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May 19, 2014

Human Rights First's New Campaign Will Focus on Equality for Jamaica

On Saturday, the world celebrated International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), an annual commemoration of the decision made by the World Health Organization to remove homosexuality from its list of officially recognized mental illnesses. In honor of IDAHO, Human Rights First is proud to announce a new campaign in the battle against homophobia and discrimination in Jamaica.

In 1864 under British colonial rule, homosexual acts were made illegal in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica, under Article 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act. This law remains in place 150 years later, prescribing a maximum of ten years imprisonment for those convicted.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), documented 231 reports of discrimination and violence based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation in the country. And the actual figure is likely much higher. Such bias-motivated violence has literally forced segments of the embattled community underground; LGBT teens have taken to sewers to avoid widespread attacks.

LGBT Jamaicans face discrimination daily. They are often denied access to basic rights and services, resulting in alarming rates of homelessness and HIV. Polls report that over 80% of men and women in Jamaica deem homosexuality immoral, and most agree that the LGBT community should not maintain the same protections under the law as the rest of society. More than half of all business owners indicate that they would never hire an LGBT person.

Organizations such as Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ) are doing their best to turn the tide against widespread homophobia. Located in Kingston, QCJ protects the rights of lesbians, bisexual women and trans people throughout Jamaica. These organizations need support from the international community in order to reverse the tide of discrimination in Jamaica.

On Wednesday, Executive Director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica Angeline Jackson will join Congressman David Cicilline (RI-1) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) at a reception hosted by Human Rights First to discuss the challenges to human rights facing Jamaica’s LGBT community and how the United States can promote respect for the human rights of all Jamaican citizens. For more information, click here.