Orville Taylor | Playing the ass over homophobia
In this country, I can speak my mind, criticise the Government, take on the Opposition, strip religion, and excoriate bigots. But bet you if I say that anal sex is disgusting and nasty, some homophile tribalist will continue the straight-up lie that Jamaica is one of the most homophobic countries in the world. To perpetuate this massive misrepresentation is a gross abuse of freedom of expression and our having the freest press in the Anglophone world.
Ironically, we are nowhere near as homophobic as the grand narratives say that we are. Therefore, gay-rights groups exist legally here and continue to do their advocacy for greater levels of tolerance and respect for their community. If we were truly as gay-hostile as they malign us to be, then bet your bottom dollar that organisations such as J-FLAG could not exist, and any front man (for want of a better word) for the forum would be carted off to jail and face a hefty sentence and possibly execution.
Now, don't be mistaken. I do know that there are applications by Jamaicans for asylum in metropolitan countries because of alleged persecution owing to their sexual orientation. Indeed, I totally support the application before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of two Jamaicans because I believe that anyone who thinks that his or her human rights are being violated and that the State doesn't protect him or her should seek recourse before any legally constituted body.
Two gay Jamaicans, a male and female, sought asylum in Canada and the Netherlands respectively, over allegations that they were both victims of violence based on their sexual orientation. He reported that apart from the repeated attacks by anti-gay criminal gangs, he was the victim of police brutality. The female, who was shot multiple times by criminals, claims that attempts were also made on the lives of her gay and straight brothers. Her assailants were identified as members of a 'homophobic gang'.
I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the claims of these two individuals about being physically attacked, nor do I reject their claim that their attackers were homophobic. After all, criminals are criminals, and the essential element of being a gang is that they are deviants who act with scant regard for the law and human rights.
Indeed, it might create unease in the comfortable zone of ignorance in the minds of persons whose version of the truth is unaffected by facts. However, we also have homosexual gangs and gangs whose leaders are gay in Jamaica.
No adequate protection
Nevertheless, I accept that the female felt that the police could not adequately protect her. After all, we live in a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas. Thus, it is indeed reasonable that if there is sustained malice against you and your family by gangs, seeking an escape across international borders is logical because the police might not be able to offer you 24-hour protection. What is disturbing about both claims for asylum, however, is that the male alleges police brutality without recourse as a basis for his application, and somehow they both report that they believed that the very existence of the anti-buggery law creates a platform for antipathy and violence against gays in Jamaica.
According to him: "I was forced to flee Jamaica in fear of my life simply because of who I choose to love. I am convinced that putting LGBT people in Jamaica outside the protection of the law leaves us vulnerable to violence and harassment." While she argued, "I believe that the gang members who almost killed me and my brothers felt emboldened to do so by the very existence of these homophobic laws."
Unfortunately, while they might have legitimate individual cases for asylum, their sweeping caricature of the society is hysteria bordering on deceit. Governments of our close Anglophone allies - the USA, UK and Canada - have recognised that many Jamaicans who are so straight that they don't even own protractors in their geometry sets have ridden this nonsense about wanton anti-gay violence to a ridiculous extent and have gained their papers.
Well, here are some sobering facts, which are open to people with wilfully deafened eyes and which I write while watching the footage of the police-escorted gay rally in western Jamaica. Yes, the same 'anti-gay' police who 'refuse to take complaints' and who kick down people's doors in zealous attempts to discover if two men are involved in consensual anal sex or whether a man is 'bulling' his wife, contrary to Section 76 of the Jurassic Offences Against the Person Act.
The truth is that unless it involves a minor, is done in a public place (which is a crime even if it is heterosexual), or is forced, the police do not typically enforce the statute. Moreover, if the existence of the law encourages anti-gay violence, why are gay people in America murdered at almost three times the rate of Jamaica?
Furthermore, inasmuch as the female claims that a family member "was even forced to leave his job because he was harassed merely for having gay and lesbian siblings", one would be surprised to know that in 28 states of the USA, one can be justifiably dismissed for being gay. However, Jamaican worker and employer attitude surveys show surprising levels of tolerance regarding gays' employability here.
On the other hand, more than 70 other countries criminalise sodomy, and among those, 13, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, punish gay sex with the death penalty. When the international gay-rights advocates, backed by the USA, UK, and Canada, put pressure on these countries, then we will accept that they are really interested in protecting gay people and not simply leaning on Jamaica, the weak fence.
True, Lord Denning would agree that our buggery law is an ass, but they really need to ride a different beast.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.