BRITISH ARTISTE Elton John has labelled Jamaica a dangerous country for gays.
Jamaica was one of several countries including Iran, Uganda, Poland and the United Arab Emirates whose governments, according to the British singer, should be lobbied over gay rights. John, whose real name is Reginald Dwight, made his comments ahead of his scheduled marriage to another man later this week, taking advantage of Britain's recent legalisation of same-sex marriages.
Writing in the London-based Observer newspaper on Sunday, he based his comments on information provided by human rights group Amnesty International.
"Amnesty has reported that violence against gay men and women is at catastrophic levels in Jamaica; you are in danger of vigilante violence as soon as your sexuality becomes known. The police are more likely to join in than offer you protection," he said.
However, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Horace Peterkin, told The Gleaner that John, were he to visit the island, would find his experience hassle-free. "Jamaica has welcomed people of all persuasions and they have come here for years, from the entertainment world and all businesses and have never been approached (harassed) in any way by locals."
People of all persuasions he added were working in the tourism industry and he cited homosexual British actor Noel Coward, who famously kept a home in St. Mary, as an example of those who had either visited or set up residence here.
Mr. John said Jamaica's legislation, namely Article 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act which makes homosexual acts punishable with up to 10 year's hard labour, meant "... ordinary people feel it is OK to hate and exclude gay people. It does not take long for this hate to turn to violence."
Mr. John referenced the recent murder of homosexual Jamaica Aids Support (JAS) counsellor Steve Harvey and claims that he was killed for his sexuality. However, former British detective and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields said recently that police were keeping an open mind into the case which is ongoing and yet to reach trial.
"It is quite unfair and irrational," DCP Shields had said, to class Jamaica as one of the worst hate crimes countries. Other countries, Britain included, had problems with hate crimes he said. He noted the recent racist murder of black-British-Jamaican teenager Anthony Walker by two white men in Liverpool, England which left the 18-year-old with an axe embedded in his skull.