Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jamaican MP seeks to outlaw LGBT group

A Jamaican member of parliament's call to outlaw a Kingston-based LGBT organization proves yet again homophobia remains a global problem.

MP Ernest Smith, who represents St. Ann, told the Gleaner yesterday he feels the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays could inspire people to form pedophile, marijuana smokers and other so-called illegal organizations.

"They should be outlawed," Smith proclaimed to the newspaper. "How can you legitimise an organization that is formed for the purpose of committing criminal [offenses]?"

Smith further called for a life sentence for those committed of buggery [anal sex], but he sparked widespread outrage and even condemnation when he asserted gay men have "overrun" the Jamaican police force.

J-FLAG was quick to respond to Smith's proposal in an interview with the Gleaner. It cited a provision of the Jamaican Constitution it says allows it to operate.

"J-FLAG has been able to operate successfully under this provision in the legislation for the past 10 years," J-FLAG said. "J-FLAG agitates for legal and social change and we believe that there is always provision for any group to agitate for laws to be changed."

Any conversation over whether J-FLAG is a legitimate organization is simply ridiculous, but Smith's homophobic and arguably self-serving comments only confirm the country's notorious anti-LGBT reputation. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are among the organizations that have drawn attention to the rampant violence against LGBT Jamaicans. Bounty Killer, Buju Banton and other dance hall and reggae artists have also faced criticism from activists within the movement for LGBT rights over lyrics that appear to advocate the killing of gays and lesbians. And J-FLAG co-founder Brian Williamson's murder in 2004 and Lenford Harvey's death in 2005 sparked widespread outrage.

These numerous examples simply underscore the very real danger LGBT Jamaicans face in their homeland. It's arguably easy for a gay white man in Bushwick to opine against people in a country he has yet to visit, but the atrocities that continue to take place in Jamaica are simply unacceptable. And Smith's ridiculous call to outlaw J-FLAG is only the latest manifestation of an all too familiar reality under which LGBT Jamaicans continue to live.

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