Obama urged to address LGBT rights during Jamaica visit


Obama_urged_to_address_LGBT_rights_during_Jamaica_visitHuman Rights groups have urged President Obama to publicly raise concerns about the human rights of LGBT people during his trip to Jamaica this week.

Obama will travel to Jamaica to meet with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on Thursday ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

The call came in a letter signed by American and international human rights groups who highlighted “the pervasive climate of violence and discrimination” against Jamaica’s LGBT community.

“Your upcoming trip to Jamaica represents a concrete opportunity to highlight the US commitment to strengthening and supporting civil society and to demonstrate the United States’ prioritisation of human rights as part of its bilateral and multilateral relationships,” wrote Shawn Gaylord from Human Rights First, which spearheaded the campaign.

In a damning report last year, Human Rights Watch stated that “LGBT people in Jamaica face intolerable levels of violence” and are taunted, threatened, fired from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, beaten, stoned, raped, or killed.

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”. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has failed to live up to her 2011 promise of considering legal reforms on the issue.

“Women, girls, and LGBT persons are among the most disenfranchised within our society; I believe President Obama can impress upon us as a nation, the need to be an inclusive society for all by striving toward greater gender equality, the empowerment of women, the promotion of safe societies and full access to justice,” commented Quality of Citizenship Jamaica Executive Director Angeline Jackson.

J-FLAG, a Jamaican human rights group advocating for the rights of LGBT people, reported 231 instances of violence or discrimination against LGBT people between 2009 and 2012.

“Homophobia is rampant in Jamaica, and is often fuelled by the influence of American organisations and religious leaders. During his visit to our country, we hope that President Obama will meet with Jamaican LGBT activists to hear about the challenges we face and to publicly offer support for Jamaican civil society in the struggle for equality,” said J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis.

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