“Homophobia must be eliminated [in Jamaica] immediately” was the rallying cry of Pamela E Bridgewater, the United States Ambassador to Jamaica. “The US Mission joins all partners in the fight against homophobia [because] as President Obama says, no one should be hated because of who they love,” she stated.
The US Ambassador was addressing a packed audience at the launch of ‘Unconditional Love’, a new public service announcement (PSA) featuring Christine Straw, former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe, and her brother Matthew Straw on July 28, 2011. Heading the list of endorsees were Hilary Nicholson from Women’s Media Watch, Helin Jenkinson, First Counsellor at the European Union, Dr. Pierre Somse, UNAIDS Representative in Jamaica, Rob Fuderich, UNICEF Representative, Yvonne Sobres, Convenor of Family Against State Terrorism and a number of other human rights and HIV activists.
Unconditional Love tells a heart warming story of Christine Straw who declares her unending love for Matthew, her brother who is gay, while calling on Jamaicans to love their family members and friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). “As Jamaicans we have to stop this stupidity of alienating our [people] because of their homosexual orientation,” stated Straw. “They are our brothers and our sisters and we must love them, no matter what [..] because they need support and encouragement,” she said.
In detailing the impact of homophobia in Jamaica, Maurice Tomlinson, Legal Adviser at AIDS-Free World (AFW) said his organisation was proud to support this collaborative venture which calls on all Jamaicans to live up to their world renowned culture of One Love. He stressed that members of the LGBT community must also strive to understand the source of the lack of knowledge of persons who stigmatize and violate their rights and hurt them. “The empowerment of these individuals is crucial for the breaking down of walls which prevent persons from seeing the true value of the contribution LGBT Jamaicans make to the society” Tomlinson said.
According to Dane Lewis, Executive Director at Jamaica’s only gay rights lobby, Jamaica Forum of Lesbians All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), “it is our hope that this inspiring public declaration of love will motivate other families and friends of LGBT to share their stories of acceptance and that those who are on a journey to acceptance will be moved to love LGBT persons in their lives unconditionally.”
Dr. Pierre Somse of UNAIDS was insistent that Jamaica had to keep pace with the rest of the world and get rid of anything that might retard the gains made in reducing the spread of HIV over the years. “Homophobia is a major stumbling block to effective HIV interventions and unless we guarantee the human rights of homosexuals, all other populations are at risk,” Dr. Somse highlighted.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Yvonne McCalla Sobres of Families Against State Terrorism (FAST), “When the state ignores the harm and hurt being felt by any population, because of their difference this is tantamount to state terrorism. It cannot therefore be business as usual for us here in Jamaica”
Unconditional Love , is another collaborative initiative of J-FLAG, Jamaica AIDS Support For Life (JASL), the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and AFW aimed at promoting the human rights of persons who are members of the LGBT community by encouraging Jamaicans to be unreserved about who they love’. The PSA will hit TV screens and the internet immediately.
Link to PSA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhH6UhfEI-E
For interviews contact:
Pierre Somse UNAIDS 960-6536-8 (office) or 919-8537 (cell)
Ian McKnight CVC 631-7299 (office) or 474-8847 (cell)
Kandasi Levermore JASL 978-2345 (office) or 875-2737 (cell)
Dane Lewis J-FLAG 978 8988 (office) or 875-2328 (cell)
Maurice Tomlinson AFW 784-0908 (cell)
Press Office at the US Embassy KingstonPress@state.gov