Jamaican LGBT rights group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) is hoping to combat systemic homophobia in the country with a series of PSAs, the first of which, called “Unconditional Love,” was released last week.
The PSA, which is being broadcast on Jamaican television as well as on the Internet, was created as a collaborative project between J-FLAG, Jamaica AIDS Support For Life (JASL), the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and AFW.
Unconditional Love features former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe Christine Straw and her gay brother Matthew. Makers of the PSA hope to encourage fellow Jamaican’s to recognize LGBTs as their family, friends and neighbours, and also highlight the impact that homophobia has on the country’s LGBT population.
Widely regarded as one of the most homophobic places in the world, Jamaica criminalizes sex between men in several of its statutes, and punishes those convicted by up to 10 years in prison, though the full penalty is rarely enforced. Sex between women is not illegal as it is not mentioned in the country’s laws, however women may be prosecuted under gross indecency charges. Anti-gay hate speech and institutionalized bias is rife in Jamaica however, and anti-LGBT hate crimes are a frequent occurrence.
According to Dane Lewis, Executive Director at Jamaica’s only gay rights lobby, Jamaica Forum of Lesbians All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), “it is our hope that this inspiring public declaration of love will motivate other families and friends of LGBT to share their stories of acceptance and that those who are on a journey to acceptance will be moved to love LGBT persons in their lives unconditionally”
Dr. Pierre Somse of UNAIDS was insistent that Jamaica had to keep pace with the rest of the world and get rid of anything that might retard the gains made in reducing the spread of HIV over the years. “Homophobia is a major stumbling block to effective HIV interventions and unless we guarantee the human rights of homosexuals, all other populations are at risk,” Dr. Somse highlighted.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Yvonne McCalla Sobres of Families Against State Terrorism (FAST),”When the state ignores the harm and hurt being felt by any population, because of their difference this is tantamount to state terrorism. It cannot therefore be business as usual for us here in Jamaica.”
You can watch the PSA below:
Image taken from the public domain video, no infringement intended.