their home. The immigrants started coming to the church, telling their stories, and connecting with people who don’t judge them.

Now the Christ of the Hadwen Park Congregational Church and Lutheran Social Services in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a Christ that the world could see much more of.

Facebook Group Forms To “Kill Out Dem Batty Man”

Jim Burroway

June 2nd, 2009

Facebook has become a ubiquitous communications and organizing tool encompassing a whole range of topics. Many of the groups are based on entertainment, hobbies, religion and spirituality, history, politics — you name it. Even hate groups advocating the murder of gays and lesbians.

One such hate group with a Facebook presence is the “Kill Out Dem Batty Man” group. “Batty Man” is Caribbean slang for gay men. Most of the group members appear to be from Trinidad and Tobago, although the Jamaican person who tipped me to it identifies the patois dialect as Jamaican. The Facebook group is listed under “Beliefs & Causes.”

Facebook page for "Kill Out Dem Batty Man" (click to enlarge)

Facebook page for "Kill Out Dem Batty Man" (click to enlarge)

The Facebook group page itself runs counter to Facebook’s terms of service. You can report TOS violations  here. I’ve already done so. Almost all of the comments left on the page are universal in their endorsements of lethal brutality against LGBT people. Some of the messages left on this group’s wall include, “bullit gone lick up them bludclut battyman fi dead” (followed by the sound of a machine gun), “gun shots for all dem fucking guys………. they to [sic] fucking stink,” and “no batty men shud be on dis earth.”

The Facebook group pages carries the description, “this group not for faggits” [sic] — although it appears that one gay man from London refused to heed that advice. Thom protested, “But we throw such lovely dinner parties. Lots of love xx.”

There’s more at the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG).

Update: Well that didn’t take long. Facebook took the page down sometime between 5:20 and 5:45 PST. We heartily commend Facebook for taking such swift action.

Council for Global Equality’s Top Ten List “Where The U.S. Should Do More”

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2009

Here is something that escaped our notice until now. The Council for Global Equality, in responding to the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports, has identified what it calls the “Top Ten Opportunities for the U.S. to Respond” to anti-LGBT human rights abuses which are highlighted in the report. The countries identified by the Council include Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The ten countries weren’t necessarily selected because they are the worst countries in the world for LGBT abuses. Instead, they are identified as the ten countries in which the U.S. has the best opportunity to influence change through diplomatic, political and economic leverage. The details for each country are found at the Council’s web site (PDF: 140KB/8 pages) Here is a rundown for each country targeted by the Council, along with the Council’s recommendations:

  1. Egypt: arrests, beatings and imprisonment of men suspected of being HIV-positive. Egypt is the third largest recipient of foreign AID. “Our partnership with Egypt should extend beyond the Middle East peace process: it should require a broad commitment to human rights that includes the rights of LGBT men and women.
  2. Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh threatened to “cut off the head” of any homosexual in his country. “We should explore using USAID funds to support programs that encourage tolerance, respect for diversity, and a genuine commitment to civil society”
  3. Honduras: Identified as “one of the worst violators of gay and transgender human rights in 2008.” Police routinely round up LGBT youths without cause and Honduran security officials reportedly condone assaults and rapes on gay detainees. Multiple murders were reported, including a leading transgender rights activist. “The U.S. Embassy should offer visible support to LGBT leaders in the country, and should press for accountability within the Honduran government. It should work with Honduran authorities to offer tolerance and diversity training for police and other security forces that are suspected of complicity in human rights abuse. It also should press for a prompt and thorough investigation of the murders and other incidents noted above.”
  4. India: Police often commit crimes against LGBT people, and officials in Bangalore ordered the arrest of transgender people. “Given our increasingly close relationship with India, we should express frank concern to the Indian Government over LGBT violence and discrimination.”
  5. Jamaica: There have been numerous anti-gay mob attacks, sometimes with direct police complicity. Some attacks have resulted in murder. Homes were firebombed, and one individual was hacked to death by a machete. LGBT advocates continue to be murdered, beaten and threatened, driving some into exile. Police have been criticized in many instances for failing to respond. “Senior U.S. officials should urge Jamaica’s Prime Minister to show leadership by condemning this violence and instituting measures to bring these and any future perpetrators to justice. U.S. police assistance should be targeted toward programs that promote tolerance and the defense of vulnerable groups against mob violence.”
  6. Kuwait: Abuses against transgender individuals were cited. “Individual liberties are at the heart of our democracy, and are critical to the development of deep-seated relationships with like-minded friends and allies. We need to encourage this understanding with Kuwaiti and other authorities as part of our dialogue on human rights.”
  7. Kyrgyz Republic: The report notes “a pattern of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse in the Kyrgyz Republic against lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men.” The Council notes that Kyrgyzstan receives significant foreign assistance. “if Kyrgyz officials are unwilling to address the problem, we should reevaluate our assistance levels and other bilateral programs.
  8. Lithuania: Political leaders have embraced anti-gay policies and have denied LGBT groups the right to assemble peacefully. “Freedoms of assembly and of association are fundamental rights in any democracy. If Lithuania is to claim its place as a democratic state, it must be challenged to honor these principles in law and in practice.”
  9. Nigeria: Adults convicted of homosexuality are subject to stoning in parts of the country that have adopted Shari’a law. LGBT advocates have been threatened, stoned, and beaten. A proposed law pending in Nigeria’s Senate would not only ban same-sex marriage, but any “coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together …. for other purposes of same sexual relationship.” This would open the doors of arrest for those who are legally married outside of Nigeria and who happen to travel to that country for business or vacation. “We hope it [the U.S. Embassy] will work with European and other embassies in Abuja to voice strong concerns over this dangerous new bill in the Nigerian Senate.”
  10. Uganda: Homosexuality is criminalized. Police arrested members of an NGO for taking a public stand against discrimination, as well as three LGBT activist at an HIV/AIDS conference. “Uganda is one of the largest recipients of PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and treatment. In Uganda, the money has been used to empower institutions and activists that have led homophobic campaigns in the country. We need to consider whether the US government’s priority focus on abstinence funding is blunting the effectiveness of the money we’re spending, while also discouraging tolerance-based response to the epidemic.”

Writing on behalf of the council, Mark Bromley highlighted Egypt and Jamaica for special concern:

Egypt was our third largest recipient of foreign aid from USAID and the State Department last year.  I would not suggest cutting off U.S. assistance in a country like Egypt, but I am convinced that our funding should give us more leverage to speak out forcefully against the HIV arrests documented in the report.

… The U.S. government’s diplomatic response to these abuses must be strong and unconditional, and it should also be tied to our financial commitments in the country. Jamaica is a country where carefully-targeted U.S. support to gay rights or human rights groups could be effective in improving both the legal and community responses to LGBT violence.  In addition, we should use the foreign assistance funding that we have allocated over the past several years to professionalize the Jamaican police force to help respond to these attacks.

Jamaica Boycott: What Are The Alternatives?

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2009

Yesterday, I provided a quick update to the Jamaican Boycott. In that post, I noted the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays’ (JFLAG) opposition to that boycott. But as I demonstrated, JFLAG’s position doesn’t speak for all LGBT Jamaicans any more than the HRC speaks for all LGBT Americans. I also closed with this question:

To those who are against the boycott, I have one thing I’d be interested in learning: what do you think ought to be done differently from what has been tried before — assuming you really want a different result?

Today, JFLAG’s blog has joined the debate in two posts. The first is a repost of Michael Airhart’s article on Jamaican voices in support of the boycott. The second is a post which defends JFLAG’s opposition to the boycott, and ends with a re-wording of a similar question I asked yesterday:

Do any of you support this boycott? If not, what alternatives, if any, are there for helping the LGBT people of Jamaica in a respectful manner?

Jamaican Boycott Update

Jim Burroway

April 14th, 2009

The Jamaican Boycott continues to stir controversy in Jamaica and here in the U.S. On Wednesday, Wayne Besen will host a Rum Dump in front of the historic Stonewall Inn in New York at 6:30 p.m.  This follows a similar Rum Dump held in San Francisco by Michael Petrelis. Meanwhile, the Jamaican LGBT advocacy group J-FLAG continues to voice strong opposition to the boycott.

Just as our own Human Rights Campaign doesn’t speak for all LGBT people in America, J-Flag doesn’t speak for all LGBT Jamaicans. But for whatever reason, the idea is percolating among some LGBT advocates that Jamaicans are united against the boycott. But try telling that to Jamaican blogger Dave, or some of the Jamaican commenters here at BTB. Just under a year ago, exiled Jamaican LGBT advocate Garth Henry who was co-chair of J-FLAG until he was forced to flee to Canada, had supported calls for a similar boycott there.

There is another argument that goes like this: Because we’re Americans, we have no right to advocate for human rights outside of our borders. Well if we really believe that, then I guess we should stop tutt-tutting any of the violent threats that we see around the world. Uganda? I guess you’re on your own now. Too bad American anti-gay extremists have no compunction whatsoever in observing the niceties of international boarders in exporting their rhetoric.

But the strangest argument against the boycott seems to go something like this: anti-gay violence in Jamaica is bad and getting worse. If you boycott Jamaican travel and products, anti-gay violence in Jamaica will be bad and likely get worse. As I said, this is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, and its eerily reminiscent of a classic hostage standoff. Go away or we’ll shoot. And when you do go away, we’ll probably shoot anyway if history is a reliable teacher.

Yes, we can sit on our hands and watch the situation in Jamaica continue to spin out of control, but that just reinforces the old adage which points out that doing the exact same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome is madness. But it appears that this is precisely what our critics would have us do.

This action isn’t being taken to completely remake Jamaican society. In fact, the goals are very limited to two very 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.

Notice what’s missing from the goals. We’re not demanding that Jamaica repeal its sodomy law, simply because we don’t believe Jamaican leaders should be held to a standard our own legislators would fail to meet. And for similar reasons we’re not asking the Jamaican people to change their religious views, nor are we asking Jamaican politicians to “embrace” anyone. Because of this, many who support a boycott might argue that the aims are too milquetoast. But all we’re asking is that Jamaican officials defend the lives and safety of Jamaican people.

And what we’re doing is not all that groundbreaking. Many LGBT Americans have been engaging in a quiet unofficial boycott for quite some time, and they’ve been involving their friends, families and other straight allies. BoycottJamaica.org merely puts a highly visible face on top of what had already been taking place informally.

So for me, the reason I continue to support the boycott comes down to this: We all have an obligation to know what is happening to LGBT citizens around the world, and we all have a responsibility to decide how we want to spend our money. I know how I want to spend mine, and I encourage everyone else I know to avoid Jamaican products and travel. I’m no different from many countless other LGBT people who have been doing precisely the same thing for quite a long time — except, of course, that I have a blog.  And so I am simply saying publicly what I and many others have been saying privately.

And I will continue to do so. The only way to expect a different result is to do something different. To those who are against the boycott, I have one thing I’d be interested in learning: what do you think ought to be done differently from what has been tried before — assuming you really want a different result?

“This is Jamaica and we are against homosexuals”

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2009

The news of the boycott against Jamaica has reached the island. Naturally, being Jamaican media, the reporter placed the boycott as solely San Franciscan in extent, questioned the “specific figures on the size of the movement”, defended the targets, and dismissed the concerns as “a perceived rise in attacks”.

Today the Jamaica Gleaner printed a letter to the editor. Needless to say, it was not one expressing condemnation of the violence or a concern about the economic impact of harboring murdering homophobes. Rather, it was the usual arrogant defense of homophobia and hatred that we have come to expect from Jamaicans.

This is Jamaica and we are against homosexuals.

There is no if, but or maybe about it. Why are they forcing us to accept them? We do not have to. We are a Christian country and homosexuality is contrary to our practices, so why should we drop all our morals, values and religious standards just to please their forbidden choice?

And as for civil protections, well there are none to be expected in the Caribbean’s pit of bigotry.

Instead of simply attacking us and trying to force us to protect and accept you, how about accepting our laws and abiding by them? You are not changing your minds and becoming heterosexuals, and we reluctantly accept that. Likewise, we are not changing our minds, or our laws to please you, so accept this. In the end, if you want to boycott our country, we don’t mind.

Thanks. I believe I will.

Appearance on Michelangelo Signorile Show

Jim Burroway

March 31st, 2009

At 4:30 ET, I will be joining Wayne Besen on the The Michelangelo Signorile Show to talk about the boycott of Jamaica. You can listen on Sirius OutQ, 109 or XM 98. If you’re not a subscriber, you can get a free three-day pass and listen online.

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.

Jamaica Boycott Kicks Off In San Francisco

Jim Burroway

March 28th, 2009

There will be a rally today at noon on San Francisco’s Harvey Milk Plaza in the heart of The Castro to kick off a boycott of Jamaican products and travel:

But starting this weekend, at Harvey Milk Plaza, site of many actions by Milk in his crusade against Coors beer, a coalition of activists will gather to launch the boycott of Myers’s rum and Red Stripe beer.

The time has come to ask all gay bars and restaurants in San Francisco to boycott Jamaican rum and beer. Switch to serving rums from Puerto Rico and beers produced in countries with enlightened gay laws and social acceptance.

The Jamaican boycott encompasses not only Myers’s rum and Red Stripe beer; we are also asking travelers to avoid cruises to the country. There is no justifiable reason for gays and our allies who value the lives of LGBT and persons with AIDS in Jamaica to vacation there, or consume their alcoholic drinks.

Several bars and restaurants in San Fransisco have pulled Jamaican beverages from their shelves.

Oh yeah, I’m in there somewhere:

In Brooklyn, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out is developing a Web site to provide background information. He’s working closely with Jim Burroway of Arizona, researcher and editor of the Box Turtle Bulletin blog. Besen and Burroway have both written extensively on the need to flex gay economic muscle and not spend our dollars in a country that explicitly hates us.

Actually, BTB’s Timothy Kincaid has done the lion’s share of reporting on events in Jamaica. Earlier this month, he called on Americans to avoid traveling to Jamaica after that island nation’s Prime Minister announced that “we are not going to yield to the pressure … to liberalize the laws as it relates to buggery.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, where it carries a ten year prison sentence. According to the U.S. State Department, Jamaican LGBT people are subject to “arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents.”

After much debate and with some reluctance, I too join the call for a boycott. My reluctance stems from concerns about the impact this boycott may have on LGBT Jamaicans. But in the end, I cannot recommend that American dollars be spent in such a hostile environment. I believe consumers have a right to know what’s happening there and make their spending decisions accordingly.

The goals of the boycott are modest and easily achievable:

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

These modest goals aren’t difficult for anyone who values basic human rights. They shouldn’t be difficult for Jamaica’s policy makers. You can learn more at the Boycott Jamaica web site.

Jamaica’s Anti-Gay Laws Lead to Increased HIV

Timothy Kincaid

March 20th, 2009

Jamaica, perhaps the most homophobic spot in the Americas, still retains anti-”buggery” laws. And, unlike some countries who have laws that are more for message than for punishment, Jamaican society enforces these prescriptions by means of mob violence and murder.

Needless to say, fear of exposure is not conducive to steady, monogamous, mutually-supportive relationships. Instead, those societies that threaten the lives and freedoms of gay persons lead to hidden individuals furtively seeking sexual release and then fleeing into the shadows. Many seek to hide behind a public heterosexual front and live a double life.

This is healthy for neither the individuals nor the society. And Jamaica is a prime illustration. According to a 2008 study by the Caribbean HIV & AIDS Alliance (CHAA) (Jamaica Gleaner):

31.8 per cent of gay men in Jamaica are living with HIV. Another 8.5 per cent were found with chlamidia, 2.5 per cent had gonorrhoea and 5.5 per cent had syphilis.

These are shocking rates of infection. And the reason for them does not lie solely in the secret, furtive, shameful nature of the brief liasons. Rather, they are compounded by a society in which seeking medical care in an honest fashion can gat you killed. As a UNICEF worker reported in 2007,

Beaten, stoned, thrown out and even killed are the prices some people face just for being HIV positive in Jamaica.

CHAA lays the blame for the shocking rates of HIV and other infectious disease at the feet of homophobia and mistreatment. Not only are MSM frightened to seek medical care, they are fearful of HIV/AIDS groups that seek to help them. This leaves gay men, in particular, at great risk for transmission of a potentially life threatening disease (MedicalNewsToday).

Devon Cammock, the targeted intervention coordinator at the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, said that MSM tend to hide their sexuality even from other members of the MSM community, which makes it difficult to conduct programs that are needed in the community.

Should there be among you some so callous as to think that this is just a “gay disease” and that they are just getting what they deserve (an attitude that is not limited to places like Jamaica), you may wish to consider that homophobic laws and culture are a danger to everyone.

In Jamaica, only those who are most brave (or most suicidal) dare identify as gay. So to track health issues they use the term “men who have sex with men (MSM)”. And CHAA has found that MSM are indeed living a double life – and a dangerous one :

Some 27.7 per cent [of MSM] reported having two or more sexual partners in the last four weeks; 25.9 per cent had a new partner in the past four weeks; 28.8 per cent had a female partner in the past four weeks; 15.9 per cent live with a female partner; and 33.8 per cent had two or more female partners in the past 12 months.

But Jamaica’s culture of violence and hatred is not softened by unknowing victims. Rather, their homophobia is so strong it spreads to non-gay persons who have become HIV infected. Take the story of 20 year old Katie.

In the year and a half she has known she’s infected, Katie has struggled through a lot. When she discovered her status, the boyfriend she was living with threw her out along with her daughter, who is currently four and whose father tragically died the same year she was born.

After being thrown out by a boyfriend she went to live with her father, where the situation got worse. There, her step-mum spread rumours that she had AIDS and would point her out on the streets, a very dangerous act considering the destructive discrimination she could face.

Although it’s still a mystery how she got infected, it’s one Katie is in no hurry to solve, “it really doesn’t matter to me anymore because I have my daughter and it would really hurt me and her if I started searching for who I got infected by”.

Katie gets little sympathy in Jamaica. Those persons who are gay and invested with HIV get none.

Unless the Jamaican leaders – be they civil, religious, cultural, or community – become willing to let go of their own fear and hatred and say, “enough is enough”, this nation will continue to wallow in crime and disease, clinging only to its animus and self-righteousness, until the freedom-loving nations of the world want nothing to do with her.

Two Charged in Gay Jamaican’s Murder

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2009

The Jamaica Star is reporting a rare occurrence in that country: two men were charged in the murder of a gay man:

Two men charged with the murder of a man whose decomposing body was recently found in Havendale, St.Andrew, are accused of killing the man because it was believed that he was gay, the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court heard.

Charged with murder are Dwayne Gordon, 23, and Andy Williams.

The allegations are that Gordon was being interviewed by the police as a possible witness to the crime. His statement however turned into a confession. He reportedly told the police that on February 23, he and Williams stabbed Dane Harris several times.

There is one element in this case worth watching: the possible introduction of the “gay panic” defense. There also appears to be an element of possible wrongdoing on the part of the police:

The body of the deceased was found on February 26. Gordon told the court that Williams was just a contractor he had met through a relative. When asked if the statement he gave to the police was false, he told the court that the police told him to sign a document and then he saw them writing.

This appears to have been a particularly grisly murder. According to an earlier report, Dane Harris’ decomposing body was discovered with multiple stab wounds. Both hands had been severed from his body and were missing.

State Department Report On Jamaica’s LGBTs: Arbitrary Detentions, Mob Attacks, Stabbings, Harassment and Targeted Shootings

Jim Burroway

March 17th, 2009

jamaica-flag.bmpTwo weeks ago, the U.S. State Department issued its annual Human Rights Report for 2008. Jamaica, a favorite holiday destination for millions of Americans, was singled out for extensive official and unofficial abuse of LGBT citizens of that country.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The law prohibits “acts of gross indecency” (generally interpreted as any kind of physical intimacy) between men, in public or in private, which are punishable by 10 years in prison.

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents.

J-FLAG members also suffered attacks on their property, home intrusions as people demanded to know the number of persons and beds in a home, and in one instance, a fire bombing at the home of two men that left one of them with burns on more than 60 percent of his body. In addition homosexuals faced death and arson threats, with some of these directed at the J-FLAG offices. J-FLAG did not publicize its location due to such threats, and its officials reported feeling unsafe having meetings with clients at the organization’s office.

In February a mob broke into the home of four presumed homosexual men, killing three of them. The fourth was missing and presumed dead. The men had reported being harassed for their perceived sexual orientation prior to the fatal attack. Police made some inquiries in the case but did not conduct a full investigation or make any arrests by year’s end.

The trial of six suspects arrested for the 2005 robbery and murder of Lenford “Steve” Harvey, initially begun and then postponed in 2007, was scheduled to recommence in January 2009.

Male inmates deemed by prison wardens to be homosexual were held in a separate facility for their protection. The method used for determining their sexual orientation was subjective and not regulated by the prison system, although inmates were said to confirm their homosexuality for their own safety. There were numerous reports of violence against homosexual inmates, perpetrated by the wardens and by other inmates, but few inmates sought recourse through the prison system.

Homosexual men were hesitant to report incidents against them because of fear for their physical well-being. Lesbian women were subject to sexual assault as well as other physical attacks. Human rights NGOs and government entities agreed that brutality against homosexuals, primarily by private citizens, was widespread in the community.

We reported on the mob killing last February. The situation in Jamaica has continued to deteriorate, with high-ranking Jamaican officials shrugging off anti-LGBT violence. Calls for “tolerance” in the popular media have remained decidedly one-sided by advocating tolerance only for those who espouse homophobic hatred. Courts in the United States, Canada and Europe have been providing asylum to LGBT Jamaicans who fear for their lives if they are forced to return. Meanwhile, support for boycotting Jamaica continues to build. Stay tuned.

Newer Posts | Older Posts