Tolerance Wins in Jamaican Election
Caribbean LGBT activists have welcomed the thorough defeat of the ruling party in Jamaica’s elections.
During the last weeks of the election campaign, the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) was accused of using homophobia, including nasty, misogynist and violent rhetoric. The electoral ombudsman, a Christian minister, was accused of taking sides, backing the JLP.
They were opposed by the People’s National Party (PNP) and now Jamaican Prime Minister-designate Portia Simpson-Miller. She had repeated her opposition to discrimination against LGBT during the campaign, which drove the JLP attacks.
“No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation,” Simpson-Miller said.
“Government should provide the protection and I think we should have a look at the buggery law and that members of parliament should be given an opportunity to vote with their conscience on consultation with their constituents.”
“What the win says is that you do not lose an election by being supportive of the rights and the humanity of gay people,” Robinson said.
“Similarly the JLP candidate, who was most outrageous (by) using homophobia as a campaign tool, lost his seat. So the other message is ‘bun batty man’ and beating the Bible on the backs of gay people will not win you elections.”
Robinson said it is a signal to politicians that the issue of nondiscrimination against gay people does not carry the political liability they think it carries.
“The only reason that the politician has now to oppose full equality concerning gay people is their own prejudice.”
Lynette Vassell, a member of the Women Resource and Outreach Centre in Jamaica, told the Express the strategy used by the JLP in their attempt to discredit Simpson-Miller backfired “because the issues on people’s minds were more concrete and practical.”
“I and a lot of right-thinking Jamaicans support the stance she took during the debate because what she is saying is that we need to open up a conversation around a matter that is very touchy in our context,” Vassell said.
An unprecedented legal challenge at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law was announced in October.
Photo: Activist Maurice Tomlinson at Stand against Homophobia, Emancipation Park, Kingston, 28 July, 2011. Picture by Maurice Tomlinson.