Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foreign Ministry, Wash Post:
Gay Violence in Jamaica?

The Jamaican Foreign Ministry is the second ministry this week responding to my request for gay violence files, and like the Cabinet Office, has not found relevant records. From the letter this morning from Marion Edwards, ATI officer for this ministry:
I refer to your electronic mail of Tuesday, 20th October 2009, in which you have requested, under the Access To Information Act, records “that relate to or identify homicides, assaults or other violent acts committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons, or persons perceived to be such, in Jamaica’.

Having researched the relevant files, we regret to inform you that such records do not reside within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. However, I will refer your request to the Ministry of National Security which has primary responsibility for matters of this nature.

The contact person at the Ministry of National Security is:

Mrs. Claudette Macpherson,
Director, Documentation, Information and Access Services
[Address deleted.]

If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.
Why did I believe the ministry would possess records about mob attacks and murders against gay and transgender persons? To start, because the U.S. State Department's annual human rights survey always documents and reports on the reprehensible mistreatment of gay Jamaicans, and the ministry might want to pay attention to what State has to say, if only because the USA is a large aid donor.

How much aid are we giving? An answer from a 2006 report to Congress, which included details on the murders of gay leaders Brian Williamson and Steve Harvey, sheds light on this matter:
Over the years, Jamaica has received considerable amounts of U.S. foreign assistance. Over $500 million was provided in the 1990s, making Jamaica the second largest recipient of assistance in the Caribbean. From FY2000-FY2006, U.S. foreign assistance to Jamaica has averaged almost $23 million annually.
Silly me. I thought the Jamaican foreign ministry would have discussed what State said this year, maybe even responded if only because America provides a nice chunk of change, to some damning charges, including this:
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents.
Apparently, that was of no concern to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I'll let you know what the National Security response is when it arrives. I hope that ministry finds and releases documents relevant to my ATI request.

What other institution this week has nothing to say about the homo-hatred in Jamaica? The Washington Post and its travel section. On Sunday, the Post ran quite a glowing promotional travel piece on Jamaica that failed to in any way deal with the overwhelming and brutal violence on the island.

In her sunny-side up article, subtitled "Enough with the gates resorts," Post writer Andrea Sachs breezily mentions guarded fortresses for tourists, and omits any context for why they are needed. You know, little things like poverty-driven violence, oh, and targeted shootings and other deadly mayhem perpetrated against gays. From the Sunday Post:
The all-inclusive resorts where most Americans stay encourage guests to remain on the property, shielded behind the guarded gate. If you wish to leave, you sign up for a tour, a bubble-wrapped view of the country. Most interactions are with your poolside neighbors, some of whom may share your area code.

But this time, it was going to be different. No fortress-style resorts [...]
Just as with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I don't get the sense that the Post reporter and her editors are the least bit concerned with numerous State Department human rights reports detailing tremendous Jamaican violence against many citizens, especially gays and transgender individuals.

Hey, Washington Post editors and Andrea Sachs: Shed your bubble-wrap and notice the homo-hatred.

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