A J-FLAG Commissioned Paper on the NHRI

Editor, September 23, 2015 
Earlier this year J-FLAG commissioned a paper on the National Human Rights Institutions and the Human Rights Situation of LGBT People in Jamaica which was written by Glenroy Murray.
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are State bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights. They are part of the State apparatus and are funded by the State. Their function as enumerated by the Paris Principles is to protect and promote the human rights secured by international law within the domestic sphere of Member States of the United Nations. This paper seeks to question how the establishment of such an institution will impact the human rights situation within Jamaica, particularly for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
This paper considers the Paris Principles which outline the operational framework, roles and responsibilities of NHRIs and make a determination as to whether there are any current spaces in which such an institution can be regarded as existing within the Jamaican context. It will then set out the situation of human rights abuses faced by the LGBT community and the legal framework within which these abuses are committed, often times with impunity. Finally, there will be an analysis of the possible formation of a Jamaican NHRI and how that will address the concerns of the LGBT community, with a view to making useful recommendations concerning the establishment of this body within our legal framework.
The Government of Jamaica is in the process of establishing an NHRI, and we are imploring our allies and community to familiarize ourselves with information about its role and how it impacts on the LGBT community.
You may view the full paper here: NHRI Paper

Top Achievements: LGBT Rights in 2014

LGBT people in Jamaica continue to face discrimination in their daily lives – a fact that is discussed in the media both locally and internationally. However, in the midst of it all, there have been significant strides made in the race towards equality and it would be remiss of us to not highlight these achievements. See what made our Top Achievements List here: Final- JFLAG LGBT Progress (2014)

A Summary of the Policy Recommendations Developed by the Participants in J-FLAG’s Public Policy Training Programme for Women

As a requirement of our Public Policy Training Programme for Women, participants were required to develop four policy statements on select issues, namely: Beach Control, Access to Justice, Social Security, and Sexual Harassment. The summary of their recommendations is available here: Policy Recommendations on from programme participants on select key issues


A Report Preview of J-FLAG’s Public Policy Training Programme for Women

This report preview presents a snapshot of the Rights Now funded Public Policy Training Programme for Lesbians and Bisexual Women implemented my J-FLAG September 2014 to November 2014. It features key programmatic activities and highlights a few testimonials from the immediate beneficiaries of the programme. The full text of the report preview is available here: Report Preview – The LBT Public Policy Training Programme


J-FLAG Submission to the Joint Select Committee Reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and Related Acts

On Friday, September 12, 2014 J-FLAG made a written submission to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament Reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and Related Acts. Among other things, in our submission we asked the Parliament to expand the definition of sexual intercourse and apply gender neutral language throughout the Sexual Offences Act in keeping with our call for more equity and equality of the sexes. The full text of the submission is available here: J-FLAG Submission to the Joint Select Committee on the Review of the Sexual Offences Act

A Policy Brief on Homelessness

(re)Presenting and Redressing LGBT Homelessness in Jamaica: Towards a Multifaceted Approach to Addressing Anti-Gay Related Displacement

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 – JFLAG

Informational Booklet on LGBT Issues

This collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is a preliminary guide for engaging the broad range of complex social, political, religious, legal and scientific issues associated with human gender and sexuality. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the potential considerations when discussing issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The complete booklet is available here:  J-FLAG FAQs on Human Sexuality and Gender

The vocabulary and points of view contained herein are shaped by real-world experiences and with input from the LGBT community and allies, human rights experts, and HIV experts, among others. This  FAQ has been and is being constantly shaped by the evolution of ideas, including your own as the reader. It is very likely that some of what is demonstrated as ideal expressions or perspectives within this document may become politically incorrect and inappropriate in the future.

Please engage the material with an open mind, and a desire for greater understanding.

Reporting on LGBT Issues: A Guide for Jamaican Journalists

In an era when gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lives increasingly intersect with mainstream media coverage of family, faith, the economy, health care, politics, sports, entertainment and a myriad of other issues, we at J-FLAG are committed to providing timely and accurate resources for journalists. J-FLAG believes the best news coverage allows readers, viewers and listeners to form their own conclusions based on factual information, compelling stories and appropriate context. We ask that you help give them that opportunity in your coverage of LGBT issues. Read the complete guide here:  J-FLAG-Media-Guide-for-Jamaican-Journalists


A Note on Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to another person. It can be distinguished from other aspects of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behaviour).

Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional and affectional attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sometimes referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian(women only).

Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviours. The word homosexual is usually avoided because of its negative connotations relating to the way it has been used in the past.

Sexual orientation is a relatively recent notion in human rights law and practice and one of the controversial ones in politics. Prejudices, negative stereotypes and discrimination are deeply imbedded in our value system and patterns of behaviour. For many public officials and opinion-makers the expression of homophobic prejudice remains both legitimate and respectable – in a manner that would be unacceptable for any other minority.

The main principles guiding the rights approach on sexual orientation relate to equality and non-discrimination. Human rights advocates, lawyers and other activists seek to ensure social justice and guarantee the dignity of lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

Rights at Stake

Lesbians, gays and bisexuals do not claim any ‘special’ or ‘additional rights’ but the observance of the same rights as those of heterosexual persons.

Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are denied – either by law or practices – basic civil, political, social and economic rights. The following violations have been documented in all parts of the world:

Through special criminal provisions or practices on the basis of sexual orientation, in many countries lesbians, gays and bisexuals are denied equality in rights and before the law. Often laws maintain a higher age of consentfor same sex relations in comparison with opposite sex relations.

The right to non-discrimination and to be free from violence and harassment is usually denied by omitting sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws, constitutional provisions or their enforcement.

The right to life is violated in states where the death penalty is applicable for sodomy.

The right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is infringed upon by police practices, in investigations or in the case of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in detention.

Arbitrary arrest occurs in a number of countries with individuals suspected of having a homo/bisexual identity.

The freedom of movement is denied to bi-national couples by not recognizing their same sex relation.

The right to a fair trial is often affected by the prejudices of judges and other law enforcement officials.

The right to privacy is denied by the existence of ‘sodomy laws’ applicable to lesbians, gays and bisexuals, even if the relation is in private between consenting adults.

The rights to free expression and free association may either be denied explicitly by law, or lesbians, gays and bisexuals may not enjoy them because of the homophobic climate in which they live.

The practice of religion is usually restricted in the case of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, especially in the case of churches advocating against them.

The right to work is the most affected among the economic rights, many lesbians, gays and bisexuals being fired because of their sexual orientation or discriminated in employment policies and practices.

The rights to social security, assistance and benefits, and from here – the standard of living – are affected, for example when they have to disclose the identity of their spouse.

The right to physical and mental health is at conflict with discriminatory policies and practices, some physicians’ homophobia, the lack of adequate training for health care personnel regarding sexual orientation issues or the general assumption that patients are heterosexuals.

The right to form a family is denied by governments by not-recognizing same sex families and by denying the rights otherwise granted by the state to heterosexual families who have not sought legal recognition, but still enjoy several rights. Children can also be denied protection against separation from parents based of a parent’s sexual orientation. Lesbians, gay and bisexual couples and individuals are not allowed to adopt a child, even in the case of the child of their same sex partner.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual students may not enjoy the right to education because of an unsafe climate created by peers or educators in schools.

Source: Human Rights Education Association