Do you think the Buggery Law should be?

The Safe House Homeless LGBTQ Project 2009 a detailed look & more


In response to numerous requests for more information on the defunct Safe House Pilot Project that was to address the growing numbers of displaced and homeless LGBTQ youth in Kingston in 2007/8/9, a review of the relevance of the project as a solution, the possible avoidance of present issues with some of its previous residents if it were kept open.
Recorded June 12, 2013; also see from the former Executive Director named in the podcast more background on the project: HERE also see the beginning of the issues from the closure of the project: The Quietus ……… The Safe House Project Closes and The Ultimatum on December 30, 2009

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Response to Lesbian Club in Portmore

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Once again the Star News toys with public opinion to sell papers it seems:



Portmore residents have lashed out against a lesbian club said to operating in the municipality and are adamant that they do not want any such club or activity in their community.
Recently, in a local Sunday newspaper, a man placed an advertisement for girls between 18 and 30 years old to form a lesbian club named 'Circle Square' in Portmore. However, this did not gone down well with the residents of the municipality.


"Not under God's earth! God don't want that at all ... It's abominable in God's sight. I'm pleading to them don't let that come off the ground," the Reverend Elisha Thomas, a pastor in Portmore, said. "They must remember that it was homosexuality that brought the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah."


woman to man
Mark Smith from Portsmouth was angry in his remarks. "No sah! That cah gwan eno. We lick out pan things like that. Me seh, man to a woman and woman to man. Woman to woman cah work," he stated.


"Brimstone and fire pan them," a Rastafarian man yelled when quizzed about this particular club.
One woman who requested anonymity said that recently she was approached by six women who were trying to persuade her to attend a party which caters to women only. The woman sent them on their way, but not before one of the women, a thick lady with a husky male voice, said: "It nuh done yet, me must get yu'. They quickly walked away as men, seeing the action, approached them.
The Portmore police said they have no knowledge of a lesbian club.
"The first time I heard of this club was in the Star newspaper. If we get any information about this club, you will be first to know," a senior officer at the Greater Portmore Police Station said.


highly religious city
When contacted, Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds, said that while he cannot tell people what their sexual preference should be, he is adamant that he will not tolerate lesbians showcasing their activities in the municipality. He requested that these people read their Bible which condemns such practices. "We must remind them that Portmore is a highly religious city and people will not think too keenly on things like these," he said.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Gays, ganja, hanging, abortion - four horsemen of the Apocalypse

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franklin johnston -

After 20 years, Parliament is now in sync with the laws of the land. This is an important victory for the masses; not that anyone will hang, but we learnt a lot from the exercise. First, 49 MPs made a decision; there is hope yet. Next, the 15 MPs who voted against hanging elevated their personal views above the consciences of their constituents. They dissed us.

We put them in the House to speak for us but they did not. I expect the few MPs like Mr Thwaites whose constituents have known his outlook for decades but others have not earned our trust. Then, 10 MPs ran for cover (one justifiably sick) and disenfranchised their constituents, some 18 per cent of the electorate.

This is massive as elections are won by much less. Some absentees took a stand before the vote, no problem there. But who are the rest? Are they cowards, afraid to upset their cronies, or just people with no consciences? Because of them, almost a fifth of us had no say in the most serious vote in a decade.

Shame on them! Let them feel the power of our outrage when next they ask us to vote for them. We need reforms to make MPs accountable to their constituents and Parliament needs a proxy vote system so samfie MPs cannot hide their views. More anon. Let's focus our energies and pressure Parliament to put good crime prevention and detection in place.

The soul of our nation is hurting. We are full of hate and double standards and we react to homosexuality as a bull to a red flag. A friend told me that those who condemn gays the loudest have the most to hide. Even our politicians are afraid to put gay issues to debate. Our MPs have eminent gay friends of long standing yet they are afraid to even sip a Red Stripe with them. Is the gay life contagious? Let us have another conscience vote.

Gay is here to stay. There were gays in Bible days and every nation has its aberrations; for example, twins, the savant, lesbians, idiots, gays and geniuses. Not many, but they are born daily. Last year, animal scientists isolated a gene to help farmers cull gay sheep, to cut feed costs and raise profit. They were pilloried amid fears that the research might be applied to humans.

I do not understand why our men are so angry at gay people. A man who will not inform on a thief or murderer will go out of his way to curse or harm a gay person. He swears he knows who-and-who is gay but when I ask, " Really, so did it hurt you a lot?" they go silent or get angry with me. How else do they know who is gay, if not by a try?

Up to, say, age 10, I was blissfully unaware that a "teapot" (my mother's name for penis) had any use but to "wee wee" (her name too), and with all the zipping and unzipping it was a nuisance. At senior school I was taught that said "teapot" also made babies and since then, I have done my teachers proud! There was a boy in class we called "Lady P" as he liked to clown with girls and to bake.

I do not believe at age 9 or any age, this boy made a decision to be gay. In our boyish way, we knew he was different. We had no words for it, we were not insecure and we loved him as he was our link to the girls. Today, we know he is gay, he works on Fashion Avenue, NY.

We are still friends and he is happy, which he never was in Jamaica. We did not call him cruel names. We were boys and friends. Lady P did not make himself gay; no human did. We need to show love and compassion to HIV/AIDS victims, gays, the poor, young and old. We must abandon hate.

How good are we if we love only lovely people?
We are also ambivalent about ganja - the Hindu name for cannabis, "ganjika" in old Sanscrit. The Indians took it to the sugar estates in the 1860s and it spread, but is not used by 70 per cent of us as the tourist books claim, and while this notoriety may suit us now, we may live to regret it.

I am ashamed of the homophobic, the obscene lyrics, male prostitutes (call them "rent-a-dread" if it makes you feel better), ganja-smoking, intolerant image we project.

I was chagrined as my project team was feted by officials at a snow-bound cottage on Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada, and guess what? They called me "Jamaican ganja expert" to roll spliffs. I hated the stereotype, but I was cornered and for pride of country, I rolled a brace of the best.

What will we do about ganja - legalise? decriminalise? eradicate? In the UK, cannabis is a low-level Class C drug (Class A is crack, heroin, cocaine - life in prison and unlimited fines), and the police ignore discreet use. In the USA, ganja is Schedule 1,

at the top with heroin, mescaline and fines and jail time is highest. From one extreme to the other. Our Indian cane cutters used ganja as relief during hard labour; what irony, poor people today use ganja as relief from ennui and unemployment.

The verdict on ganja is still out, but we all know friends and children who used ganja said "it a nuh nutten" and today these stunted people can't cope with reality. Local ganja makes us lethargic and unproductive; imported cocaine empowers criminals to evaginate victims mercilessly and make our nation a target for global gangs.

The USA and UK are now self-sufficient in ganja and we no longer have strategic value, so let us do what is best for our people. Let us have a conscience vote on ganja.

Furthermore, let us introduce the coca plant and the poppy flower for ethical agriculture. Unlike ganja, these are legal; world prices are high and the derivatives are widely used in foods, industry and medication. Let investors set up FDA-approved agriprocessing and create rural jobs and development.

The abortion conflict is imported from America, and God knows, we don't need a new war. Outsiders must never again dictate to our men and women how we manage our bodies - be it liposuction, facelifts, castration, breast reduction,

abortion, vasectomy or a nose job. Japan gives incentives for people to go home and make babies. China does the opposite. For two centuries up to 1833 we did not control our bodies; we were told when to breed, with whom and when to abort. It must not happen here. never again!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston, currently on assignment in the UK.

franklinjohnston@hotmail.com


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lesbian Club in Portmore (The Star 4.12.08)

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Local women seeking to establish relationships with other women are no longer waiting to meet them by chance. They have taken to recruiting them by forming clubs and advertising for membership.
For the last few weeks, one such club has been advertising in a Sunday publication for women between 18 and 30 years old to join the club, named Circle Square, which THE STAR has learnt is based in Portmore, St Catherine.

The advertisement reads, "Circle Square all-female club invites adventurous, fun-loving, open-minded ladies 18-30 to join our exclusive social club. Come and explore very private membership free."


When THE STAR contacted the club via a telephone number posted in the advertisement, a male answered. The news team, pretending to be interested in joining the club, called on several occasions and were told by the man that the club is for women who are interested in women.
Bring females together


The man, who gave his name as Tony and said he was the recruiter and first asked callers if they were interested in women. Callers were also asked if they had ever slept with a woman. After he was sure that the callers were really interested, he then explained the club's intentions.
"The concept behind the club is to bring females together who have a common interest. It's not dating thing or anything like that, we just have individuals who want to come together and have fun," he said.


Tony said all future members had to be screened by him before they are allowed to meet the other women. "We don't want the sketel-like behaviour," he said.
When asked why there was an age limit, he said it was set by the club members. Although he would not say how many women are in the club, he said the membership was a 'good amount'.
THE STAR's callers were also asked about their addresses and were told that this information was required because the club does not bring together women from the same community as it has caused problems in the past. He said people have pretended in the past to be interested and when they joined and saw those in the club, it caused problems. "I do not want anyone to scrutinise you," he said.


Based on information discussed on the telephone, THE STAR learnt that screening is done in other locations away from the club and if persons pass the interview, then they are taken to meet the other women.

UN General Assembly to Address Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

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Statement affirms promise of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

For Immediate Release
(New York, December 11, 2008) -

As the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the UN General Assembly will hear a statement in mid-December endorsed by more than 50 countries across the globe calling for an end to rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A coalition of international human rights organizations today urged all the world's nations to support the statement in affirmation of the UDHR's basic promise: that human rights apply to everyone.


Nations on four continents are coordinating the statement, including: Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. The reading of the statement will be the first time the General Assembly has formally addressed rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
"In 1948 the world's nations set forth the promise of human rights, but six decades later, the promise is unfulfilled for many," said Linda Baumann of Namibia, a board member of Pan Africa ILGA, a coalition of over 60 African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups. "The unprecedented African support for this statement sends a message that abuses against LGBT people are unacceptable anywhere, ever."
The statement is non-binding, and reaffirms existing protections for human rights in international law. It builds on a previous joint statement supported by 54 countries, which Norway delivered at the UN Human Rights Council in 2006.


"Universal means universal, and there are no exceptions," said Boris Dittrich of the Netherlands, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program. "The UN must speak forcefully against violence and prejudice, because there is no room for half measures where human rights are concerned."
The draft statement condemns violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also condemns killings and executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights on those grounds.
"Today, dozens of countries still criminalize consensual homosexual conduct, laws that are often relics of colonial rule," said Grace Poore of Malaysia, who works with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "This statement shows a growing global consensus that such abusive laws have outlived their time."
The statement also builds on a long record of UN action to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In its 1994 decision in Toonen v. Australia, the UN Human Rights Committee - the body that interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the UN's core human rights treaties - held that human rights law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Since then, the United Nations' human rights mechanisms have condemned violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including killings, torture, rape, violence, disappearances, and discrimination in many areas of life. UN treaty bodies have called on states to end discrimination in law and policy.


Other international bodies have also opposed violence and discrimination against LGBT people, including the Council of Europe and the European Union. In 2008, all 34 member countries of the Organization of American States unanimously approved a declaration affirming that human rights protections extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.
"Latin American governments are helping lead the way as champions of equality and supporters of this statement," said Gloria Careaga Perez of Mexico, co-secretary general of ILGA. "Today a global movement supports the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and those voices will not be denied."


So far, 55 countries have signed onto the General Assembly statement, including: Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay, and Venezuela. All 27 member states of the European Union are also signatories.
"It is a great achievement that this initiative has made it to the level of the General Assembly," said Louis-Georges Tin of France, president of the International Committee for IDAHO (International Day against Homophobia), a network of activists and groups campaigning for decriminalization of homosexual conduct. "It shows our common struggles are successful and should be reinforced."


"This statement has found support from states and civil society in every region of the world," said Kim Vance of Canada, co-director of ARC International. "In December a simple message will rise from the General Assembly: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is truly universal."
The coalition of international human rights organizations that issued this statement include: Amnesty International; ARC International; Center for Women's Global Leadership; COC Netherlands; Global Rights; Human Rights Watch; IDAHO Committee; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC); International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA); and Public Services International.

For more information, please contact:
In New York for Human Rights Watch, Scott Long (English): +1-212-216-1297; or +1-646-641-5655; or longs@hrw.org
In London for Amnesty International, Kate Sheill (English: +44-20-7413-5748; or ksheill@amnesty.org

In Halifax, for ARC International, Kim Vance (English, French): +1-902-488-6404
In Geneva for ARC International, John Fisher (English, French): +41-79-508-3968; or arc@arcinternational.net
In Amsterdam for COC Netherlands, Bjorn van Roozendall (Dutch, English): +31-6-22-55-83-00; or bvanroozendaal@coc.nl

In Washington for Global Rights, Stefano Fabeni (English, Italian, Spanish): +1 202-741-5049; or stefanof@globalrights.org

In New York for IGLHRC, Hossein Alizadeh (English, Persian): +1-212-430-6016; or halizadeh@iglhrc.org

In Brussels for ILGA, Stephen Barris (English, French, Spanish): +32-2-502-2471; ormailto:orstephenbarris@ilga.org;
or in New York, +39 33-5-606-7158, or media@ilga.org

(December 14-18)
======================================

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org/ for more information

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

J-FLAG celebrates tenth anniversary - Press Release (edit)

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Kingston – December 10, 2008
December 10, 2008 marks ten years since the founding of the Jamaica Forum for
Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), Jamaica’s foremost lesbian, gay and
transgender rights advocacy group. The anniversary will be commemorated with a
church service on the weekend. As J-FLAG celebrates this milestone, it pauses to reflect
on the challenges and successes that have shaped its journey thus far.

Started by a group of 12 business people, educators, lawyers, public relations
practitioners, advertisers and human rights activists, J-FLAG was launched in the wee
hours of December 10, 2008. The organisation was born out of the need to advocate
for the protection of lesbians, gays and transgenders from state-sanctioned and
community violence. In this regard, J-FLAG’s call was for the fair and equal treatment of
gays and lesbians under the law and by the ordinary citizen.

The organisation’s birth was condemned and decried by most as a foolhardy venture
that would result in a backlash against members of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender community. On the other hand, it was welcomed by a few as a bold
attempt to recognise lesbians, gays and transgenders as members of plural Jamaican
society.

After ten years of existence, J-FLAG can boast of having survived in one of the most
inhospitable environments for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Indeed, much of
J-FLAG’s work has revolved around the rescuing of community members from violent
situations or attempting to deal with the aftermath of such situations. In fact, the
violent death of Brian Williamson, one of the co-founders of J-FLAG—and for years its
voice and face—and the recent departure of Gareth Henry, a former programmes
manager of the organisation, testify to the dangerous environment in which the
organisation operates.

Yet J-FLAG has been able to do what was, ten years ago, unthinkable in Jamaica. It has
visited and made presentations on sexuality and human rights to a variety of local and
international organisations, including religious, civic and human rights groups as well as
tertiary educational institutions and the police. It has also met with and given interviews
with radio and newspaper reporters. But perhaps its most significant achievements have
been the submission to parliament regarding the addition of sexual orientation as a
category for which there should be constitutional protection against discrimination and
the assistance, in 2006, to relaunch the Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and
Gays (C-FLAG).

Over the ten years of its existence, J-FLAG has stood as a singular voice in Jamaica
calling for the respect of lesbians, gays and transgenders as citizens with the same
rights and value as heterosexual Jamaicans. For the next phase of its journey, the
organisation will continue calling Jamaicans to a deeper understanding of their plurality
and their democracy; it will continue seeking to raise the level of debate in the society
about the meaning of tolerance and the acceptance of difference. Accordingly, J-FLAG
will attempt to forge new relationships with a wider cross-section of organisations
committed to strengthening democracy and the promotion of respect for all Jamaicans,
regardless of sexual orientation, gender, creed, religion or social status.
-30-

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trinidadian Tranny ...... WOW

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Should you ask, Jenny Jagdeo will tell you that she's "a woman who has had corrective surgery".
She untangles the gender bender from a breezy balcony in San Fernando, while the after-work traffic beeps and buzzes in the background.

(OMG she is FIIIEEERRRCCCCEEE!!!)


"I tell people that I was born a woman in a man's body," she explains with a voice of half-husk, half brass. "At no point in my life have I ever seen myself as being male."
Her hands are soft. There's no squareness of jaw or suppressed stubble to whisper that she is anything other than her image suggests. Her body and lashes are both extra long with a gentle curve. She's gorgeous when she smiles. And the 35-year-old pulls no punches while sharing a story of equal parts heartbreak and triumph.


It started in Friendship Village. She describes her childhood as "perfect". But that isn't because she had once been a perfect little boy. Jenny now reminisces that neither neighbours nor schoolmates gave her a hard time.

"They could see a difference in me but they never discriminated against me in any way. It was like a little girl growing up in front them. I didn't play boyish games, wear boyish clothes or do boyish things," she remembers. "At that tender age it was there."
But when, around 12, a rush of hormones washed sexual attraction to the surface, Jenny struggled.
"When puberty takes you and you start feeling attracted to a certain sex," she explains, "that is when you realise: 'well now trouble start'."
Jenny had heard about men who had sex with other men. But even as a preteen she knew that her dilemma wasn't just about who she would eventually sleep with. It went to the core of how she felt who she was. She makes the distinction with halting clarity.
"There are gays who are guys that like other guys. Transvestites are males who dress like females. Being transsexual, though, is being a woman but not having the body of a woman. I could not live in a man's body and be with a man. If I had to do that I would rather die. I had the choice of being gay. That was so depressing to me that it made me sick."
Her adolescence was traumatic, culminating with a suicide attempt at 18. The sex reassignment surgeries she'd researched and longed for felt like fiction. One saw the odd cross dresser sashaying around San Fernando. But she was clear that duct tape and eye shadow wouldn't make her whole.
Jenny guesses that her parents and siblings had long reconciled that she was homosexual. But until she opened up to a psychiatrist after trying to kill herself, she hadn't let anyone on that her raging, internal conflict was about gender rather than sexuality. She acknowledges that when she started wearing women's clothes, it was traumatic for her family.
"That went down rocky roads," she says with a loaded chuckle. "My father sought help from aunts and my grandmother. His friends and people in the public would tell him: 'your son gay', 'your son dressing like a woman' or 'something is wrong with your child'. But I had my family's support even though it was stressful on them," she says.
By then, abuse from strangers was secondary to the savage war waged between her body and mind.
"I reached a stage where I decided that this is my life and no one is going to take it away," she says.
Resolve was informed by hope. The psychologist and two psychiatrists who treated her over the course of three years had named her internal war: gender identity disorder.
Jenny also found a friend who understood and inspired her. That friend had had a sex change.
"You can't just wake up one morning and say you want the operation," Jenny says. The journey began with the detailed reports of her mental health caregivers. She was then referred to a doctor who performed a "hormone transplant". This involved removing the testicles and starting a course of female hormones. For Jenny it was a second puberty-just as dramatic but a better fit.
They were subtle, valued changes. Small breasts. Smoother skin. Less facial hair. Mood swings. Two years on she had a surgery to create a vagina.
It takes time to adjust. At first the rooms that would suddenly go silent when she entered, then fill with hushed gossip, were difficult.
"It was so uncomfortable because you would see the lips moving and not be sure what they were saying. Half way into a session I used to want to leave but then I realised I had to make myself comfortable for other people to be comfortable with me. If I show fear, fear will always be there," she reasons.
She accepted an invitation to a new church on that premise. Although she grew up Hindu, Jenny was open to Christian fellowship. She assumed the invitation was a gesture of acceptance. It turned out to be a campaign to have her revert. And it ended badly when a group rallied to get her thrown out. Jenny assures that the experience didn't shake her faith.
"What did I do that was so wrong?" she asks. "What evil have I done to anyone?"
She's had her share of taunts and they've overwhelmingly come from women.
"Men are mostly fascinated," she says, "but some women have some sort of jealousy that you can transform into a beautiful woman and they aren't. But why is that? These women do not take the time to make themselves look good because they say they have a husband and children. No, love. That is not true. How hard is it to keep your hair beautifully groomed, wear lovely clothes and put some make-up on your face? True beauty comes from the inside. But these people do not focus on that. They'd rather ridicule you."
Then there are the men. Screening romantic partners is a painstaking job. She says she "interviews" them to be clear about their intentions. Asked at what point she reveals that she was born physically male, Jenny responds that there's no need.
"Everybody in San Fernando knows me. It's no big secret," she says. Jenny's pet peeve is that many view her as a novelty. She supposes that the terms "sex change" and "transsexual" create the impression in men's minds that she has undergone a transformation solely for the sake of sleeping with them.
"It's not like you're a woman and they treat you like a woman. They treat you like a sex object and expect you to be some sort of sex siren. But what can I do that a normal woman can't?" she asks.
What of the sexual identity of men who are interested in her? Jenny denies that they are homosexual and says that she tries to weed out the bisexuals.
"A homosexual is a homosexual. He only wants to be with men and can't stand the sight of a woman. As for bisexuals, the minute I find out that he may want to see me as a man too, I put a full stop. I express and show myself as a woman and when a man looks at me he is straight to the bone. His friend might tell him 'boy, I see you talking to that thing. You know that was a man' and wonder if he is gay. But there is nothing about being gay in that," she sets out.
Jenny is also resolute about demanding blood tests for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) when a relationship progresses. It doesn't endear her to some suitors but she says that she has seen the ravages of AIDS and, besides, has enough on her plate without throwing HIV into the mix.
She acknowledges that many of her transgender peers find themselves either involved in sex work or being supported by men because they can't find mainstream jobs. Jenny has channeled training in dress making, hair styling and make-up application into a career. She is in high demand, designing and sewing for everything from bridal parties to beauty pageants and working as a freelance make-up artist in "Hair by Jowelle" a high end salon owned by Trinidad's most famous transsexual.


The positive, if not smooth, trajectory of her life was jolted by a devastating medical condition this year. A pinched nerve that had been wrongly diagnosed as arthritis for a couple years suddenly rendered her paralysed in the lower body. She was told that it would have to heal itself. After a few miserable, immobile weeks, she decided it was time to walk. And she did. Now she uses a stick. To passersby it's a tragedy. Her doctors know it's a triumph.
"Through willpower we can do anything," she says. "The greatest power on this earth is your mind."
Life has taught her that through hard lessons.

Careful what you say!

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Letter to the Observer Editor......hhhmmmmDear Editor,
I write regarding opinions on gay rights and drug legalisation.

Any action of an individual that does not prevent another from enjoying their personal liberty and way of life should be subject to majority opinion or decision.

Matters such as abortion, gay rights and taking of drugs are not matters for the state or popular sentiments to decide on. All those are individual decisions.

The concept of liberty is just that - liberty. To do to oneself anything, as long as it doesn't prevent others from enjoying their liberty.

I hope some people are not implying that if the majority adopts Judaism, then we all must adopt the same faith because those of that faith are in the majority?

That's one simple example of where their thinking could possibly take us.
If majority rule on all matters were the only means of settling all issues, then slavery and apartheid would still be legal.
Mr Editor, I think you and others should be more thoughtful in your utterances!

What willl happen when a majority decision tells us to stop drinking our choice champagne and whisky, or smoking our favourite cigar?

Dennis Martin


Handle on Crime, Really?

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Handle on crime indeed and people having to flee their homes because some dons are upset at a police raid in thier area, hmph handle on what former Commissioner now Minister of National Security, Trevor Macmillan?

Check out yesterday's Star Headline.............sad
LEAVE NOW OR DIE St Catherine: Almost 200 residents of Gravel Heights, St Catherine, fled their homes yesterday after they were labelled as informers and ordered to leave the area by gunmen.
A policeman watches as these residents move their belongings from Gravel Heights, St Catherine, following a warning by gunmen yesterday (Sunday)

Handle on crime eh???






UN - A watershed for gay rights

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For the first time in its history, the UN General Assembly will consider a declaration urging the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide.
The UN must pass this week's historic declaration calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide - Peter Tatchell.
A declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality is scheduled to be put before the United Nations General Assembly this Wednesday, which is Human Rights Day and the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has ever considered the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Although not be binding on the member states, the declaration will have immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic persecution has been ignored by the UN.

If you want to understand why this decriminalisation declaration is so important and necessary, ponder this:

Even today, not a single international human rights convention explicitly acknowledges the human rights of LGBT people. The right to physically love the person of one's choice is nowhere enshrined in any global humanitarian law. No convention recognises sexual rights as human rights. None offer explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet 86 countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality and a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan.

See the global survey of homophobia, published by the International Gay and Lesbian Association: http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileCategoryID=9&FileID=1165&ZoneID=7andhttp://www.ilga.org/statehomophobia/ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2008.pdf

Many of the countries that continue to criminalise same-sex relationships are in Africa and Asia. Their anti-gay laws were, in fact, imposed by the European powers during the period of colonialism. With the backing of Christian churches and missionaries, the imperial states exported their homophobia to the rest of the world. In many of the conquered lands, little such prejudice had previously existed and, in some cases, same-sex relations were variously tolerated, accepted and even venerated. This importation of western homophobia happened in countries like Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda, which now absurdly decry homosexuality as a "white man's disease" and "unAfrican", while vehemently denying and suppressing all knowledge of their own pre-colonial era indigenous homosexualities.

Unsurprisingly, the Vatican and the Organisation of Islamic States are leading the fight against the UN declaration. The opposition of the Pope is truly sickening, depraved and shameless.

Of course, the Vatican has form. In 2004, it teamed up with Islamist dictatorships in the UN Commission on Human Rights to thwart a resolution sponsored by Brazil that opposed homophobic violence and discrimination. The Holy See is so viciously homophobic that it opposed the UN condemnation of the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people:

http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileCategory=44&ZoneID=7&FileID=31

Last week, the Papal envoy to the UN, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, explained the "logic" of this opposition when he announced the Vatican's rejection of this week's decriminalisation declaration. The Monsignor argued that the UN declaration would unfairly "pillory" countries where homosexuality is illegal; forcing them to establish "new categories (gay people) protected from discrimination." Such laws would "create new and implacable acts of discrimination....States where same-sex unions are not recognized as 'marriages,' for example, would be subject to international pressure," according to The Times newspaper in London:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5268745.ece

In other words, protecting LGBT people against discrimination is an act of discrimination against those who discriminate. Since the Vatican is against discrimination, it opposes discrimination against countries that discriminate. This is the mediaeval mindset of the Pope and his placemen.

Never mind, there are already plenty of countries committed to supporting the UN decriminalisation declaration.

It will be tabled in the General Assembly on Wednesday by France with the backing of all 27 member states of the European Union; plus non-EU European nations such as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Armenia and Macedonia. Russia and Turkey are not signing.

The call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships also has the support of the Latin American states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay - but not, notably, Columbia, Guyana or Venezuela.

Only three African nations - Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau - are endorsing the declaration so far. South Africa has not signed up. No Caribbean nation has offered its support - not even Cuba.

Although New Zealand and Australia are committed to the declaration, the United States is not. But Canada is a sponsor.

No country in the Middle East, apart from Israel, endorses the declaration, and in Asia only Japan has agreed to approve it. China and India are silent on where they stand.

The initiative for the UN universal decriminalisation declaration came from the inspiring French black activist and gay rights campaigner, Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). He lobbied the French government, which agreed to take the lead in getting the declaration tabled at the UN. Member organisations of the global IDAHO network then petitioned their individual governments to support it.

http://www.idahomophobia.org/

What is truly remarkable is that IDAHO is just a loose, unfunded global grassroots LGBT activist network, with no office, no staff and no leaders. It has pulled off something that none of the well paid LGBT professionals, working for often lavishly financed LGBT non-governmental organisations, have managed to come even close to achieving.

A reminder as to why this UN declaration matters occurred last Friday, a sad anniversary. On 5 December 2007, Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year-old Iranian man, was hanged in Kermanshah Central Prison, after an unfair trial.

http://www.iglhrc.org/site/iglhrc/section.php?id=5&detail=797

A member of Iran's persecuted Kurdish minority, he was executed on charges of raping other boys when he was 13. In other words, he committed these alleged acts when he was minor. According to Iranian law, a boy under 15 is a minor and cannot be executed. At Makvan's mockery of a trial, the alleged rape victims retracted their previous statements, saying they had made their allegations under duress. Makvan pleaded not guilty, telling the court that his confession was made under torture. He was hanged anyway, without a shred of credible evidence that he had even had sex with the boys, let alone raped them. The lies, defamation and homophobia of the debauched Iranian legal system was exposed when hundreds of villagers attended Makvan's funeral. People don't mourn rapists.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=dlZzexeNSLg This execution was bared-faced homophobic judicial murder, according to Arsham Parsi, Executive Director, of the underground Iranian Queer Railroad, which helps Iranian LGBTs fleeing arrest, torture and execution.

http://www.irqr.net/

Makvan's fate is just one example of the thousands of state-sponsored acts of homophobic persecution that happen worldwide ever year. It shows why Wednesday's UN declaration is so important - and so long overdue.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Press Release - Inter American Council on Human Rights Preliminary Observation on visit to Jamaica 2008 (full text)

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PRESS RELEASE
No. 59/08

IACHR ISSUES PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ON VISIT TO JAMAICA

Kingston, Jamaica, December 5, 2008 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued preliminary observations today regarding its in loco visit to observe the human rights situation in Jamaica, which took place December 1-5 at the invitation of the government.


During its visit the Commission focused particular attention on the situation of citizen security in the country (including the operation of the criminal justice system and the conditions of persons deprived of liberty), and on the human rights of women, children, and persons suffering discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The IACHR observed an alarming level of violence in Jamaica that has affected all sectors of society for many years. The persistence of this widespread violence has had severely negative consequences for the human rights of the Jamaican people. The Commission’s preliminary observations conclude that although the government has undertaken certain constructive efforts to address the problem, these remain insufficient. They are hampered by inadequate resources, a failure to sufficiently address the severe shortcomings of the security forces and the judicial process, and the lack of integral, effective policies to ameliorate the social conditions that generate the violence.

The profound social and economic marginalization of large sectors of the Jamaican population not only contributes to sustaining the high levels of violence, but also results in the poorest and most excluded sectors of the population being disproportionately victimized by the overall situation of insecurity. In the same way, the deep inequalities pervading Jamaican society exacerbate the state’s failure to adequately protect and guarantee the human rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups. In particular, the IACHR found the violent persecution and fear to which gays and lesbians are subject in Jamaica to be deplorable.


The Commission’s preliminary observations identify a number of other human rights issues of particular concern, including severe problems in the administration of justice, conditions of detention and incarceration, the treatment of the mentally disabled, and freedom of expression. In particular, the Commission urges the government of Jamaica to address immediately the inhuman conditions of detention that the IACHR observed at the lockup facility of the Hunts Bay police station.

The complete text of the Commission’s preliminary observations follows. During 2009 the IACHR will prepare a full, final report on its visit, with specific recommendations.

The IACHR delegation to Jamaica included Commissioners Paolo Carozza, Luz Patricia Mejia, Felipe Gonzalez, and Clare Roberts, as well as the IACHR Executive Secretary Santiago Canton and Secretariat staff. The Commission offers its thanks to the government and people of Jamaica for their assistance with the visit. In particular, the Commission wishes to note that the government officials with whom it met provided information with transparency, and were frank and open in recognizing the seriousness of the human rights challenges.


PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ON THE COMMISSION’S VISIT TO JAMAICA


Kingston, Jamaica, December 5, 2008 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded today a visit to Jamaica, which took place December 1-5 at the invitation of the government. At this time the Commission offers its preliminary observations on the visit and will prepare a full report to be issued during 2009.

The Commission verified an extremely high level of violence in Jamaica, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The historical response of the State has been inadequate, due to the absence of an integral policy to address and prevent violence, the failure to dedicate sufficient resources to the problem, and the absence of an effective response by the police, judiciary and other authorities. This has led to a progressive deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. This critical situation disproportionately affects the poorest sectors of the population, as well as women, children and people who face discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Commission is aware that the roots of many of these problems are found in social and economic conditions, and that they will only be solved over time through the collective efforts of Jamaican society.

The widespread violence affects all sectors of Jamaican society. More specifically, this violence has resulted in over 1,500 deaths over the last year, including both civilians and members of the security forces. Of the total reported deaths, statistics indicate that, since 2004, over 700 people have been killed by police officers. According to these statistics, during 2007 police shot and killed 272 people, and shot and injured another 153 people. As of September 2008, reports indicate that police had shot and killed 158 people since the beginning of the year.

While in Jamaica, the Commission was informed that a number of these deaths took place in circumstances consistent with extrajudicial executions at the hands of police officers. Sources indicated that victims are often young men or boys from the inner cities and that in some instances they are unarmed and pose no threat to police. In addition to the use of lethal force, the Commission was informed that police use measures of excessive force and arbitrary arrest and detention, further aggravating the situation of fear and victimization of the population.

Within this context of violence, police officers, many of whom serve with dedication and place themselves in harm’s way to serve their communities, also become victims. Government sources informed the Commission that over the last 12 years, an average of one police officer has been killed every month, and that in the last four years, 20 police officers have been killed per year.


The Commission received some reports of greater receptivity on the part of the police to dialogue with representatives of civil society about needed reforms. However, the high number of police shootings of civilians and the lack of clarification and accountability in many cases have contributed to a situation of impunity that undermines the credibility of the police and the confidence of the public. This lack of credibility, in turn, seriously limits the capacity of the police to respond to crime, creating a vicious cycle that must be broken if progress is to be made in the restoration of peace and order.

The main victims of violent crime in Jamaica are people living in poor, overcrowded inner-city areas and affected by high rates of unemployment and lack of access to education, health and housing. More than a third of the population of Kingston lives in these communities, which have suffered many years of State neglect. This failure of the State has been accompanied by the proliferation of armed gangs that exercise social control through ruthless violence. High level government officials reported to the Commission that in some parts of the island these gangs have close ties to the political parties of Jamaica.

Administration of justice

There is broad consensus in Jamaica on the urgent need to reform the administration of justice, which has proven ineffective in responding to the needs of the people, and which contributes to the perpetuation of violence by failing to hold perpetrators accountable. While in Jamaica, the Commission heard about high levels of impunity for violent crime and, in particular, for police shootings in circumstances that have not been clarified. The Commission also heard repeatedly the cry for justice. Furthermore, the State has failed to provide basic due process to people caught up in the criminal justice system.

The Commission received consistent reports that the police and judiciary frequently treat persons from socioeconomically disadvantaged sectors of society with discrimination and disrespect. Sources reported on specific initiatives of both the state sector and civil society aimed at improving this situation, but it remains a severe problem. Justice is administered with one standard for the rich and another for the poor.

In this connection, persistent levels of deadly violence and impunity, including the lack of accountability for abuses of the police, have created an environment of fear and intimidation amongst all sectors of the population which causes individuals to refrain from pursuing a legal remedy before the courts. This fear and the lack of confidence, in turn, have been identified by police and judicial authorities as key challenges in obtaining witness testimony for criminal trials.


The information gathered by the Commission indicates that most of the institutions that participate in the administration of justice lack the necessary resources to perform their work, and that the design of the system and procedures applied require major reforms. The Commission was able to verify how problems in the different stages of criminal investigations form a chain of causality, with deficiencies in one stage creating deficiencies in later stages.

Looking at the first steps in a murder investigation, for example, the Commission was informed by State sources that the police often fail to collect information necessary for the Pathology Unit of the Ministry of National Security to carry out an adequate forensic examination. The Commission confirmed that the lab is understaffed and underfunded. While the recommended average number of autopsies per pathologist is 250 to 300 per year, the Commission learned that pathologists in this lab each conduct approximately 800 per year. In these circumstances, the reports are incomplete and delayed, and therefore less useful as proof in the investigation and subsequent proceedings. The Commission has been informed that there is a new public morgue currently under construction; its completion is urgently required.

The National Forensic Laboratory also plays an important role in criminal investigations, and the Commission was able to observe that it too lacks the resources necessary to produce full and thorough analyses and reports in all cases. While the Commission was able to observe updated ballistics equipment, it was also able to observe the lack of sufficient human resources. The Commission received information that a significant number of cases remain in a backlog due to the insufficient resources of the office.


There are serious limitations on access to competent representation for people arrested or brought before the courts. The Legal Aid Act that came into force in 2000 was a positive step forward. However, in many instances, criminal defendants cannot afford legal representation and legal aid is not always available. Moreover, for those who are able to obtain such aid, there are not sufficient standards or supervision in place to ensure uniform quality of representation. The Commission also received information to the effect that certain charges are excluded from the coverage of legal aid, and has yet to receive information about how indigent persons under such charges obtain representation. Once again, people with limited economic resources are those most affected by this problem.

The Commission was informed of severe deficiencies in the criminal justice process, ranging from the inability to assure witness protection to extended delays in criminal cases. Persons who have been arrested and detained may have to wait days, weeks or even months before they are presented before a judicial officer. Various sources indicated that delays in investigation and in reaching a decision as to charging and prosecution are a contributing factor in the failure to resolve these cases. The Commission was informed that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Coroner’s Court both have a backlog of cases pending decision, some dating back to 2000.


Users of the justice system reported consistently that access to a remedy is neither simple nor prompt. While government authorities indicated that additional judges had been hired, a number of judicial authorities reported that the demand exceeds their capacity. Just with respect to the mechanics of the process, lawyers reported that it may take a year to produce the transcript from the court of first instance that is necessary to present a case before the Court of Appeals. The court system in Jamaica suffers from serious deficiencies in specialized training and access to information. The Commission observed that some judges do not have current copies of the legislation in force that they must apply, and that some don’t have access to computers or the internet. The Commission was informed of an instance in which legislation that was changed in 2004 was nonetheless applied until 2005 because judges lacked access to the updated law.

Impunity in cases of lethal use of force by police is of special concern to the Commission. According to the information received by the Commission, only one police officer has been convicted in recent years for an extrajudicial killing. Only a minimal percentage of police officers are charged in cases of police killings, and in the cases of those who are tried the process is fraught with obstacles, and usually ends in acquittal. Various sources indicated that the Bureau of Special Investigations lacks the resources to investigate claims of unlawful killings and abuse by police, is not proactive, and that its officers remain part of the police force generating a perception that the Bureau is not sufficiently independent. The government itself recognizes that the Police Public Complaints Authority does not engender public confidence.
Authorities indicated that the Parliament is deliberating on the creation of a new Independent Commission of Investigation to investigate killings at the hands of police. The Commission emphasizes that it is crucial that any investigative body of this nature be invested with the independence and autonomy, including resources, necessary to discharge its mandate.

Both government and civil society recognize the urgent need to implement a comprehensive policy to address the serious deficiencies in the administration of justice. In this respect, the Commission wishes to emphasize the importance of the work done by the Jamaican Justice System Reform Task Force and the urgent need to implement key recommendations contained in its Preliminary Report, released in May 2007.

In addition, the Commission has received information about several bills pending in Parliament to address these challenges, and highlights the importance of carrying out the process of reform with transparency, consultation with civil society, and compliance with international standards. In this regard, even though the government indicated that these bills are public documents, civil society representatives expressed having had some difficulty in being able to obtain them. The Commission has also received information about initiatives being developed and implemented by the Ministry of Justice to meet the pressing challenges. Certain features of these reform initiatives may be helpful in improving the effectiveness of the justice system, such as the proposed creation of a Special Coroner. Other reform bills, and in particular the proposal to extend the period of detention without bail to 60 days, cause the Commission concern that the serious problems of due process and prolonged arbitrary detention may only be exacerbated.


The death penalty

The Commission is aware that the death penalty has been and remains an important point of consideration and debate in Jamaica. Accordingly, the Commission considers it opportune to clarify how the death penalty is dealt with in the inter-American human rights system.

The Convention subjects the application of the death penalty to specific conditions and restrictions. For example, certain heightened requirements of due process must be strictly observed and reviewed; the penalty must be limited to the most serious crimes; and considerations relative to the circumstances of the defendant and the crime must be taken into account. The Convention does not allow the death penalty to be reestablished in states that have abolished it, and in this way looks toward a gradual reduction in its application. The application of this penalty is subject to strict scrutiny in all respects.

In this regard, the Inter-American Commission, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council have all established that the imposition of the death penalty as the mandatory punishment in capital cases is incompatible with regional and constitutional guarantees. As a result of this case law, a number of Caribbean countries including Jamaica have implemented reforms in law or practice to require that judges give consideration to the circumstances of the crime and the defendant. The Commission has also issued case reports establishing that the imposition of the death penalty on persons who were juveniles at the time of the crime in question is incompatible with international standards.


Rights of persons deprived of liberty

The Inter-American Commission consistently monitors the situation of human rights of persons deprived of liberty. Throughout the hemisphere, the Commission has insisted upon the importance of policies oriented toward the rehabilitation and reincorporation of prisoners in society. In this respect, the Commission has recently approved a document on Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas that seeks to orient public policies to guarantee the right of detainees to humane treatment and dignity.

In Jamaica, the delegation visited prisons, police holding cells and other detention facilities. The Commission was able to examine the conditions of St. Catherine Adult Correctional Center and found that positive measures were put in place to ensure an adequate level of hygiene, while the medical center, with five full-time doctors, six seasonal doctors and 40 beds, provides antiretroviral treatment to dozens of inmates with HIV, although some other drugs are not always readily available. Skills training programs are available to a fourth of the prison population, and they are able to train at the prison facilities, which include a bakery, a wood shop and a metal craft shop, among others. Nevertheless, many of the areas of this prison facility were overcrowded, with 1,240 inmates in a prison built for 850, and the delegation saw up to four people in an individual cell.


The problem of overcrowding is even more critical in the police holding cells, where arrested people are locked-up with persons detained on remand in completely inadequate spaces. The delegation visited the holding cells of Spanish Town and Hunts Bay police stations and found that the detainees have to share dark, un-ventilated and dirty cramped cells. Police officers in Spanish Town reported that the mentally-ill detainees were locked-up in the bathroom of the holding section. The delegation was particularly shocked by the inhumane conditions found at Hunts Bay police station, where the detainees, crowded in numbers of up to six persons per cell, live amongst garbage and urine with absolutely no consideration for their dignity. The Commission calls for urgent action to be taken to transfer the persons detained at Hunts Bay to a place that offers adequate standards of detention.

At this time, the Commission specifically recommends that the State comply with the applicable international human rights standards and take the necessary measures to resolve the problem of overcrowding in prisons and police holding cells. The State must also make efforts to improve the quantity and quality of food so as to ensure adequate nutrition. Additional efforts are needed to allocate more resources to the medical attention of inmates in order to guarantee that they have access to adequate medical, psychiatric and dental care, and to appropriate medication. The Commission welcomes the efforts of the government to put into place rehabilitation programs, and encourages the expansion of such initiatives so that more inmates benefit. Efforts should also be made to expand educational and cultural activities available in prisons, and so that persons deprived of liberty can maintain direct and personal contact through regular visits with members of their family, partners and legal representatives.


Rights of women

During its visit, the Commission has confirmed that some important steps have been taken in Jamaica to protect the right of women to be free from discrimination and violence, including the ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, the adoption of legislative reforms, and the establishment of support services. These efforts, however, have yet to change the lives of the many women who continue to face different forms of discrimination, and those subjected to violence in the home, sexual harassment, rape and incest. Further, the Commission was informed that, while more women participate in the political process, they have yet to hold elected office in greater numbers.

The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act and subsequent amendments, as well as the more recent Spousal Property Act, have brought about key changes in the legal framework applicable to gender-based violence and discrimination. However, other necessary changes, such as reforms to provisions concerning rape and other sexual crimes, remain pending. Organizations working with the rights of women reported that the government has been open to dialogue about their concerns, and has consulted some such organizations in relation to justice reform initiatives, as well as draft legislation brought before Parliament concerning the rights of women.


The State must act to translate its obligations under national and international law into practice. Direct service providers reported that women do not trust the judicial system as a mechanism to prevent or respond to gender-based violence. Sources concurred in indicating that the courts are slow and the processes cumbersome. Various sources indicated that victims of sexual violence, for example, may be subjected to bias or disrespect in all stages of the process.

Both State and civil society representatives reported that the situation of poverty and exclusion found, for example, in many inner city areas has a disproportionate impact on women. These sources reported that the economic situation of women and their families is affected by greater rates of unemployment and lower salaries than men, and that this produces especially serious consequences for the many single mothers, aunts and grandmothers raising children.

Rights of children

Children are especially vulnerable to the widespread violence that affects Jamaican society. Children are being targeted for kidnappings accompanied by murder and/or rape. Since 2003, a total of 398 children have been killed by violent means either due to gang warfare or attacks, abductions, rape and murder. Another 441 have been injured by guns. A large percentage of people affected by violent crime are people under the age of 18. In particular, many of those reportedly killed by police are adolescent youths.


While some cases of violence against children have been investigated and clarified during the last five years, many remain unsolved, pointing to a failure of the State to apprehend child predators and murderers. For example, of the 71 child-murder cases recorded last year, 41 remain unsolved. This year, of the total 63 cases to date, only 16 have been cleared up.

With respect to the conditions of children in State institutions, the Commission received information that approximately 2,402 children are housed at 57 Children’s Homes and Places of Safety supervised by the Jamaican government’s Child Development Agency. According to information received by the Commission, the Jamaican government’s child-care system suffers from disturbing levels of sexual, physical and mental abuse of children at the hands of caregivers, and urgently requires reforms and additional resources.

The Commission received information that the conditions of detention of juveniles in police holding cells and detention centers fail to comply with international standards. In particular, the Commission found that juveniles are held in overcrowded centers and are mixed with adults. The Commission also received information on corporal punishment and other forms of degrading treatment applied to them. The duration of the punishment established in certain cases is also of particular concern to the Commission, as are the reports on lack of legal counsel. The IACHR emphasizes that international standards provide that deprivation of liberty in the case of children may only be applied as an exceptional measure, and that there is accordingly a need to implement alternative mechanisms to imprisonment.


Discrimination based on sexual orientation

The Commission strongly condemns the high level of homophobia that prevails throughout Jamaican society. This homophobia has resulted in violent killings of persons thought to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual, as well as stabbings, mob attacks, arbitrary detention and police harassment. The resulting fear in turn makes it difficult for people within this group to access certain basic services, for example, medical services that might reveal their sexual orientation. Defenders of the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals have been murdered, beaten and threatened, and the police have been criticized for failing in many instances to prevent or respond to reports of such violence. The State must take measures to ensure that people within this group can associate freely, and exercise their other basic rights without fear of attack.

During its visit, the Commission received reports on four murders in circumstances suggesting homophobia over a period of a year and a half. One such murder was reportedly a consequence of the firebombing of the house of a person thought to be homosexual, and another man perceived to be homosexual was chopped to death by machete. The IACHR reminds the government and the people of Jamaica that the right of all persons to be free from discrimination is guaranteed by international human rights law, specifically the American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR urges Jamaica to take urgent action to prevent and respond to these human rights abuses, including through the adoption of public policy measures and campaigns against discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as legislative reforms designed to bring its laws into conformity with the American Convention on Human Rights.


Rights of persons with disabilities

The Commission received information about the situation of persons with mental disabilities, notably the lack of adequate, specialized facilities for the care and protection of this population, and acts of violence and discrimination committed against them. In particular, during its visit to Spanish Town, the Commission was informed that there are roughly 10,000 mentally disabled persons living in St. Catherine, without access to a specialized facility for their care and protection. While visiting police station lock-ups in Spanish Town and the St. Catherine’s prison facility, the Commission documented at least 4 mentally disabled persons being held in the police station lock-ups. Further, the Commission received information about acts of deadly violence perpetrated against persons with mental disabilities, some of whom live on the streets.

Rights of persons with HIV/AIDS

The Commission received information about the situation of discrimination against HIV-infected persons in Jamaican society. Approximately 27,000 persons in Jamaica are reported to be infected with HIV, 73% of these are between the ages of 20 and 49. The Commission was informed that once an HIV-infected person’s family and community are made aware of his/her status, they are often rejected from their homes and communities. Further, HIV infected persons are reportedly denied equal access to healthcare due to discrimination based on their medical status. Public education and prevention outreach with the HIV infected population is difficult because this illness remains a social taboo in Jamaican society and largely associated with gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, who also suffer severe discrimination. Given that Jamaica’s legislation criminalizes sodomy, gay persons living with HIV are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence. Finally, HIV persons who are homeless constitute a particularly vulnerable population in need of a more adequate State response.


Right to freedom of expression

The Commission met with media directors, journalists and officials of the Media Association of Jamaica and the Press Association of Jamaica, where it received information on issues related to legal standards that affects the exercise of the right of freedom of expression. In this regard, the Commission received information on legislative changes that have been recommended by a government-created task force and wishes to emphasize the importance of ensuring that the recommendations of this report receive expeditious consideration by the Parliament.

Work of nongovernmental organizations

The Commission wishes to commend the many nongovernmental organizations involved in defending human rights in Jamaica. The Commission visited a number of local centers providing basic services and support for disadvantaged sectors of society, as well as initiatives designed to restore peace at the local level, or care for those with HIV/AIDS or severe disabilities. In all of these instances the Commission was very impressed by the constructive work being done.


Conclusions

On the basis of the information received from multiple sectors including governmental authorities, representatives of NGO’s and civil society, as well as victims or their family members, the IACHR has concluded that Jamaicans are caught in a deeply-rooted situation of violence and human rights violations. The measures taken by the State up until now have not had significant results in changing this situation, which disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized sector of society.

The Commission emphasizes that international instruments, including the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights, establish the right to equal and effective protection of the law. All States have an obligation to respect and guarantee the free and full exercise of rights and freedoms without discrimination. Jamaica has an obligation to protect all its inhabitants and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all persons.

Human rights and citizen security are not opposing values. To the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing. In a context of extreme citizen insecurity and violence, such as that which prevails in Jamaica today, people are unable to exercise certain basic rights. The State has a duty to protect the citizenry, take reasonable measures to prevent violence, and respond to violent crime with due diligence and proportionality. The State must apply these duties equally to all by designing and implementing integral policies that guarantee citizen security and human rights, including political and civil rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

While one of the Commission’s main objectives during this visit was to observe the situation of citizen insecurity, this issue cannot be evaluated in isolation of other factors that contribute to the high level of violence in Jamaican society. As stated by the United Nations in a general report on the Millennium Development Goals “Poverty increases the risks of conflict through multiple paths…. Many slums are controlled by gangs of drug traffickers and traders, who create a vicious cycle of insecurity and poverty. The lack of economically viable options other than criminal activity creates the seedbed of instability and increases the potential for violence.”

In this respect, the Commission emphasizes the close link between corruption and the effective enjoyment of the human rights of the people. During this visit, the Commission was constantly reminded by government officials and civil society representatives that one of the major problems affecting Jamaican development is a pervasive corruption that seriously undermines the extraordinary potential of the country and is a constant obstacle for millions of Jamaicans to overcome poverty. In addition, corruption has a direct impact on the ability of the State to allocate resources to address the most serious problems affecting the Jamaican people. A significant reduction in malfeasance in respect of public funds could begin to ameliorate the lack of resources that the Commission observed in key areas of government, such as in the administration of justice, education, health and housing. The Government reported taking specific steps in this regard, including the arrest this year of over 70 police officers linked to alleged corruption.


The Commission identified many problems that are a result of the lack of resources that pervade all State institutions, with a profound negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights of all Jamaicans, especially the poor. In this regard, the Commission notes the difficulties in obtaining statistics regarding many of the challenges mentioned in these observations, and highlights that these statistics are necessary in order to diagnose the nature and scope of the problems, and evaluate the impact of public policies, which in turn would help government authorities decide on an efficient allocation of resources.

Finally, the Commission recommends that the State give consideration to the acceptance of the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This would provide an additional source of support for future advances in favor of the protection of human rights, and would also allow Jamaica to contribute its experience to the development of regional human rights system.

The Commission commends the openness of the government to engage with civil society and encourages it to maintain this positive attitude. The Commission is aware that many of the problems identified during its visit are structural ones and have affected Jamaican society for many years. In this sense, the Commission recognizes that no solutions will be immediate and that Jamaican society will have to work together to design and implement appropriate answers. The Commission’s hopes that this visit, the preliminary observations and the country report that the IACHR will prepare in the coming months will help the government and the people of Jamaica in developing a national plan to advance the protection of human rights.


On the visit

The IACHR delegation that visited Jamaica was made up of its Chairman, Paolo Carozza, of the United States; its First Vice Chairperson, Luz Patricia Mejía, of Venezuela; its Second Vice Chairman, Felipe González, of Chile; and Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts, of Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the Commission’s Executive Secretary, Santiago A. Canton, and staff members of the Executive Secretariat. The IACHR is the principal organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for promoting the observance and protection of human rights in the region, in accordance with the obligations established in the American Convention on Human Rights, which Jamaica ratified in 1978. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

During the visit, the Commission met with representatives of the Jamaican government and members of civil society. The Commission met with the Prime Minister, Bruce Golding; the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kenneth Baugh; the Minister of Justice, Dorothy Lightbourne; the Minister of National Security, Trevor MacMillan; the Commissioner of the Police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin; the Public Defender, Earl Witter; the Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Stewart E. Saunders; the Director of Public Prosecution, Paula Llewellyn; the Director of the National Forensic Laboratory, Judith Mowatt; the Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Faith Webster; the Head of the Bureau of Special Investigations, A. C. P. Gause; the Executive Chairman of the Police Public Complaints Authority, Justice Lloyd Ellis; the Vice President of the Resident Magistrates Association, Cresencia Brown, among others.


The delegation also had meetings with the Coroner of Kingston, the Pathology Unit at the National Security Ministry, and the Police Superintendent for Spanish Town, and visited the Council on Legal Aid in Kingston. In Montego Bay, the delegation visited the Legal Aid Office and held meetings with the Mayor, Charles Sinclair; Magistrate of the Family Court Rosalie Toby; the head of the Peace Management Initiative in Montego Bay, Bishop Dufour, and a representative from the Police Civilian Oversight Authority, Reverend Jackson and civil society organizations. Furthermore, the Commission visited St. Catherine Adult Correctional Center, the holding cells of Spanish Town and Hunts Bay police stations and St. Andrew’s Juvenile Remand Center. In addition, the Commission held discussions with representatives of different sectors of civil society, including Jamaicans for Justice, Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights, The Farquharson Institute of Public Affairs, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), Women Inc, Women’s Media Watch, Association of Women’s Organizations in Jamaica, Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus, Women Empowering Women, Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Jamaican Coalition for Rights of the Child, and Justice and Peace Center in Montego Bay, and met with religious leaders, including Monsignor Richard Albert in Spanish Town and Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston. The Commission also held meetings with the Jamaican Bar Association, Southern Bar Association of Jamaica, and The Norman Manley Law School Legal Aid Clinic. In addition, the Commission co-organized a promotional activity with the Ministry of Justice and Jamaicans for Justice, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Norman Manley Law School aiming to deepen and strengthen institutional cooperation ties in order to promote awareness of the inter-American human rights system in the Caribbean.


The Commission extends its sincere appreciation to the government and people of Jamaica for their assistance with this visit. The IACHR thanks the government for providing the cooperation and facilities required to carry out the visit. It thanks the people of Jamaica, including the representatives of nongovernmental and civil society organizations who provided information and hospitality during the visit. The Commission also extends its appreciation to the OAS Country Office for its helpful assistance and cooperation. The IACHR expresses its special appreciation for the important financial support of the European Commission and Luxembourg, whose donations helped to make the visit possible.


Read this press release in Spanish / Lea este comunicado de prensa en español

Press contact: María Isabel Rivero



Tel. (202) 458-3867



Cell: (202) 215-4142






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Thanks for your Donations

Hello readers,

thank you for your donations via Paypal in helping to keep this blog going, my limited frontline community work, temporary shelter assistance at my home and related costs. Please continue to support me and my allies in this venture that has now become a full time activity. When I first started blogging in late 2007 it was just as a pass time to highlight GLBTQ issues in Jamaica under then JFLAG's blogspot page but now clearly there is a need for more forumatic activity which I want to continue to play my part while raising more real life issues pertinent to us.

Donations presently are accepted via Paypal where buttons are placed at points on this blog(immediately below, GLBTQJA (Blogspot), GLBTQJA (Wordpress) and the Gay Jamaica Watch's blog as well. If you wish to send donations otherwise please contact: glbtqjamaica@live.com




Activities & Plans: ongoing and future

  • To continue this venture towards website development with an E-zine focus

  • Work with other Non Governmental organizations old and new towards similar focus and objectives

  • To find common ground on issues affecting GLBTQ and straight friendly persons in Jamaica towards tolerance and harmony

  • Exposing homophobic activities and suggesting corrective solutions

  • To formalise GLBTQ Jamaica's activities in the long term

  • Continuing discussion on issues affecting GLBTQ people in Jamaica and elsewhere

  • Welcoming, examining and implemeting suggestions and ideas from you the viewing public

  • Present issues on HIV/AIDS related matters in a timely and accurate manner

  • Assist where possible victims of homophobic violence and abuse financially, temporary shelter(my home) and otherwise

  • Track human rights issues in general with a view to support for ALL

Thanks again
Mr. H

Tel: 1-876-8134942
lgbtevent@gmail.com








Peace

Information & Disclaimer

lgbtevent@gmail.com

Individuals who are mentioned or whose photographs appear on this site are not necessarily Homosexual, HIV positive or have AIDS.

This blog contains pictures that may be disturbing. We have taken the liberty to present these images as evidence of the numerous accounts of homophobic violence meted out to alledged gays in Jamaica.

Faces and names witheld for the victims' protection.

This blog not only watches and covers LGBTQ issues in Jamaica and elsewhere but also general human rights and current affairs where applicable.

This blog contains HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please view labels, post list or exit.

Since HIV infection is spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics.

This blog is not designed to provide medical care, if you are ill, please seek medical advice from a licensed practioner

Thanks so much for your kind donations and thoughts.

As for some posts, they contain enclosure links to articles, blogs and or sites for your perusal, use the snapshot feature to preview by pointing the cursor at the item(s) of interest. Such item(s) have a small white dialogue box icon appearing to their top right hand side.


Recent Homophobic Incidents
CLICK HERE for related posts/labels and HERE from the gayjamaicawatch's BLOG containing information I am aware of. If you know of any such reports or incidents please contact lgbtevent@gmail.com

Peace to you and be safe out there.

Love.

What to do if you are attacked (News You Can Use)

First, be calm: Do not panic; it may be very difficult to maintain composure if attacked but this is important.

Try to reason with the attacker: Establish communication with the person. This takes a lot of courage. However, a conversation may change the intention of an attacker.

Do not try anything foolish: If you know outmanoeuvring the attacker is impossible, do not try it.

Do not appear to be afraid: Look the attacker in the eye and demonstrate that you are not fearful.

This may have a psychological effect on the individual.

Emergency numbers
The police 119

Kingfish 811

Crime Stop 311


Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police

a) Ask to see a lawyer or Duty Council

b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist

c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation

e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports

f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)

g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible

h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions

j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it

Sexual Health / STDs News From Medical News Today

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