Jamaica has been a long-running resort destination for world travelers eager to experience Caribbean culture, good food, world-influencing music, and beautiful sand and beaches. But behind the paradise lies another long-running Jamaican tradition—violent and socially acceptable homophobia. The cries are loud and clear: Gays (or "battymen") and lesbians are not welcome in Jamaican culture.
The world is most familiar (and outraged) by the anti-gay and violence promoting lyrics by popular artists Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Elephant Man and Sizzla, among others. Lucille Scott in her article Trouble in Paradise published in the September 2007 issue of Poz cites Isaiah Laing, CEO of Supreme Promotions, which organizes the island's largest dancehall concert where the aforementioned homophobic artist frequently perform as saying, "If the crowd isn't paying attention, the artist will say "I shot battyman,' and everyone will throw their hands in the air and shout."
The result of a society that neither prevents nor protects gays and lesbians (the Jamaican Constitution does not protect individuals against discrimination based on sexual identity) and a popular culture that promotes violence is an environment where gays live in fear. Gay men are often attacked in public and met with little assistance or compassion. One of the few places they can turn is J-FLAG(Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays), founded in December 1998 as the first human rights organization in the Jamaica's history to serve the needs of lesbians, gays and all-sexuals.
In addition to a massive undertaking to amend Jamaica's Constitution to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination clause, J-FLAG works to foster the acceptance and enrichment of the lives of same-gender-loving persons who have been, and continue to be, an integral part of society.
What else does JFLAG do?:
Some of the services J-FLAG provides for gay, lesbian and all-sexual Jamaicans include:
- Personal development and community building in the gay community;
- Counseling and referral services to gay people and their families;
- Consultations and collaborations with noted local and international figures and human rights/health/political interest groups. They are also in the process of working for constitutional and other legislative changes;
- Written submissions to the Joint Select Committee of the Houses of Parliament for the inclusion of "Sexual Orientation" as a basis on which the Constitution of Jamaica prohibits discrimination;
- Provided documentation for asylum cases based on sexual discrimination and violence in Canada, Great Britain and the United States;
- And, maintains a library and archive of resource for academic research.
How you can reach J-FLAG?:
Although J-FLAG provides services for all of Jamaica, they are located in the capital city of Kingston. Unfortunately, J-FLAG does not publish its exact address do the potential for violence and retaliation, but they can be reached by mail at Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica. They can also be reached at www.jflag.org or 876-978-8988.
How you can help gay, lesbian and all-sexual Jamaicans:
You can help provide a safer environment for LGA Jamaicans by contacting your local government representative and urging them to assist in asylum cases for persecuted Jamaicans. In January of 2004, J-FLAG began running without donor agency support, which increases their need for financial contributions and other donations.