Gay Jamaicans and Jamaica 50
A letter to the editor from one of our colleagues:
THE EDITOR, Sir:
As Jamaica, her citizens and well wishers celebrate her 50th year of Independence and moments of achievements, we must not forget that in our past and our present there are Jamaicans who have been pushed to the margins of society because the majority considers them undesirable.
Gay, lesbian and bisexual Jamaicans have been part of our history and helped create the nation we are today. They are also here today pushing Jamaica forward. We celebrate Emancipation and Independence yet we joyously cling to our old colonial past and refuse to distance ourselves from it. We have a law which has been interpreted by many to mean that gay and bisexual men, and by extension lesbian and bisexual women and transgendered people are criminals, undeserving of equal protection under the law, and are not entitled to full quality citizenship like their heterosexual counterparts.
No, this is not only about human rights, because rights can be taken away. This is not about discrimination, for I believe I should be able to discriminate to the existent that I do not infringe on your human rights. This is largely about Citizenship. There are some Jamaicans in foreign lands, unable to come home due to the violence from which they had to flee, some are in Jamaica, yet cannot keep or find jobs, go to school or find housing. There are Jamaicans who call for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) Jamaicans to be exiled and or killed, with sentiments such as ‘leave Jamaica and go to places that will accept your nastiness’, ‘we don’t want the likes of you in our country’, ‘battyman fi dead’, ‘rape all sadamites’.
Our government, though not encouraging these sentiments has been complicit in the second class citizenship, that these ‘unwanted Jamaicans’ experience. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 15 ‘(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality……’ this therefore includes GLBT Jamaicans.
We say we are a nation on a mission; we want to be “the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”. Yet how can that be our goal, when today some of our own fellow Jamaicans cannot truly experience the full citizenship to which they are entitled? How will we move forward as a nation? Will we remain shackled to the chains of our colonial past, will Jamaica land we love, become Jamaica land of majority rules and theocracy holds sway, or shall we truly live up to our motto ‘Out of Many One People’?
Yes we are a nation on a mission, but what exactly does that mean?
Concerned Jamaican, Human Rights Activist