The other face of Jamaica

Lorenzo a human rights defender explained in Pakhuis de Zwijger how Jamaica is one of the most homophobic places on Earth and the impact of his work to defend the Jamaican LGBTI community. Lorenzo is participating the Shelter City programme for threatened human rights defenders.

This blog was originally written for and published at Shelter Cities official website. 

It’s hard to believe that Jamaica is one of the most homophobic countries on earth where LGBT people live under the worst conditions and are being treated as criminals by the society. But after attending the event The Dissident #6 in Amsterdam Pakhuis De Zwijger with the Jamaican LGBTI rights defender Lorenzo A. Lucas and three other involved people, it’s impossible to avoid this conclusion. Shelter City participant Lorenzo chose to take two Jamaican Dancehall songs as a starting point, as this music is the reflection of his society. The audience cheered up with the Jamaican rhythm, but as soon as he explained the essence of the lyrics, everyone was socked. A great number of these famous Jamaican songs refer to gays as an abomination of nature who deserve to be abused and to die.

Lorenzo explained how difficult it is for someone who is gay or transgender to survive in Jamaica. It is a very macho and strict society which permits human rights violations against this community. Since his coming out, he has been defending those who’s rights are being violated. Through his work he provides assistance to members of the LGBTI community who are in need, especially the homeless ones, and encourages the victims to report any crime committed against them. He has documented a wide range of crimes. “I know how difficult, cruel and dangerous it is for a gay to live in Jamaica. I have recorded thousands stories which have shocked and even made me cry. Through my work I try to secure the homeless LGBTI people who have been discriminated, like those who live in the Gully”. In Jamaica anyone who admits in public that he or she is gay or accepts and maintains relations with a gay person, is considered being LGBTI and treated as a criminal. In terms of justice neither the police nor the society has taken any measures in defense of LGBTI people. There were politicians who promised to review the issue, but after they were elected nothing changed. Some of Lorenzo’s main interventions have been the education of police officers and the conduct of particular workshops, in order to make more people aware of this issue. In spite of his efforts, the Jamaican culture seems not to change and the attacks against the LGBTI people still exist.

Testimonials

The high level of discrimination and human rights violations in Jamaica have puzzled lots of people. Researcher Rhon Reynolds interviewed many LGBTI people and local authorities for Human Rights Watch and presented the audience in Pakhuis de Zwijger the numerous crimes that have been committed against LGBTI individuals of which only few have been reported by the police or the local authorities. Gays and trans genders in Jamaica are so afraid of being identified as LGBTI, that they don’t dare to report any violations against them. According to his research, being a man with a man or a woman with a woman, is forbidden in the Jamaican society. Reynolds tried to explain the current conditions in Jamaica through a wide range of personal stories from the victims he met and interviewed. All the evidences he collected, illustrate that in Jamaica and in many African countries, no legislation exists in favor of LGBTI victims. In addition, lots of gays, lesbians and trans genders have lost their rights in healthcare, housing and employment because of identifying their sexuality.

Hostile environment

Via Skype Kendra Frith of the Jamaican Colour Pink Foundation explained to the audience the exact conditions in the Gully. The Gully is an area in Jamaica where many LGBTI people who can’t go anywhere else live under extremely harsh conditions. “They don’t actually live, they survive like rats. The image of the Gully can’t be described in words”. Finally Nikkia, a hairstyle and makeup artist from Jamaica, narrated about the huge contrast between the hostile environment against her in Jamaica and the free life she has now in The Netherlands.

The future

Lorenzo is a participant of the Shelter City program by Justice and Peace to get a three months rest from his tough life, but also for the opportunity to build his international network and to make Dutch people aware of what is happening in his country. He ended his speech by giving an image of the positive aspects of Jamaica, as a beautiful and lively land, that still has to make huge efforts in respecting human diversity and become more tolerant. Lorenzo stated that the biggest satisfaction for him is the fact that he has been accepted not for being an activist and defender of human rights, but for being himself respecting his own and the other’s needs.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s