While brutality against members of the LGBT community in Jamaica continues to escalate, the increasingly organized and vocal opponents of anti-gay dancehall artists are turning up the volume on a boycott of Jamaica.
In an open letter to Anne-Marie Bonner, Jamaican Consul General in Toronto, Stop Murder Music (Canada) and national gay rights group Egale outline their demands for a public service announcement “denouncing homophobic/transphobic violence in Jamaica” and a national homophobia/transphobia education campaign.
The letter was made public after a meeting with Bonner.
Egale is also demanding that Jamaica repeal its buggery law, include gay rights in its constitution and train police to deal sensitively “with victims of violence [who are] lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people.”
Failing that, Stop Murder Music and Egale say they will call for a boycott of tourism to Jamaica and of Jamaican goods and services, and ask that the nation be suspended from the Commonwealth for human rights abuses.
Letters have gone out to big-fish distributors HMV, iTunes and Montreal-based Archambault Musique to reconsider their lucrative participation in the “dissemination of material calling for violence and/or murder of members of the gay and lesbian community.”
According to SMMC founder Akim Larcher, now working with Egale, iTunes claims it is “working on something.”
Archambault hasn’t responded, and HMV (in a generic cut-and-paste dispatched by its VP of human resources) claims it ain’t in the censorship game “for product that is legally offered for sale in the Canadian marketplace.”
If there’s no further progress on the distribution end, Larcher says the next phase will entail a more concerted “media, political and legal strategy” to address the matter.
The Jamaican Consulate, which has repeatedly declined to comment on the issue, has been given until mid- May to respond to Egale, or else.
Rude boys, beware.
Doing a number on Jamaica
Number of Canadian tourists who visit Jamaica yearly
More than 100,000
Total value of imports from Jamaica
$267 million (20 per cent of Jamaica’s total exports, mostly bauxite and alumina)
Canadian investment holdings in Jamaica
Bank of Nova Scotia, AIC Funds Group, hotels and the Montego Bay international airport
Amount seasonal agricultural workers from Jamaica send home from Canada annually
More than $80 million
Size of the Jamaican diaspora in Canada
What a 2004 Human Rights Watch report says about homophobia in Jamaica:
• Violence against men who have sex with men, ranging from verbal harassment to beatings, armed attacks and murder, is pervasive.
• Gays are reluctant to appeal to the police for protection, as police routinely deny them assistance, fail to investigate complaints of homophobic violence and arrest or detain men whom they suspect of being gay.
• Jamaica’s sodomy laws, which criminalize consensual sex between adult men, are used to justify arbitrary arrest and sometimes torture.