Progress and Pride in Jamaica
By Charlotte Parker Gliserman
This week, LGBT people and allies will gather in Kingston, Jamaica for the third-annual LGBT Pride Festival. The festival provides an opportunity to celebrate the strides Jamaica has made this year and recognize groups, like Human Rights First's partner J-FLAG, that work tirelessly to promote LGBT rights in the region.
As shown in Human Rights First's 2015 report, LGBT Jamaicans live in a taxing climate, where widespread homophobia and transphobia have resulted in high rates of anti-LGBT discrimination and targeted violence. However, this month we have seen strong evidence of progress.
In late July the head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Bishop Howard Gregory, and President of the Jamaica Theological Seminary Reverend Dr. Garnett Roper both spoke out against Jamaica's colonial-era law criminalizing sodomy. In his statement, Gregory said, "What happens in privacy between consenting adults should be beyond the purview of the government." Support from influential religious figures like these will make a difference as activists attempt to overturn Jamaica's discriminatory “buggery law.”
Today, Sri Kulkarni, Counselor for Public Affairs to Jamaica, reaffirmed the U.S. Embassy's commitment to promoting the human rights of LGBT people, declaring, "We consider LGBT rights to be part of the overall push for equal rights and human rights, so treating LGBT people with respect, dignity and equality is going to be one of our priorities, no matter what." Kulkarni hopes to collaborate with the Jamaican government and NGOs to decrease rates of violence and the spread of HIV in Jamaica.
As more Jamaicans demonstrate their commitment to LGBT rights, more members of the LGBT community in Jamaica can openly live and love without fear. Human Rights First thanks the LGBT activists who make this progress possible and wish you all a happy Pride!