Thursday, February 26, 2009
Usually crassness and bigotry are qualities to be shunned, or at least hidden. Not so with Ernest Smith who appears to make even more of a virtue of these qualities than already prevails in Jamaica. Ernest Smith, an attorney and member of parliament, has taken these qualities to stratospheric levels with his hysterical rants about outlawing J-Flag, depriving gays of gun licences, and claims about homosexuality run amok in the Jamaican police force.
Not too long ago, Mr Smith enthusiastically promoted virginity tests for high school girls as a condition for readmission at the start of a school year.
In democracies that are governed by reason, one could comfortably dismiss Mr Smith's ravings as simply nothing more than harmless fantasies. Not so in Jamaica, given Mr Smith's prominence in a country that is, for the most part, virulently and proudly homophobic. In this respect, Prime Minister Golding himself proclaimed gays to be unfit for inclusion in his Cabinet, and his government has seen fit to ban school books that make references to gay family units. At the behest of Jamaica's religious right, both political parties have allowed themselves to be corralled into abandoning a proposed gender-neutral definition of rape for fear that this would facilitate decriminalisation of buggery. It is instructive that neither political party has denounced Mr Smith in unambiguous terms. The same appears to be true of the legal profession of which Mr Smith is a member.
The democracy called Jamaica remains wedded to a culture that is largely bereft of critical thinking, much less justice for all its citizens. In this context, Mr Smith has not only a public platform but a cultural licence to exhibit and indeed to infect further the body politic with his particular strain of ignorance, stupidity and bigotry. For most of Jamaica's citizens this might warrant little more than a verandah chat; for others, unfortunately, it might mean the difference between life and death.
O Hilaire Sobers
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Grandstanding and shouting into microphones are major parts of a politician's "tool box". And so it was with Mr Ernest Smith, JLP MP for South West St Ann, who delivered his impassioned intervention regarding homosexuals.
Apart from the forthright character of some remarks, he was doing what is expected of every MP, that is, to express his views on an issue of grave concern to the majority of Jamaicans. His apology to the Jamaican Constabulary Force for his disparaging remarks was timely and appropriate.
On examination, however, his positive direction was that numerous deviant pressure groups are attempting to infiltrate Jamaica's culture by asserting their lifestyles as normal practice. Besides homosexuals, these groups also include the pro-abortionists, the ganja lobby, the polygamists and polyandrous protagonists, the believers in euthanasia, the supporters of drug decriminalisation and those lobbying to legalise prostitution.
This is currently happening in parallel with the media concerning lewd and sexually explicit public expression, which has developed unfettered over the years until it has reached critical and culturally damaging proportions with the release of Rampin Shop. Only then did the authorities, through the Broadcasting Commission, take action. By then in the words of a prominent Jamaican: "Di snake out a di box, an you cyaan put it back" - that is, without strong resolution!
Smith said: "They (J-FLAG) should be outlawed. How can you legitimise an organisation that is formed for the purpose of committing criminal offences?" In response, J-FLAG referred to Section 23 (1) of the Jamaican Constitution that they claim legitimises their existence. But can the constitution be relied upon if their activities are illegitimate?
As the sodomy law is still in effect, it would appear that Smith's statement is not without foundation and any government that considers repealing that act would be committing political suicide. Prostitution that includes male prostitutes also remains illegal.
Smith maintained that: "Democracy, with all its freedoms, is not a licence for people to encourage criminality or otherwise conspire to corrupt public morals." The key issue is the corruption of public morals. As a Christian nation we must therefore consider the Christian teaching as exemplified by the world's largest Christian religion, Roman Catholicism.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church article 2357 in part states: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life". Further, in reference to homosexuals, article 2358 states: "They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." The Catholic Church, however, opposes gay marriage. It teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are, and the sin should be condemned, but not the sinner.
In a recent speech on protecting the environment, Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurred the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to "self-destruction" of the human race. "Saving humanity from homosexual and transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rain forest from destruction. Rain forests deserve, yes, our protection, but the human being does not deserve less."
The Declaration on Human Rights and Sexual Orientation tabled in the United Nations in December last year, as reported by attorney at law Shirley Richards, sought to expand the existing human rights concept to include "sexual orientation". The Declaration was not supported by Jamaica. Simultaneously, a contrary proposal stated that the Declaration was an "attempt to introduce to the UN, notions that have no legal foundation in any human rights instrument". There appears to be no UN consensus on including sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights. "Obviously, the power brokers at the UN are hell-bent on imposing a new version of human rights on the rest of the unwilling world. It is an attempt to assert the moral equivalence of all forms of sexual preferences and to harm moral and sound discernment, all in the name of 'human rights'."
The clamour for "tolerance" when considering the pressure groups' postures is approximately analogous with a call for "acquiescence". Historically, the world is aware of the dangers of "acquiescence" as demonstrated in 1939 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on his return to London, touting a non-aggression pact signed with Adolph Hitler that launched WWII, but not worth the paper on which it was written.
Mr Smith's delivery of his message was unfortunately abrasive, insensitive and overzealous. His point, however, deserves serious recognition, particularly with regard to the potential for lifestyle deviation of Jamaican youth. The difficulties being experienced with the media which necessitated prime ministerial intervention should be a caution as to a laissez-faire approach when "the writing is already on the wall".
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a condition caused by a virus called HIV. This virus attacks the immune system, the body's "security force" that fights off infections. When the immune system breaks down, you lose this protection and can develop many serious, often deadly infections and cancers. These are called "opportunistic infections" (OIs) because they take advantage of the body's weakened defenses. You have heard it said that someone "died of AIDS." This is not entirely accurate, since it is the opportunistic infections that cause death. AIDS is the condition that lets them take hold.
Bacterial Diarrhea (Salmonellosis, Campylobacteriosis, Shigellosis)
Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC)
Syphilis & Neurosyphilis
Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS)
Herpes Simplex Virus (oral & genital herpes)
Herpes Zoster Virus (shingles)
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV, genital warts, anal/cervical dysplasia/cancer)
Oral Hairy Leukoplakia (OHL)
Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML)
Candidiasis (thrush, yeast infection)
Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP)
AIDS Dementia Complex (ADC)
Other Conditions and Complications
Aphthous Ulcers (Canker Sores)
Thrombocytopenia (low platelets)
Monday, February 23, 2009
It wasn't until my wife exclaimed, "What!?" from an adjoining room that I began to believe my ears and eyes. A parliamentarian, a lawyer, a representative of the people and sworn defender of their rights was spouting some of the most uninformed, prejudiced, malicious and inciting drivel I have ever heard.
How can we criticise our ignorant and uneducated deejays who say that 'Gays fi dead' when, during a parliamentary debate on the sexual offences legislation, Ernie Smith, a highly-educated Member of Parliament (MP), openly asserted that gays were brazen, abusive and violent? He announced that he wanted the minister of national security to explain why so many of them were holders of legal firearms! He even advocated that homosexuals should be sentenced to life behind bars if they had coitus.
I began contemplating what triggered his inaccurate and hate-filled outburst when, he became intoxicated by his own magnificence and proceeded to allude to a newspaper intimation about the profligacy of homosexuality within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that went unchallenged. I was flabbergasted when he animatedly proclaimed that the Force was overrun by gays. His pontificating was obviously facilitated by his knowledge of parliamentary privilege (legal immunity from civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made related to one's duties in the legislature). Unfortunately, he conveniently forgot that with this privilege comes great responsibility.
Why this disproportionate preoccupation with homosexuals anyway? Are they the root cause of our many serious and pressing economic and social problems? Will banishing them from society solve our woes? How come we don't see this level of passionate anger being unleashed on murderous criminals? Rich and powerful people take all kinds of advantage (including sexual) of their underlings, destroy lives and get away with it all the time. Where's the rant about that?
Reckless, unfounded, unfair, inflam-matory and untrue statements from respected people (who should know better) do irreparable harm and have serious, deleterious consequences. The MP eventually apologised for some of the things that he said, but the damage was already done. Thanks to him, people will feel justified in persecuting gays and criminals now have one more reason to hate the police.
What does it say about Jamaica, when a member of our honourable house of Parliament feels free to lambaste, single out and attack a non-criminal sub-set of society and label its members as violent people - effectively painting bull's eyes on their backs? What does it tell the world about us when a parliamentarian can unfairly target, malign and endanger the entire constabulary?
Although we can't fathom the determinants of human sexual orientation, as a society, we should not prejudge others. Decrying the MP's actions has nothing to do with defending homosexuality; it has everything to do with defending the human rights of all our citizens. It wrongly portrays our entire nation as backward and insular when a public official, a member of Parliament can openly and unabashedly demonstrate intolerable prejudice and commit an egregious betrayal of trust.
He should resign
I have absolutely nothing personal against Smith, but, nearly two weeks after the fact, I am curious about the paucity of official responses to his defamatory eruption. However, what surprises me most of all is that this administration simply distanced itself from his tirade and did not condemn it. And, he has been allowed to continue serving in a public office as a representative of the people without any consequences of his actions. In any other civilised democratic society, he would have had to offer his resignation.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, last week's break from the norm by the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) was not only right, but a refreshingly rare display of courage. It brought into sharp focus the woeful cowardice on the part of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and a crass permissiveness by its leader, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in the Ernest Smith affair.
Homosexuality, and particularly the male version thereof, is highly offensive behaviour in Jamaica's popular culture. At least, that is the perceived wisdom, given the violence that is sometimes perpetrated against gay people, for no other reason than that they are what they are.
Mustering political popularity
Being anti-homosexual is an easy way, therefore, to muster political popularity, demanding no depth of thought or engagement of ideas, but only an incitement to hate. Which is precisely what we believe was exemplified by Mr Smith, the JLP member of parliament for South West St Ann when, in our view, he abused the privilege of the House of Representatives, with his recent anti-gay diatribe.
In this cheap shot at popularity, Mr Smith claimed gays to be abusive or violent and questioned their right, as against other citizens, to hold firearms and to form organisations. The ridiculous Mr Smith even suggested that the Jamaica Constabulary Force was overrun by gays and suggested that the institution was thereby contaminated. He, subsequently, offered a tepid apology to the police that did nothing to alter a parliamentary intervention that was intellectually vacuous.
But Mr Smith's nonsense, it appears, has no bounds. Last week, in a total absence of shame, Mr Smith, whose day job is as an attorney-at-law, proposed the banning of the gay-rights lobby organisation Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays, J-FLAG, which would clearly be in contravention of Section 23 (1) of the Constitution that affords all citizens the right of "freedom of peaceful assembly and association" and to "associate with other persons and, in particular, to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of their interests".
Move to incite hate and violence
Thankfully, even as it recognised the cultural aversion in Jamaica to homosexuality, the PNP acknowledged the potential of Mr Smith's gratuitous remarks to incite hate and violence and urged political leaders to refrain from an excess of language. "The physical safety and broader human rights of these citizens should not be undermined by gratuitous grandstanding on this issue," the Opposition party said.
The PNP declared itself "committed to the principle of freedom of association that is enshrined in Jamaica's Constitution".
No room for selective application
We welcome the PNP's declaration because, in a democracy, it is not permissible for there to be a selective application of rights and freedoms. Its silence in the face of an outburst of diatribe from one of its legislators suggests that the JLP apparently does not have a view of that matter.
But what is more worrying to us is the silence of Prime Minister Golding, who, whatever his private views, has a public responsibility for the security and safety of all Jamaicans, which, we feel, was threatened by Mr Smith's display of stupidity.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
We should support tolerance, not hate! I am appalled whenever I read some of the articles published in the Jamaican media at how the word 'homosexuality' seems to send some people in a fit of endless rage.
One of your readers, Stewart Young, had his comments published in both major papers, which were triggered by the recent anti-gay comments made in Parliament by the MP for South West St Ann, Ernest Smith. Mr Young ironically lives in a first-world country (USA), where the cornerstone of democracy is based on human rights. Why enjoy all this and then turn around to denounce the rights of others in Jamaica?
Why would anyone consume themselves in such hate/anger when life has so much more to offer? Is it because of insecurity, or is it a lack of a more informed view? I would advise Mr Young to seriously reflect on his arguments, as there are good persons as well as bad persons in every race, from every background with varying sexual preferences! For every rich (gay) man there is 'luring' boys with their wealth, you can bet there are 10 times more rich (straight) men luring girls!
As for MP Smith, I've never heard such ignorance reported in Jamaican papers in a very long time. Sometimes it's best to remain quiet, if one has nothing of substance to contribute. Mr Smith apparently dislikes gays, which is fine as that's his personal choice, but why did he need to take this to Parliament? Does the MP even realise that these were the same type of arguments that sanctioned slavery against a race?
One would assume that for the most part our elected officials are educated, yet no one dared to challenge MP Smith. It's a sad day for Jamaica when MPs like Mr Smith are allowed to 'wallow' in this type of ignorance!
In other countries the MP would've had to resign. I firmly believe that the development of any country must start with the development of the mind. When one equates a person's sexuality with domestic violence, other crimes or even the right to hold a licensed firearm, it is downright ignorant and narrow minded. Such is the human mind, overly steeped in bigotry.
Another Letter: Nembhard's column
Dear Editor, This is an open letter to the Rev Dr Raulston Nembhard regarding his column of February 19, "Ernest Smith's dangerous homosexual diatribe".
As a man of the cloth, you should be backing Mr Smith, not castigating him. What has come over you? The Good Book says homosexuals should be put to death. Are you therefore condemning the Bible? Speak up and let us understand where you are
We certainly did not expect such an article from a man of God. Very disappointing. I am also disappointed in the Observer for carrying such an anti-Christian and anti-Ernie Smith's column.
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Thanks for your Donations
thank you for your donations via Paypal in helping to keep this blog going and related costs. Please continue to support me and my allies in this venure 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.
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
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Information & Disclaimer
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.
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Recent Homophobic Incidents
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
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