Jamaica the homophobia capital of the world? Not the Jamaica I know

Published: August 20, 2013

 Last month in Jamaica, a 16-year-old boy was beaten, stabbed, shot and run over by a car when he showed up at a party in women’s clothing for the first time. Before his death, Dwayne Jones had endured relentless taunting, at home and at school, for being effeminate. His father kicked him out of the house aged 14, and subsequently helped neighbours drive him out of the slum where he was raised.

The discrimination and violence Dwayne experienced is the norm in my country. Last year, Maurice Tomlinson fled his homeland after he was sent death threats after local media reports about his marriage to a man in Canada. These are only the cases that make the news. Small wonder that Jamaica once had the dishonour of being named the most homophobic place on Earth by Time magazine.
This is not the Jamaica I know. This is not the Jamaica in which I want to live. Nor is this the reality I will accept for my brothers and sisters throughout the country.
Earlier this month in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, governments attending the first meeting of the regional conference on population and development in Latin America and the Caribbean approved a path for achieving – and going beyond – the Cairo programme of action. The latter, agreed at the 1994 international conference on population and development, included steps to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights.
What do sexual and reproductive rights have to do with development? Everything. No sector of society is at greater risk of having these rights violated than socially marginalised and economically disenfranchised men, women and young people. Dwayne is one example among many. These abuses of individual human rights not only jeopardise the wellbeing of individuals affected, but also the world’s prospects for achieving sustainable development.
Recently, a nine year-old girl was raped and impregnated by her grandfather. Because of Jamaica’s strict abortion laws, she was forced to carry the child.
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