Wed | Mar 20, 2019

Go further than talk on gay rights, Madam PM

Published:Monday | April 6, 2015 | 11:02 PMPete DeLisser


The gist of the Gleaner commentary 'The lady's not for bullying' (April 1, 2015) by George Davis was to rebuke any suggestion that Jamaica is homophobic and to commend Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller for her defiant response to gay activists who heckled and interrupted her recent speech in New York.

The suggestion was made that gays continue to tell lies on Jamaica and embarrass the PM, even as they continue to raise awareness on what is still considered an important issue. Let us be clear: I haven't heard of any allegation against government members that they attacked gays, so this argument is simplistic and absurd.

What has been said is that the Government has not done enough to denounce anti-gay discrimination and related hate crimes. The Government is silent on these issues, and it refuses to proceed with the promise made to review the antiquated buggery law, which criminalise anal sex between consenting adults, and carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

If Jamaica is not homophobic, as the writer and Simpson Miller suggest, why did former PM Bruce Golding tell the BBC that gays cannot serve in his Cabinet? And why did Opposition Leader Andrew Holness avoid answering the question during the last electoral debates?

If Jamaica is not homophobic, why did a mob murder teen crossdresser Dwayne Jones? If Mr Davis believes that gays can walk the streets freely without verbal and physical abuse, he must be naive.

We see and hear of incidents reported on the news all the time: mob attacks on men perceived to be gay; police rescuing men from mobs, even from their homes. Isn't this homophobia?

So although the Government of Jamaica doesn't beat gays, a Government that is the custodian of its citizens - even if choosing to turn a blind eye to discrimination - is just as guilty as the perpetrators committing the crime. Any Government that creates, endorses and enforces laws that criminalise gay acts between consenting adults in privacy is not standing up for human rights.

Simpson Miller, during the last election campaign, was bold enough to state that, unlike her predecessor Bruce Golding, gays could serve in her Cabinet as she had no intention of prying into people's private affairs. She promised to review the buggery laws and take a conscience vote. She immediately started an intelligent discussion and had the opportunity to go further using her influence. No other PM to my knowledge has ever done this.

Some progress has been made, but if the PM now believes Jamaica is no longer homophobic and that gays are spreading 'lies', I urge her to not delay any further the buggery law review that she promised years ago. And she can still do so defiantly with "the blood of Nanny of the Maroons and the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey", as both were great heroes who fought to defend human rights!