Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Gays off election agenda

Published:Wednesday | November 11, 2015 | 11:00 AM

As soon as then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller made the promise in the 2011 leadership debate to review the buggery law if the People's National Party (PNP) took power, many figured it was a strategically well-thought-out, empty political promise.

In a country where our people's fear of awarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community any form of basic rights is only exceeded by their religious fear of eternal hellfire, some were of the view that Simpson Miller was simply pandering to the overseas gay lobby with an expectation that any possible funding to the PNP during the election would be met with a kinder face than would be shown by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with its expressed anti-gay sentiment.

Currently, the election campaign slate is filled with many issues, some of which, like enforced errors in tennis, were self-authored by the PNP's administration's failures in key policy areas.

Number one is the dead babies scandal and the shifting of Dr Fenton Ferguson from Health to Labour and Social Security where, just by his presence at the new ministry, it, too, increases its potential for policy breakdown in key areas.

Jostling for two and three are the troubling spike in vicious murders and the joblessness among our youth population. This is, of course, an electoral boon to the Opposition JLP, which has suddenly found a firmer-than-usual electoral foothold as it pounces relentlessly on the PNP administration's failures.

While the overseas gay lobby and the local LGBT activists are convinced that they were taken around the mulberry bush by Simpson Miller's promise, I am certain that they are aware of the political realities facing both the PNP and the JLP in this election season.

Quite apart from the fact that the voting population is not at this time inclined to place LGBT rights at the top of its policy agenda, the PNP knows now that if any funding from the overseas gay lobby is available, it will not be arriving in Jamaica any time soon.

The opposition JLP has promised to place the buggery law on a referendum ticket. That's like asking a man if he prefers sex or eating raw garlic. Gosh, I wonder which option he will take?

If there is such a person as the 'typical Jamaican', he is likely to believe in the biblical 'laws' against homosexuality and he also believes that gay people make an eenie-meenie-miney-mo choice between heterosexuality and homosexuality. It is that belief that a person makes an openly conscious choice between the two that drives the hate and the phobia.

The politicians know this and secretly acknowledge that any party that is instrumental in a change of the buggery law will be condemned to opposition purgatory for an extended period.

 

NATIONAL IGNORANCE

 

The reality is that national ignorance and adherence to archaic biblical codes rule out any attempt at rational discussion on homosexuality. Recently, a man my own age was trying to explain to me why he believes young boys directly choose to be gay.

"When mi jus come up here, there was a big man living over so and in a matter of months, most a di young boy dem turn fi him way."

"You know, of course, that is rubbish. I am familiar with the story. It was a relatively few boys, but have you ever thought they were already gay?" I said.

"Is money him use and catch them," he said.

"So you are having a money problem now? Why don't you go there and introduce yourself, since it is so easy for people to conveniently switch."

"But mi nuh stay suh," he said.

"Exactly. I rest my case."

In 2009, when then Prime Minister Bruce Golding responded instantly to the BBC's Stephen Sackur with a "Not in my Cabinet!" answer to indicate that he would not appoint gays to his ministerial line-up, it was apparent that the global community was beginning to apply pressure on Jamaica to change its archaic laws on homosexuality.

While I share the view that our culture is far from ready to accept globally accepted norms on how the LGBT community should be viewed and treated, as a developing country eagerly stretching out its hand to secure the next batch of loans and grants, we ought to also accept that donor countries in the European Union and North America will be pushing our politicians to accelerate culture change on LGBT rights as they see the hand outstretched.

Certainly, either the PNP or the JLP could do with a quick cash infusion of a 'small' US$400,000 in this election season.

What? No takers?

• Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.