Gays and Murder in JA

Under the pressure of gay rights advocates, corporate sponsors staging boycotts of live dancehall shows in Jamaica is the latest scoffle in dealing with homophobia on the Caribbean island.

From IPS:

Last month, title sponsor Red Stripe pulled its financing from the major live shows Sting and Sumfest, which it has sponsored for six and seven years respectively, in what it says is a response to the continued use of violent and anti-social lyrics during performances. The boycott stopped short of a total withdrawal of Red Stripe products from the events.

"We have noticed that there is a negative trend that has been creeping into some of the music...This is very damaging to our culture, the music and to our country as a whole," corporate relations director Maxine Whittingham told reporters.

Now some performers are portraying Red Stripe's action as an attack on dancehall reggae, dubbed "murder music" by gay rights activists for its explicit references to killing homosexuals. O'Neil Bryan, popularly known as Elephant Man, accuses Red Stripe of having a "hidden agenda"...

...On Oct. 1, 2004, a coalition of sponsors, including Red Stripe and the Jamaican subsidiaries of Cable and Wireless, Courts, Digicel, Pepsi Cola, and local rum maker Wray and Nephew Limited, declared their intention to cut ties with artists who ''promote violence of any form'' from their advertising campaigns. A week later, Sandals Resort International dropped the word ''heterosexual'' from its advertising.

Red Stripe's decision comes at the same time Canadian LGBT rights group Egale Canada announced last month that if the Jamaican government doesn't change its anti-gay legislation by May 17, it plans to launch a campaign to ban Jamaican goods in the international marketplace as well as a boycott of tourism.

Dealing with homophobia in Jamaican society has been a divisive issue between islanders, especially with the trigger-happy Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF), and gay rights advocates worldwide for years. This was most evident when Human Rights Watch published a report in 2004, documenting testimonies of alleged homophobic abuses. According to the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (JFLAG), there have been 30 homophobic murders between 1997 to 2004.

From May 2008 edition of The Internationalist:

...That the situation has not improved can be seen in a number of cases, including one in the town of Manville in 2007, when a mobe surrounded the funeral of a man suffering from HIV. The police once summoned, joined in the general derision. In February 2007 Kingston police ended up beating one of the victims of another attack. ..

However, the key problem here is that JFLAG doesn't even support the boycott. So, why is Egale Canada going ahead with the possibility of a protest, if Jamaican gays aren't even supporting it. Some would say that gays on the island are scared of the backlash that might come from such a campaign, but I think there is a bigger problem happening. I believe this "disconnect" is another example of Westerners not taking into consideration the feelings of the people they are trying to help, even if they have the best of intentions.

According to some of my gay Jamaican friends still living on the island, they feel like organizations like Egale Canada have not made any effort to reach out to the Jamaican LGBT community on how to go about dealing with homophobia collaboratively. This also seems similar to complaints by some LGBT African Americans who feel groups like the Human Rights Campaign try to represent their interests without consulting them first.

We'll see what happens on May 17.

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