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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Open Contract on "Gays" in Jamaica

Jamaica’s gays socialize at underground nightclubs and worship at secret church services that move around the island. The leading gay rights organization, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, must lie low even as it pushes for societal change.The New York TimesA mob assaulted gays in Mandeville recently.
Gareth Henry, a former leader of the group, fled to Canada last month, saying he had grown tired of being threatened. “Here, I’m no longer living in fear,” he said in a telephone interview from Toronto. “I’m finally able to be myself, to be an out gay man.”The commander of the Mandeville police station, Inspector Claude Smith, while making clear that his religious beliefs firmly oppose homosexuality, rejected the notion that the police condone violence against gays. Enforcement of the law against homosexuality, he said, should be up to the police, not angry mobs.
In an interview, he recalled protecting a gay man who was chased through the streets of Mandeville about 15 years ago for wearing lipstick and carrying a purse. He predicted that the climate would not change for gays any time soon.
“Based on the response of these mobs, people get very angry when they come across them,” he said. “I don’t think they can survive in the open.”
The issue, though, is certainly out in the open. Last November, The Gleaner, the largest daily newspaper here, published an article saying that some of the island’s schools were using a home economics textbook that suggested same-sex unions were a type of family. Andrew Holness, the new education minister, swiftly pulled the book from circulation. “We are reviewing all our books to ensure that they adhere to the moral view of society,” he told reporters.Last April, the local news media reported that gays had protested outside the offices of the Western Mirror, a Montego Bay newspaper, after it published an article that said gays were responsible for a shortage of women’s underwear in the city.
Then there was the recent attack in Mandeville, which is still under investigation, with no arrests. Next to Andre, huddled in a corner during the attack, was his boyfriend, 22, who goes by the nickname Junior. Deep machete slashes run up and down the arm he held in the air to protect himself. His head was also battered, though he escaped a more vicious beating by running through the mob waving a kitchen knife.
Two other men at the dinner got away, but the fate of one guest remains unknown. He had fled into the yard before the attackers broke in and has not been heard from since. The police found blood at the mouth of a deep hole nearby; they suspect he may have been attacked in the yard, then fallen to his death.
Since the attack, Andre said, he has been trying to undo his gayness, following a common view here that it is an acquired behavior that can be dropped if only one prays more and pays more attention to the opposite sex.
He fled Mandeville after the attack and found refuge at the home of a pastor, who now delivers at-home sermons to him on how he must change.
With the pastor standing over him, Andre said he would try to be attracted to women, if only so he would never be beaten again. But he mentions another option, as well: leaving Jamaica.
The pastor says he has a son who is gay and has been unable to turn him around. But he is intent on converting Andre.
“Instead of cutting him, people should be counseling him,” said the pastor, who declined to be identified out of fear that his family might be attacked for protecting a gay man. “He needs to get over this demonic thing.”

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