Saturday, November 23, 2013

NY City Council Letter to Jamaican PM: Protect LGBT People

(Credit: Collin Read, AP.)

As she campaigned in 2011 to become the prime minister of Jamaica for the second time, Portia Simpson-Miller, pictured, made pro-gay statements including that "no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation" and she has held the nation's top political spot since January 2012

(Courtesy photo.)

This past September, while in Manhattan for the United Nations' General Assembly, members of the LGBT Jamaica diaspora staged a loud protest outside the Ford Foundation's offices where she delivered a speech to the grantmakers inside.

On YouTube, YardieBoi2000 made this short vid of Simpson-Miller being heckled as she exited the foundation's headquarters, smiling and waving to the angry Jamaican gay protesters.

(Click to enlarge.)

I recently heard from my friend Jason Latty, a gay Jamaican emigre in the New York City area, about how he and colleagues in the Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand persuaded members of the New York City Council on November 12 to send a letter the prime minister, demanding action on behalf of gays. He shared the letter with me. Here's the full text:

We are writing to express deep concern with the rampant human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Jamaica.

Particularly gruesome was the July 22, 2013 murder of Dwayne Jones, a sixteen-year-old transgender youth, by a frenzied mob outside a party. Unfortunately, this crime is just one in a long line of killings that have taken the lives of youth, prominent activists, and foreigners in Jamaica.

New York City is home to a sizeable and growing community of LGBT Jamaicans who have had to flee their country to save their lives. All of them have harrowing stories of Jamaican society’s virulent homophobia and the government’s complicity in such persecution.

During the campaign, you made statements about addressing these human rights abuses. However, since you took office, the situation for LGBT Jamaicans has not markedly improved. The daily reality of discrimination, homelessness, domestic and street violence, mob attacks, and murder continues unabated.

The climate of hate, coupled with your seeming inaction, has not only tarnished Jamaica’s image but has also destroyed the lives of many LGBT Jamaicans.

We ask that you condemn the killing of Dwayne Jones and all other anti-LGBT murders, ensure the investigation and prosecution of all cases of homophobic and transphobic violence, work to repeal the discriminatory laws (Buggery Law) that effectively criminalize LGBT lives, and enshrine equal protection in the constitution.

A total of nine councilmembers signed the letter including four LGBT members; Daniel Dromm, Rosie Mendez, Jimmy Van Bremer and Christine Quinn; while five straight members added their names; Annabel Palma, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Landler, Mark Weprin and Margaret Chin.

There has been no response from Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to the New York City Council, nor has she taken any public steps to keep her 2011 campaign promises. Let's hope the letter generates press attention in Jamaica and action from the prime minister.

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