Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Reflections on the work of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2010 as it works to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
IGLHRCs work spans the globe with staff in the Americas, Asia and Africa working to bring human rights to everyone, everywhere.
Alissa Trotz is editor of the weekly In the Diaspora Column
There has been a spate of letters to the press in recent weeks on the question of sexuality in Guyana, following the report that a group of lawyers will be bringing a constitutional challenge to a law that criminalized cross-dressing and under which seven persons were arrested and charged last year.This is an issue with immense ramifications for how we understand matters of discrimination and equality in our own times. Some have marshaled ‘scientific’ evidence to make the case that homosexuality represents some kind of identity disorder (this vexed question of science will be addressed in a later column), others advise us that they are sending their authoritative opinions on the matter to Bar Associations and Attorneys-General in Guyana and across the Caribbean. Yet others cite religion as the final word that demonstrates irrefutably just how un-natural homosexuality is (this is one of the issues that is being taken up in the court case, in which Acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson told the four men charged, that they must go to church and give over their lives to Christ). In fact this is one topic that makes for interesting bedfellows indeed!
Back in 2001, several religious groupings brought tremendous pressure to bear on President Bharrat Jagdeo to withhold presidential assent from an Amendment Bill that was overwhelmingly approved (55-0) by the National Assembly, and that would have outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Bill was based on recommendations from the Constitution Reform Commission, a body that in fact included representatives from the Christian, Hindu and Islamic communities, all of whom at the time assented to the anti-discrimination recommendation. In a letter written to the Stabroek News on January 26, 2001, Father Malcolm Rodrigues wrote that “Surely God did not make any exceptions in his creation of the human species, which would allow us scope for discrimination! We must remember that apartheid was founded on precisely this sort of discrimination, except that the base was colour of skin rather than sexual orientation.”
On Saturday last, one Stabroek News letter writer (approvingly) noted that homosexuality remains illegal in 29 countries, this in a continent where several Presidents have recently and publicly condemned homosexuality as a foreign import. In Uganda, there are currently attempts to raise the penalty on anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts to life imprisonment, with jail terms as well for those who know but do not ‘report’ homosexual activity. We are expected to see these official pronouncements and acts – which will lead to terror and marginalization for people among us, including family members and friends – as evidence of a robust anti (or post) colonial stance, an instance in which we demonstrate how freed from colonialism we are, how mentally emancipated and independent we have become. In this way of thinking, it is those who oppose homophobia, whether legislated or unofficial, who are accused of being neocolonial. We set aside the inconvenient fact that much of this legislation, which we now seek to extend or refuse to comprehensively dismantle, was put into place under colonial rule. We do not then have to engage in the difficult work of figuring out how and why it is we have so thoroughly internalized colonialism’s divide and rule tactics, and who it ultimately benefits. We do not have to think about how this makes it so much easier to control us, when we learn to police ourselves and each other. We do not have to ask ourselves why we feel we can selectively choose which aspects of mental slavery we need to emancipate ourselves from.
On Friday last, Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown, South Africa, penned a remarkable op-ed piece that appeared in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031103341.html). It was called ‘In Africa, a step backward on human rights’. I remember the incredible opportunity of meeting him in the UK, shortly after the end of Apartheid. It was a small group of us, students from various African and Caribbean countries, and I can still recall our excitement at being in the room with Archbishop Tutu, our sense that the struggle of his people for freedom spoke to us all across our intertwined yet different geographies. The South African struggle represented a refusal of incredible dehumanization during my own lifetime (I will always remember where I was, with friends from St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada and Jamaica, glued to our television for a glimpse of Nelson Mandela as he walked out of the prison that never succeeded in incarcerating his vision and his spirit and his hope). And it is in that spirit that I offer Desmond Tutu’s words that appeared in the Washington Post, in full below:
Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.
It is time to stand up against another wrong.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.
Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.
These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.
Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.
And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
“But they are sinners,” I can hear the preachers and politicians say. “They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished.” My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?
The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.
"Not in My Cabinet" but we protect dons by legal semantics, we give away your national airline, oh no JLP
All the major newspapers have been taking a swipe at the Jamaica Labour Party administration for its stance on the Dudus issue finding so called justified reasons not to honour an extradition request from the United States and then the gunfire that erupted in Hannah Town yesterday following the said gentleman's birthday bash see: Hell breaks loose in West Kingston from the Jamaica Observer (cartooned below centre.)
It was so easy for the Prime Minister to brush off any idea of entertaining the GLBTQ issues and that infamous BBC appearance where he categorically said he would have no known gays knowingly in his cabinet although they are there. On the mantra of fairness, rights and justice for all Jamaicans the Jamaica Labour Party campaigned in 2007's general election and barely won by a slim majority but as we have seen it was all talk and no backing action. Sadly the JLP is loosing the fight on the ground as the Dudus issue heats up one wonders if yesterday's encounter the police had in West Kingston was an attempt to find Dudus as the cops said they were looking for wanted men, three men died and three cops were shot and injured.
A good percentage of the public like myself are left in a daze as the legal luminaries, commentators and leaks to so called friendly press pushes the debate as to the PM's stance on not extraditing Dudus because the US allegedly broke the law by obtaining evidence in the form of wiring tapping the don's phone. Above are some of the cartoons that have been blistering in their shots at the PM and his ministers.
Where 'Dudus' Coke meets Transparency International
Let 'Dudus' have his day in court - Part 2
Air J in the meantime:
One wonders if they will ever live down the so called divestment of Air Jamaica which on the face of it turned out to be a lie as the recent statements by the Trinidadian Transport Minister where he indicted that Caribbean Airlines was only interested in Air J's profitable routes and as to the staff at Air J who knows what will become of them.
Well he may have conveniently swept the gay issue under the carpet for now but certainly other issues have arisen let's see how it plays out, a second term looks unlikely. The gay issues are not going away anytime soon.
Peace and tolerance
The Star News again at it ....headlined: FREAKY LESBIAN ABUSES 16-Y-0? Youngster also raped, buggered
A hot-blooded lesbian woman from a volatile St Andrew community has found herself on the wrong side of the law after allegedly performing oral sex on a 16-year-old girl, assisted by two men who later raped and sodomised the teen.
The woman, said to be in her 20s, has since been arrested while her male accomplices are yet to be apprehended.
Information reaching THE STAR is that sometime before the incident, the inquisitive teenager had approached the older woman asking if the rumours that she was a lesbian were really true. The woman reportedly told the girl that the rumours were true following which a brief conversation developed between both and numbers were exchanged.
Allegation stated that on the date of the assault, the February birthday of the lesbian woman, she invited the teen to her house in the St Andrew community, stating that she had some money that she would like to give her.
Reports continued that the youngster went to the house and saw two men along with the woman inside. The woman allegedly told the girl not to pay the men any mind and to follow her to a room for the money.
After the teen and the woman went in the room, the men reportedly followed and allegedly held down the teen, allowing the lesbian woman to perform oral sex on her.
The allegations continued that after the woman was done performing the act on the teen, the men then raped and buggered the girl. A report was subsequently made and the woman was arrested.
When the matter was called up in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court last week, the lawyer for the accused lesbian made a bail application on her behalf.The court set $100,000 bail and ruled that she return on April 8 for the preliminary enquiry into the matter.
Rates of HIV infections in gay men are increasing in countries which have homophobic attitudes, the chief of the UN AIDS agency has said.
Michel Sidibe told journalists at a lunch yesterday that rates of infection among gay men were rising in areas such as Africa, where many countries have laws against homosexuality.
He said that in Africa and China, around 33 per cent of new HIV infections were being found in gay men, which he said was a significant increase.
AP reports that on new laws being introduced in countries such as Uganda, he said: "You have also a growing conservatism which is making me very scared.
"We must insist that the rights of the minorities are upheld. If we don't do that … I think the epidemic will grow again. We cannot accept the tyranny of the majority."
Mr Sidibe said that, in contrast, between six and nine per cent of new infections are found in gay men in the Caribbean, which has fewer laws against homosexuality.
He blamed the rising infection rates on infected people being too scared to seek help and fearing they will be punished.
He also cited rising infection rates in drug users and prostitutes in countries which have stringent laws against drug use and prostitution.
Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality law will impose the death penalty on those caught having gay sex while infected with HIV.
The bill's sponsor, David Bahati MP, claims it will reduce HIV infections in the country, although health experts say it will have the opposite effect.
Mr Sidibe also mentioned HIV infections in the US, saying it was "shocking" that more than 50 per cent of new infections in 2009 occurred in gay men.
He said: "It seems like we have come full circle. After almost no cases a few years ago we are seeing again this new peak among people who are not having access to all the information, the protection that is needed."
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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
- 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 and otherwise
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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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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