Gays Organize in Jamaica
Friday December 18, 1998
Theyve been described as "suicidal" just for going public, but
J-FLAG is determined to work for liberation in the Caribbean - and the world!
On International Human Rights Day December 10, the new Jamaica Forum of Lesbians,
All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) publicly announced its formation, saying, "J-FLAG is
committed to moving forward in a spirit of oneness, love, dignity and respect towards the
establishment of a world devoid of prejudice, injustice, discrimination and oppression,
ensuring the human rights of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, as set out in the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights." In the days since, theyve
received a number of harassing calls and a death threat; one psychologist described the
groups going public as "suicidal." A J-FLAG spokesperson said, "We
are not surprised at all. You know the level of hostility out there. We live with
this." The group now has 2,000 members and is still growing (despite the original
press release giving an incorrect phone number, sending calls to the Workers Bank in
New Kingston). One of the groups first goals is to establish a hotline.
J-FLAG will have an uphill battle in trying to repeal Jamaicas sodomy law, even
though they have the support of the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights. Justice
Minister K.D. Knight rejected the notion on December 16, saying, "No, theres no
plan by the government to repeal the laws relevant to homosexual activities. The law is
founded in a moral imperative which has not changed." The sodomy law goes against the
wishes of Britain, which has been urging its overseas territories to comply with
international treaties on human rights issues.
Nonetheless, anti-gay sentiment has become more public in Jamaica this year, as it has
elsewhere in the Caribbean. Major protests were staged in anticipation of a concert by the
Village People in March (their appearance was canceled following an injury to one of the
band members). When the government suggested condom distribution in the prisons to guards
and inmates alike, the insulted guards walked off the job, setting off a series of riots
in which prisoners killed 16 of their fellow inmates they believed to be gay.
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