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July 23, 2009


As stunningly beautiful as Jamaica is, it still has a very dark, brutal and dangerous underbelly.

On March 10, 2009 I posted a report on a State Department Travel Advisory warning of the dangers to our community of traveling to Jamaica. On March 29th I ran a story about a call for an outright boycott of all Jamaican products. Obviously the continuing homophobic violence in Jamaica caught the attention of GLBT activist who called for that boycott. Then on April 1st I published a follow up story responding to an impassioned plea from the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) that asked us to reconsider that boycott.

I told them in my posting that although I certainly am empathetic to their situation, I feel that because I now know of the horrific violence and injustices that the Jamaican government has so willingly inflicted on our Jamaican brothers and sisters I can't, in good conscience, participate in or condone shoring-up that government by pouring money into it.

Well, it seems that the Jamaican government still prefers to wallow in their violent homophobia rather than acknowledge the problem and try to do something about it. Now however, they're attracting the attention of the mainstream media.

On Monday, David McFadden of the Associate Press wrote an excellent piece entitled "Gays Live And Die In Fear In Jamaica". McFadden jumps right in with a first hand account of the kind of violence faced by all Jamaican gays and lesbians.

Even now, about three years after a near-fatal gay bashing, Sherman gets jittery at dusk. On bad days, his blood quickens, his eyes dart, and he seeks refuge indoors.

A group of men kicked him and slashed him with knives for being a "batty boy" — a slang term for gay men — after he left a party before dawn in October 2006. They sliced his throat, torso, and back, hissed anti-gay epithets, and left him for dead on a Kingston corner.

"It gets like five, six o'clock, my heart begins to race. I just need to go home, I start to get nervous," said the 36-year-old outside the secret office of Jamaica's sole gay rights group. Like many other gays, Sherman won't give his full name for fear of retribution.

McFadden goes on to say:

Despite the easygoing image propagated by tourist boards, gays and their advocates agree that Jamaica is by far the most hostile island toward homosexuals in the already conservative Caribbean. They say gays, especially those in poor communities, suffer frequent abuse. But they have little recourse because of rampant anti-gay stigma and a sodomy law banning sex between men in Jamaica and 10 other former British colonies in the Caribbean.

The whole article is a lengthy, in-depth accounting of just how bad things are for the GLBT community there and is well worth taking a few minutes to read in its entirety.

Clearly, the Jamaican government still hasn't gotten the message. According to Jamaican gays themselves, "homophobia is pervasive across the sun-soaked island, from the pulpit to the floor of the Parliament." It is for this reason that I strongly urge you and everyone you know to join the boycott. In addition to the obvious of not traveling there for a vacation, don't buy any Jamaican products, including Jamaican Rum and Red Stripe beer.

Apparently, the only thing that's going to move these people is to threaten their livelihood. So spread the word around as much as you can through blogs, twitter, myspace, facebook or just old fashioned word of mouth - put the story out there to as many people as you can.