Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Government prepares to tackle transgender, other sexuality concerns

Published:Monday | May 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Simona Suarie (foreground) of Obistan Kinder Preparatory School receives applause from Desmond McKenzie (left), minister of local government; Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, minister of entertainment, sport, culture, and gender affairs and chairperson of the National Planning Committee; and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during the official launch of National Workers’ Week and Labour Day 2016 at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew on Friday.

The Jamaica Government is preparing itself to adequately address emerging concerns related to gender identification and other issues tied to sexuality.

In fact, legal battles in the United States, where school officials are grappling with confusion and consternation over whether transgender individuals should be allowed to use rest rooms that match their gender identity instead of their birth sex have not missed Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, minister of entertainment, sport, culture, and gender affairs.

"The ministry is aware that there are new issues emerging and we are going to have to address these things," Grange told The Gleaner following the launch of Workers' Week and Labour Day.

"We are going to have to respond when there is a need to respond, and we are going to have to be that voice or that base that will provide an avenue to deal with these matters amicably."

She added: "That is one reason we have actually changed the name of the Bureau of Women's Affairs to the Bureau of Gender Affairs. We know that there are various discussions taking place and we want to be there to address both female and male, particularly our boys. They have been marginalised, especially as it relates to issues regarding their masculinity."




Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson was hesitant to speak on the matter, but acknowledged that specific issues of sexuality are new areas of concern in the workplace.

It is for this reason that the ministry will be hosting a panel discussion under the theme 'Work for Human Development, New Realities of the World of Work in Jamaica' on May 18.

The event is to coincide with the observance of Workers' Week.

"We recognise that Jamaica is no different from the rest of the world because these things are happening here. I don't want to say too much about what will be happening at the forum, but there are some realities we will have to put on the table to see how best we can arrive at amicable solutions," Robinson said.

She continued: "Human trafficking is also something that we plan to address because it is so subtle and you find that people unwittingly get involved. We want to pay more attention and heighten the awareness on these issues."




Grange implored Jamaicans to show respect to every individual they encounter, despite that person's beliefs, opinions, and background.

"I think these are all human rights issues and every individual is entitled to the freedom and rights enshrined in the Constitution. They should not be treated any differently, but be able to live normal lives to the extent they are able to conduct themselves within the norms of society," she insisted.

"We will encourage society to respect every individual and each other's privacy and personal use. Respect has to underscore everything we do."