Tuesday, May 12, 2009

J-Flagging the gay debate: a ban on Jamaican products.

Jamaica has long been known as a homophobic society - though granted we don't have a poster at our international airports! More publicly, it is reflected in the music. Comparable to the spate of 'daggering' songs, local dancehall kings and queens vie for who can best describe with what should be done to homosexuals, often times in the most graphic of ways.

Touted in some circles as yet another leftover law from colonial times, homosexual activities are punishable by up to seven years in prison. This, along with often times violent crimes and even death, has earned Jamaica yet another infamous distinction of having ' the worst record of any country in the new world in its treatment of gays and lesbians'. While in the past entertainers such as Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton have been banned, gay advocates in the US have moved to another level, launching a national boycott of Jamaica and all things Jamaican! The group behind the ban, TruthWinsOut, has called for this boycott by asking "all people of all walks of life to send a clear message to the Jamaican people and their government, that as long as they continue to allow and condone violence and hatred toward the Gay community, we will neither buy their products nor support their tourist trade."

Interestingly JFLAG, the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, is against the ban by their affiliate organization, going as far to say ' Jamaica’s deeply ingrained antipathy towards homosexuality and homosexuals is a social phenomenon that will not be undone by boycott campaigns or government dictate'. They go on to state that the ban should be discontinued ' because of the possible repercussions of increased homophobic violence against our already besieged community' ...'
in fact, members of our own community could be disproportionately affected by a worsened economic situation brought about by a tourist ban."

Advertised as 'rum dumps', gay advocates have organized two such events where they have dumped Myers Rum and Red Stripe Beer as a part of their efforts to boycott Jamaican products. Tolerance
doesn't seem to be the password for either side. The government has already come out to say it will not 'bow' - pardon the bad pun and reference to Shabba Ranks' song - to the pressures from the US lobby group, and will retain it's existing laws.

Curious to see where this will end.
Boycott Jamaica logo downloaded from: www.boycottjamaica.org
Red Stripe Beer logo downloaded from: www.redstripebeer.com

4 comments:

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Particularly with the subject, I have found it complicated to remain (and keep thinking that I am) liberal and tolerant and to have any misgiving about homosexuality at the same time. While I 100% certain that hating gay people is the same as hating a particular race, gender or creed, I question why people want to do violence against somebody simply because they're different from us. It makes you wonder if straight people do not have a complex (and I will not say whether it is an I-complex or an S-complex). At the same time, I admit if I knew somebody who was undoubtedly gay, I do not know if I would not change in behaviour towards them. Too many confused thoughts. Enough.

Anonymous said...

I just voted for a motion in support of the promotion of Gay Lesbians Bisexuals and Transvestites Rights in Africa. I still have my misgivings because I'm not ignorant of the ferocious force by which some members of these groups behave once they have the power and the money to do so.

And I am aware quite a number of them come to Africa to lure poor young men, sometimes even boys, with money and sodomize them. In developing countries where poverty makes so many people vulnerable, this is a scary thought. Governments in developing countries don't really protect their citizens. The police systems are normally corrupt and inefficient, the judiciary can often be compromised etc. And even worse, most of these predators know for a fact that they can get away with it because they often do.

I voted for this motion to be sent to the EU Parliament because I believe that all people, no matter their race, colour, sex, age or sexual preference, have a right to life, respect and dignity.

Or did I just make a wrong move? These are strange times.

Denise said...

Nana, I also agree with your take that discrmination in this area is as bad as discriminationn in another other area. Have been in one too many sititaions where I am judged by the colour of my skin, or the fact that I am a woman, or by the way I wear my hair - afterall all dreadlocks must be smoking or carrying drugs!

I can't understand, nor agree with the lengths to which people will go to kill or hurt because of sexuality. There are many other issues which are far more important for me to address in my life. I don't have to agree, but yes, I should respect their choice - as I expect they do mine.

Denise said...

Hi Anon, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

As you expressed at the end of your note, these are strange times indeed. I think it's a very principled move that you did, voting for such rights. I also think the issues you raised with our justice system will also need for our leaders to think through and enact. However, many hesitate because of fear of being 'branded' until then it will always be a half hearted attempt at ending such discrmination. I guess time will tell though.