In memory of 16 year-old Dwayne Jones who became homeless at age 12 and was murdered on July 22, 2013 in St.James, J-FLAG has published a policy brief on LGBT homelessness in Jamaica.
In a newspaper article published June 13, 2014, Member of Parliament for South East St. Andrew and State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson said there was a need to help homeless gays in his constituency as they have gained national and international attention. J-FLAG is imploring Minister Julian Robinson and local authorities to develop programmes that will address this issue in his constituency, where a large number of homeless LGBT persons have taken refuge.
We are also urging the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development to develop a Homelessness Policy based on its preliminary work done to date and the recommendations made in this brief, chief among which is the implementation of an inclusive, non-discriminatory programme for all persons who are homeless.
Read the full text of the brief here: (re)Presenting and Redressing LGBT Homelessness in Jamaica - JFLAGClick here to view
J-FLAG shares the dream of a Jamaica where the family is strong and healthy. To this end, our family reintegration programme seeks to reunite LGBT youth with their families after they have been pushed from their homes and communities and forced to live in less-than-ideal situations. We also work to prevent displacement by sensitising and empowering family members with parenting tools for vulnerable youth in a hostile environment such as ours. This is our duty as patriotic Jamaicans.
Jamaica's Emancipation is founded on freedom and the protection of the dignity of the person. J-FLAG recognises the diversity of thought and opinion that makes up this plural democracy on which we were founded and seeks only to ensure that LGBT people are recognised as full citizens endowed with the same rights as all other Jamaicans.
Just as Jamaica's motto reads 'Out of Many, One People', we are convinced that LGBT Jamaicans ought never to be excluded from the Jamaican family.Click here to view
Global Initiative KISS OFF!: Uniting in a creative response to intolerance has been created by multimedia artist Danielle 'DMo' Oke of the creative hub DMoArtWorlds. During the week of June 28 to July 4, 2014 people around the world are encouraged to share a photo or vine video of a same-sex kiss in the name of love, equality and human rights. It is a creative way to challenge societal homophobia and bring awareness to the persecutions people face because of their sexual orientation and identity. It's also a visual celebration of love and life. Click here to learn more or participate.Click here to view
More clarity on the dismissal of Professor Brendan Bain as head of CHART in light of the conflict of interest that resulted from his testimony on behalf of a coalition of churches in a case challenging the constitutionality of a Belizean Law, which criminalises men having sex with men. Professor Brendan Bain testified in the said court case on behalf of a coalition of churches that were seeking to retain the 1861 Law. This conflicts with the policy position held by CHART that the removal of laws that criminalise anal intercourse between consenting adults is necessary for a comprehensive, effective response to the HIV epidemic.
Watch the full length discussion here that took place on CVM TV's May 28, 2014 edition of Live @ 7 with expert epidemiologist Professor Peter Figueroa of UWI and radiologist Dr. Wayne West also of the UWI.Click here to view
As part of increasing its media output and engaging the LGBT community and allies, J-FLAG launched its first issue of 'Equality JA: The Silent Revolution' this morning. The newsletter features past, ongoing and upcoming J-FLAG activities, the profile of a Jamaican human rights defender, social justice commentary, LGBT history fact, fun activities, an online poll and more! The newsletter is available online only and may be read here.
To subscribe, click here.Click here to view
J-FLAG recently launched a Secondary School Essay Competition: Our Human Rights at The Great Debate held at the University of the West Indies’ Regional Headquarters on Thursday, March 27, 2014.
Given the limited exposure of secondary school students to human rights issues, we believe it is important that we create avenues for students at this level to conduct research in this area while developing their critical thinking skills. We hope that this essay writing competition will encourage students and teachers (who will supervise students) to incorporate knowledge garnered from participation in this competition into their classrooms, clubs and societies, and in discussions with their peers to continuously raise awareness about this and other related issues.
We also hope that this will encourage the development of a stronger sense of citizenship and a deeper understanding of the rights guaranteed by all persons under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom regardless of being male or female, race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinion. All essays will be uploaded to an online repository accessible by the public as part of J-FLAG’s public awareness and education programme.
Monday, April 7, 2014 to Friday, July 4, 2014 at midnight. The winner will be announced on Monday, July 28, 2014.
- Category 1 – students who are 13-15 years old and registered at a secondary high school in Jamaica.
Human rights are for everyone. Discuss
- Category 2 – students who are 16-19 years old and registered at a secondary high school in Jamaica.
The right to freedom of expression is absolute. Discuss
The winner from each category will receive a 7” Samsung Tablet 3, a gift certificate valued at $10,000 each and a winner’s plaque.
The runner up from each category will receive a gift certificate valued at $10,000 each and a gift basket.
- All essays should be typed with 1.5 line spacing, using APA guidelines and must be accompanied with a reference page.
- For category 1, essays should be 300 – 500 words in length. Essays exceeding this limit will not be considered. Essays below the minimum number of word count will not be considered.
- For category 2, essays should be 1000-1200 words in length. Essays exceeding this limit will not be considered. Essays below the minimum number of word count will not be considered. Your cover page and reference list are not included in the word count.
- All essays must be submitted via email to email@example.com in Microsoft Word format only. You will receive an immediate verification that your essay has been received. If you do not receive a verification email within one hour of your submission please call 849-1403.
- A cover page with your full name, age, name of school, your email address, contact number, and mailing address.
- Proof of age must be submitted with all essays.
- Essays will be graded based on the following rubric
Analysis & Persuasion 8
APA formatting & Reference 4
Style & Grammar 3
For additional information or clarification please contact our Education & Outreach Manager at 849-1403 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Click here to view
Jamaica is often referenced for the anti-gay attitudes of its people. For some Jamaicans, rejection of homosexuality is not only a defense of Christian values, it is also a marker of national identity.
Homosexuals are rendered foreigners at home as their bodies are marked as deviant and alien. The varied manifestations of heterosexism and homophobia in Jamaica have been the subject of numerous academic studies.
The symposium will facilitate discussion about the contours of Jamaican (sexual) citizenship, the place of LGBT people in Jamaica today and the path to a more inclusive Jamaica.
To highlight the struggles and strides made by J-FLAG in making Jamaica the place of choice for LGBT persons to live, work, raise families, and do business.
To dispel misconceptions about the LGBT community with the support of research.
To explore the layers of homophobia experienced by LGBT people.
To provide national coverage of an evidence-based dialogue on sexual identity and gender expression.
To improve the public's understanding of the unique challenges faced by LGBT Christians.
The first defense against persecution from the police or any individual is to know exactly what your rights are and what rights the police do and don’t have. We have tried to outline below some of the laws as they relate to homosexuality. If you know your rights, you can better defend yourself if you are subjected to abuse or discrimination of any kind.
What Jamaican Law says about Homosexuality:
Contrary to popular belief, it is not actually illegal to be homosexual in Jamaica. Being a homosexual does not contravene any of the existing laws; however, the law makes certain ‘homosexual acts’ illegal, and these laws are used to persecute gay men. They state that “acts of gross indecency” and buggery [anal sex] are illegal. Although buggery refers to anal sex between a man and another man, a woman or an animal, in practice the law is predominately enforced against two men. Lesbians are also discriminated against in the wider society, however no laws target lesbians or lesbian conduct.
Offences Against the Person Act
This act prohibits “acts of gross indecency” between men, in public or in private. (This is a very general term which can be interpreted to mean any kind of physical intimacy)
Article 76 (Unnatural Crime)
“Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery [anal intercourse] committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years.”
Article 77 (Attempt)
“Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour.”
Article 78 (Proof of Carnal Knowledge)
“Whenever upon the trial of any offence punishable under this Act, it may be necessary to prove carnal knowledge, it shall not be necessary to prove the actual emission of seed in order to constitute a carnal knowledge, but the carnal knowledge shall be deemed complete upon proof of penetration only.”
Article 79 (Outrages on Decency)
“Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 2 years, with or without hard labour.”Click here to view
Since July 2013, subsequent to the murder of 16-year-old Dwayne Jones – a transgender teen in St James – there have been several news reports of brutal attacks perpetrated against LGBT people across the island.
In August 2013, a group of five LGBT persons were marooned by an angry mob in a community in Manchester; a transgender female was attacked and had to be rescued by the police in Portmore, St Catherine[ , and two gay men were evicted from their home in Central Village, St Catherine. There have also been allegations of murders including the killing of a popular transgender performer in Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
These news reports have reinforced the argument that LGBT people live in very difficult circumstances and are at great risk of discrimination and violence. However, many Jamaicans argue LGBT people are no more at risk of violence and abuse than anyone. Some, including persons aligned to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), have also said that incidents of violence against LGBT people are perpetrated by LGBT people themselves.
There is however, little evidence to substantiate any of these claims. The police has very little documented reports of violence against LGBT people and those recorded by J-FLAG have not all been investigated.
This briefing paper aims to provide information on the total number of reports documented by J-FLAG since 2009 and the similarities with national data provided by the JCF. It is intended to guide a more informed discussion about LGBT discrimination and violence. Finally, it is hoped that this paper will provide the impetus for the Ministry of National Security and Jamaica Constabulary Force to take further steps to empower persons to report all incidents of violence and conduct thorough investigations.
Read the full report here: Homophobia & Violence in Jamaica - JFLAG 2013Click here to view
J-FLAG welcomes the Church’s leadership and call to ensure a more ‘wholesome, Christ-centred and engaging perspective on sexuality is included in their discipleship programme’ as articulated in the paper, which was published on September 25, 2013.
It is encouraging that the Jamaica Council of Churches has used its position as a historically well respected faith-based organisation to lead in engendering a more ‘welcoming and non-judgmental space’ in the Church.
As you may be aware, it is not uncommon for the Bible to be used as a justification to isolate, harass and persecute LGBT people. I commend you and your team for encouraging your members and the wider religious community to avoid using speech and taking actions ‘that could ostracize, incite violence or any other treatment of indignity towards persons who are homosexuals.’
I am aware this has taken the JCC some time to develop this position and I acknowledge, as stated, that ‘differing interpretations of scripture have led to varying theological positions’ relating to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. We however wish to note, with concern, that some of the language used in the position paper is problematic.
Nevertheless, J-FLAG welcomes and is encouraged by the call for constructive dialogue on the varying points of view with an overarching desire for the human dignity of LGBT people to be recognised and protected irrespective of ideological differences in opinion. We consider this as an important opportunity for us to work together to bring greater understanding on the issue of sexual and gender diversity amongst your members so that we can all work from a place love, compassion and grace.
We are therefore willing and eager to work with the JCC to refine and develop the position paper, where necessary so that we can support a process to mitigate the harm caused to LGBT persons and their families, including those who are Christians.Click here to view
At a growing rate the homosexuality debate has taken on religious, psychological, geo-political, economic and cultural significance; globally and locally. Within the Jamaican context, debates on the political front, with the promise to review the “Buggery Law”, and more recently, constitutional challenges in our courts have heightened the dialogue. The so called “Homosexuality Agenda” and economic pressure from bilateral and multilateral partners have contributed to the anxiety being experienced by many. As a historical moral voice within the Jamaican society, the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) brings its perspective to this debate, recognising the complexity of the matter and the need for divine wisdom in providing a possible direction to the Church, and indeed, to the wider society.
A Biblical/Theological Perspective
Being mindful of the fact that differing interpretations of scripture have led to varying theological positions articulated by different parts of the Body of Christ - the Church, the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) embraces the view of the sanctity of our sexuality; that God’s perfect design, as expressed in Scripture, is for sexual intimacy to take place between one man and one woman within the context of the sanctity of marriage. The JCC will therefore advocate for the Institution of Marriage to be reserved for one man and one woman.
In light of this, the Council is appealing to its membership, and indeed, the wider Church community, to become more intentional and strategic in ensuring that a wholesome, Christ-Centered and engaging perspective on sexuality is included in their discipleship programme. Many persons, especially the young, are confused regarding their sexuality and the permissiveness of this post-modern world does nothing to help.
The Council further affirms that all of humanity shares in a common human brokenness (Romans 8:22) and therefore deserves to receive the love and pastoral care of the Church that is modelled off the love, compassion and grace that Jesus Christ demonstrated in His earthly Ministry. While homosexuality may be a conscious choice that some persons have made, for others within and outside of the Church, their homosexuality represents an unwelcome struggle between their experience and their faith, the “flesh and the Spirit” (Romans 7:7ff); it is the basis of chronic guilt and depression; disappointment and unanswered questions within many families. Fear of ridicule and isolation often cause them to suffer in silence.
In view of this, the Council appeals to members of the Church, clergy and laity, to make Church a welcoming and non-judgmental space; one that is sensitive to those who are dealing with issues of brokenness in their lives, which include homosexuality. While the Council affirms the prophetic role of the Church, it also affirms its pastoral role and so appeals to the Church, as well as the wider religious community, not to speak or act in ways that could ostracize, incite violence or any other treatment of indignity towards persons who are homosexuals, as they too are bearers of the “Image of God” and for whom Christ died. The Church must also be ready to support families who have to cope with the implications of homosexuality within.
A Socio-Political Appeal
It is clear that those with a homosexual political agenda are placing much pressure on societies like Jamaica to change their cultural norms, values and mores. As a politically Independent and Sovereign State, we must resist such imposition and allow for our own people to determine what is in the best interest of Jamaica, land we love.
Mindful of the complexity of this subject matter, the JCC strongly believes
- That the practice of homosexuality must never be promoted as a normal and natural way of life and on par with heterosexual lifestyle;
- That the institution of marriage must be reserved for a faithful and committed relationship between a man and a woman;
- That every effort must be made to protect our children from being lured or forced into sexual activities, whether homosexual or heterosexual;
- That the right to disagree with the homosexual lifestyle must be preserved, while treating individuals who are homosexuals with respect;
- That persons who are homosexuals must be free from violence and discrimination and that equality and entitlement before the law, as for all other Jamaicans, must be protected within the confines of Jamaica’s Constitution.
The JCC appeals to its member churches and the wider church community to spearhead a process of biblically and theologically sound public education regarding sex and sexuality, including the consequences of unhealthy and irresponsible sexual practices.
September 25, 2013Click here to view
J-FLAG is urging Betty-Ann Blaine, Convenor of Hear the Children’s Cry, to be more responsible in her public utterances opposing the recognition of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people.
Like all Jamaicans, J-FLAG is concerned about the prevalence of child abuse and is committed to supporting the authorities in making Jamaica a safe, cohesive and just place for all persons, including and especially our children.
The organization is however deeply concerned about the divisive and inaccurate nature of certain remarks from anti-gay activists such as Betty-Ann Blaine. The misuse of statistics and other relevant data to justify the retention of unjust laws and to further malign already vulnerable people is reckless and irresponsible. We encourage well-thinking Jamaicans to condemn such practices.
“Based on data obtained from the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), 2756 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2012 of which 101 were buggery of boys and girls. This is a 42.5 per cent increase in reports of buggery compared to 2011 when 58 cases, involving both males and females, were reported. Ms. Blaine has a responsibility to explain the disparity between her assertion of a 74 per cent increase and the actual data,” Dane Lewis, Executive Director of J-FLAG.
The 42.5 per cent increase in reported incidents of buggery involving children over the past year is due in part to improved efficiency in the operations of OCR which has been successful in encouraging more Jamaicans to report child abuse. J-FLAG commends OCR and CISOCA for their exemplary work and continued dedication to the protection of the welfare of children. The data should be used to advocate for a more comprehensive and effective child protection system and to demonstrate that more needs to be done to end the victimization of our children. The statistics prove that the retention of the buggery law is not a lynchpin which prevents more buggery of children or an efficient deterrent for child sexual abuse.
J-FLAG strongly believes that retaining the buggery law in its current formulation is counter-intuitive and misguided if it is intended to protect children from sexual abuse. The Offences Against the Persons Act stipulates the maximum penalty for buggery (whether by force, duress, or consent) is ten years at hard labour. By contrast, pursuant to Section 10(4) of the Sexual Offences Act, any person found guilty of rape, which is narrowly defined as non-consensual penetration of a vagina by a penis, is liable to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This discrepancy and the resultant need for a gender and orifice neutral definition of rape has in the past been noted by our legislators but due to their fear of upsetting public (and religious) sentiment, young boys and girls remain vulnerable.
J-FLAG recognizes the panic some groups and individuals are experiencing but urge anti-gay activists to desist from distorting the truth. We encourage them to address the vulnerabilities of our children and other minority groups. Balanced dialogue is critical to advancing the creation of a healthy society.
All children should live in a society that is responsive to their needs. We must therefore ensure the justice system is strengthened so the appropriate penalties are applied to those unscrupulous persons who continue to abuse our children sexually, physically and psychologically without fear of punishment. We urge the formation of an active partnership between civil society and government to protect our children and other vulnerable Jamaicans from all forms of abuse and violence.Click here to view