Jamaican LGBTIs celebrate 1st Montego Bay Pride

Montego Bay Pride (Pic: Maurice Tomlinson/76 Crimes)

Montego Bay Pride (Pic: Maurice Tomlinson/76 Crimes)

In what appears to reflect growing tolerance towards the LGBTI community in Jamaica, the first Montego Bay Pride took place without incident last weekend.

The event follows the recent first ever Pride event in the island-nation, which was successfully held in the capital Kingston in August.

Writing for Erasing 76 Crimes, activist Maurice Tomlinson described the Montego Bay celebration as “an unqualified success!”

Around 100 LGBTI people and several straight allies took part in the Pride which proceeded in a “safe, fun and incident-free environment”, he said.

In an indication that the fear of homophobia remains a reality in Jamaica, a number of participants chose to wear rainbow masks “to freely and safely enjoy the day without fear of unintended exposure.”

The event featured the raising of the rainbow and Jamaican flags, speeches by activists, dancing and entertainment. Tomlinson reported that a 10-minute “stand for equality” flash mob was allowed to be held in front of the Summit Police Station.

A similar demonstration in front of the “Welcome to Montego Bay” sign at the airport was, however, broken up by police after a passing politician complained.

“Most Pride patrons agreed that we must — and will — be hosting another Pride event in Montego Bay in 2016,” wrote Tomlinson. “Truly, Pride is here to stay in the bay.”

Jamaica has a long-standing reputation as one of the world most homophobic countries. 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”.

The country has seen a number of horror mob attacks on LGBT people in recent years. In a damning 2014 report, Human Rights Watch found 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.

In 2011, before she took office, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said that she opposed discrimination against LGBT people and indicated a willingness to review the country’s criminalisation of homosexuality, but has since taken no action.

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