Low favourability rating for JFJ after 'bad beating'
Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
Despite operating in a society where there are constant claims of human-rights violations, lobby Jamaicans for Justice's (JFJ) approval rating currently stands at 22 per cent, according to the results of the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, which was conducted on September 6-7 and 13-14.
The poll, which used a sample size of 1,208 Jamaicans and has a margin of error of +3% or -3%, further showed that 29 per cent of respondents have an unfavourable view of the organisation. Almost half (49 per cent) of those polled, however, did not have an opinion one way or the other about the 15-year-old group.
"Despite all the publicity it (JFJ) has got, a lot of people are not aware of it. This is consistent with surveys I have done in the past … with a large percentage of the population not having an opinion of them for one reason or another," pollster Johnson said.
Interim chairman of the human-rights entity, Dr Barry Wade, believes the group needs to make better use of technology to improve its image, as dependence on mainstream media has not yielded the desired results.
"Essentially, we have depended on the traditional media, who have been selective in what they carry from us. So we feel that we have to depend more on social media to get the rest of the message out," Wade said. "We have to improve our website and we have to improve our internal communication; things like that. We recognise that is the challenge we have."
PERCEIVED SUPPORT FOR HOMOSEXUALITY
Fourteen per cent of persons polled believed JFJ supports homosexuality, and gave this as the main thing working against the organisation. The perceptions that the group does not get justice for people and that it is not doing a good job were each given by 13 per cent of the participants as the reason for an unfavourable view of the lobby.
Wade believes the media's handling of what was deemed by many as an age-inappropriate sexual-education programme, which was conducted in six private children's homes by the group, and its role in Professor Brendan Bain's initial dismissal from his job at the University of the West Indies, are the two things that have contributed most to the organisation being branded as a gay lobby.
"It was how our work was portrayed in the press. Our work among children, and you had the Brendan Bain affair in which Jamaicans for Justice was not a leading group in it at all, but it was quickly associated with Jamaicans for Justice," Wade said.
"So when you look at the facts of the case, you will see that there is nothing that we did that actually represented any advocacies on behalf of the gay agenda."
Founder of advocacy group Hear the Children's Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine, believes, however, that, the JFJ should not point fingers but instead accept blame for the way it is currently viewed.
"I think Jamaicans for Justice has taken a very bad beating, and they have to take responsibility for it," Blaine said. "They did something that was illegal and tried to circumvent the system. The damage that has happened to Jamaicans for Justice has been its own doing."
Thirty per cent of those who have a favourable view of the organisation gave the reason as the organisation's ability to 'fight for justice/get justice for people', which was the top motive.
While acknowledging the important role that JFJ plays as an advocacy group, university lecturer Dr Orville Taylor thinks that they might be lobbying for things the country is just not yet ready to accept.
"Inasmuch as we know that JFJ sets itself up as an advocate of human rights, including those human rights which have not yet been agreed upon - such as sexual orientation - in this country, we are not homophobic as people would say; however, there is still a lack of approval for the homosexual lifestyle," the sociologist said.