Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Most Homophobic Place on Earth?

Time Magazine has a new article about Jamaica, pronouncing it among the most homophobic places on earth. For the longest time, I was a huge fan of reggae music, but artists like Buju Banton are getting away with writing songs advocating the murder of gay people. Reggae, once hailed as a music of freedom and liberation is turning into a music of violence and death, unless, of course, you're a nice "normal" heterosexual. Isn't it funny how an oppressed people can be so viciously hateful to those they don't like.

Quoting from the article:
Brian wears sunglasses to hide his gray and lifeless left eye—damaged, he says, by kicks and blows with a board from Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton. Brian, 44, is gay, and Banton, 32, is an avowed homophobe whose song Boom Bye-Bye decrees that gays "haffi dead" ("have to die"). In June 2004, Brian claims, Banton and some toughs burst into his house near Banton's Kingston recording studio and viciously beat him and five other men. After complaints from international human-rights groups, Banton was finally charged last fall, but in January a judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence. It was a bitter decision for Brian, who lost his landscaping business after the attack and is fearful of giving his last name. "I still go to church," he says as he sips a Red Stripe beer. "Every Sunday I ask why this happened to me."

Though familiar to Americans primarily as a laid-back beach destination, Jamaica is hardly idyllic. The country has the world's highest murder rate. And its rampant violence against gays and lesbians has prompted human-rights groups to confer another ugly distinction: the most homophobic place on earth.

In the past two years, two of the island's most prominent gay activists, Brian Williamson and Steve Harvey, have been murdered — and a crowd even celebrated over Williamson's mutilated body. Perhaps most disturbing, many anti-gay assaults have been acts of mob violence. In 2004, a teen was almost killed when his father learned his son was gay and invited a group to lynch the boy at his school. Months later, witnesses say, police egged on another mob that stabbed and stoned a gay man to death in Montego Bay. And this year a Kingston man, Nokia Cowan, drowned after a crowd shouting "batty boy" (a Jamaican epithet for homosexual) chased him off a pier. "Jamaica is the worst any of us has ever seen," says Rebecca Schleifer of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and author of a scathing report on the island's anti-gay hostility.


DuWayne Brayton said...

I am blown away by this. I have heard so many great things about Jamaicans from my old boss who visits there quite often. I am dismayed to learn just how bad the homophobia is there. I knew that it existed and was even a little worse than it is here but this is insane. I will be sending Dave, my old boss, this post. I have a feeling it will change his attitude about Jamaica considerably. I don't know that it will change the plans of he and his wife to retire there but it will certainly affect what they do when they are there.

Anonymous said...

Irony. My father is Jamaican. I lived there until I was 5. Grew up in Oklahoma, but never quite felt like I fit. Came out at 19. Got a girl. After 21 years of togetherness got a son. Last year I went back to Jamaica with my father, partner and son. This was the first time I'd been back since 1969. Had a wonderful time but spent the whole time being very careful as I was aware of exactly the issue you raise. I could FIT there. I recognize pieces of myself there that I don't recognize in the US. I'd love to spend more time there but can't for fear for the boy. I guess it's a good thing Seattle fits alot better than Oklahoma.

Steve Schalchlin said...

One of the most common aspects of patriarchal hate of homosexuals is that it's usually directed more at gay men than gay women, since they usually consider women to be less than "men." So, the news items have all been about gay males being targeted. I'd be curious to know if, in Jamaica, this new wave of hate is mostly male-directed or if they'd be just as violently opposed to gay women. I visited Jamaica a long time ago and found it to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. GREEN. So very green and lush.

Anonymous said...

I found this article and this that speaks to that issue.

Steve Schalchlin said...

Michele, thank you so much for the links to those articles. I had a feeling it might be something like that. This quote:

Lesbian Attacks Less Visible

Receiving less attention, however, is the particular impact this homophobic climate has on Jamaican women. Vigilante attacks most often target men, while the violence affecting women, including rapes and murders, usually occurs outside of the public eye.

tells it all. In extreme patriarchal societies, the violence against women (esp. gay women) is particularly virulent because it stays invisible. Thank you for bringing these articles to my attention.