Jamaica’s prime minister rants at gay rights protesters


Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

In an extraordinary public rant, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has defended her government’s record on gay rights, despite the continued murder and criminalisation of LGBT people.

Simpson Miller’s speech at the 6th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in New York on Thursday last week was disrupted by LGBT rights activists

The furious head of state lashed out at the protesters, shouting, “Nobody never hears the Government of Jamaica beating up gays. Not one!”

“So, Let me tell you something; you want to disturb, you can disturb, but this woman come here with the blood of Nanny of the Maroons and the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, And this woman is not afraid of no man, nowhere, anywhere, and I will speak the truth everywhere,” she proclaimed.

According to The Gleaner, Simpson Miller insisted that she would not be bullied by those who tell “lies” about Jamaica’s treatment of gays. She also claimed that Jamaica respects the human rights of all its citizens, including gay people.

Her comments are in stark contrast to the reality faced by LGBT people in Jamaica, described by human rights groups as one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

In a damning report last year, Human Rights Watch stated that “LGBT people in Jamaica face intolerable levels of violence.”

It said that they are taunted, threatened, fired from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, or worse: beaten, stoned, raped, or killed.

Human Rights Watch found that police investigations are often inadequate or lacking altogether, in some cases due to homophobia within the police force, and that discriminatory laws contribute to the specific vulnerability of LGBT people.

Earlier this month, a video was posted online of what appears to be a young gay man being stoned to death by a mob in Jamaica. The horrific clip shows the youth lying on the ground as rocks are thrown at his bloody head.

According to Section 76 of the Jamaican Offences Against the Person Act of 1864, a maximum sentence of 10 years can be issued for committing the crime of “buggery”.

Simpson Miller has failed to live up to her promise of legal reforms on the issue. In 2011, before she took office, she said that she opposed discrimination against LGBT people and was willing to review the criminalisation of homosexuality, but she has still taken no action.

LGBT rights group, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), told The Gleaner on Tuesday that the prime minister and her government need to turn their words into action.

“More needs to be done to urgently demonstrate the fact that, as she presented, the Government doesn’t condone discrimination and violence towards the LGBT community,” said the Executive Director of J-FLAG, Dane Lewis.

“Beyond her nice, powerful words, we need some strong programmatic intervention. The policies and legal framework that will help to support some of the changes beyond the positive words that they have been able to offer. We need to ensure that there is greater protection for LGBT people,” he added.

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