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Jamaican Activist Fears Reprisals, Ends Legal Challenge To Anti-Sodomy Law - VIDEO

Javed Jaghai

A gay rights activist has withdrawn a legal challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws after growing fears of violent backlashes, reports WTOP.com.

Last year, Javed Jaghai initiated a constitutional challenge to an 1864 law that bans sex between men.  He argued that the law fuels homophobia and violates a 2011 charter of human rights that guarantees a right to privacy.

Jaghai is the Education and Outreach Officer at the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (J-FLAG).

As it stands, the law bans anal sex and sets a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and hard labor. Anything interpreted as "gross indecency" between men is punishable with two years in prison.

When Jaghai initiated the legal challenge in 2013, several church pastors led crowded revival meetings to oppose overturning the anti-sodomy law.

However, Jaghai has issued a statement saying he is no longer in a position to continue pursuing the case because of fears of a backlash against his family.

Janet Burak of New York-based advocacy group AIDS-Free World said the fear that pushed Jaghai to end his court challenge is "the same fear that keeps gay men in Jamaica underground, away from effective HIV testing, prevention treatment, care and support interventions.”

Although Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller spoke in favor of gay rights in 2012 and has vowed to put the anti-sodomy law to a "conscience vote," there has as yet been no movement in that area.

Watch Jaghai discuss human rights in Jamaica, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage March In U.S. Virgin Islands Following Similar Rally in Jamaica

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The Jamaica Gleaner reports on an anti-gay march in St. Thomas in response to a proposed bill that would change the definition of marriage to mean a legal union between two people, regardless of gender.

VirginislandsReferring to a similar march against “the homosexual agenda” in Jamaica in June, Alger Warren, vice-chair of One Voice Virgin Islands (OVVI) and pastor of Faith Christian Fellowship Church Alive in Christ in the USVI, said:

"We applaud the people of Jamaica for coming out and taking a stand. We used the Jamaican march as a catalyst to encourage people to come out, because we said, 'Look, Jamaica got close to 25,000 people to come out in support of the traditional family against same-sex marriage.’ So we did reference the march in Jamaica and continue to reference it, so hopefully, that will inspire people to even come out for our march also."

Harriet Mercer, a member of the petition committee of OVVI, said that the march aimed to send a message to politicians that “like Jamaica, we too are against any kind of buggery being legalised."

Reacting to the news of the USVI march, the Reverend Dr Stevenson Samuels, chairman of Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation, the umbrella group responsible for the anti-gay march in Jamaica, said:

"We are extremely elated that other Caribbean countries are standing in support of what we are doing, and it really is just a testimony that there are countries with a large number of persons who have a concern for the well-being of their country. It is not just the US Virgin Islands. There are persons from other countries that have contacted us expressing their support and also their desire of doing something similar. We consider [the USVI] as our brothers in the fight, we consider them as people who really want the best for their country and we are in support of them."

[The Jamaica Gleaner article above mistakenly mentioned the number of attendees at the rally. The post has been updated]

[photo via Facebook]


Vice News' Beautiful, Unsettling Look At Jamaica's LGBT 'Gully Queens' - VIDEO

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While homosexuality is not technically illegal in Jamaica, British colonial anti-buggery laws punish sodomy with a 10-year prison sentences and hard labor. Living as an openly LGBT Jamaican risks police harassment, muggings, violent stabbings, burnings and even death.

In his 25-minute video report with Vice News, reporter Christo Geoghegan says:

“With cultural and religious conservatism rife, being out and proud isn’t exactly an option. While some believe Jamaica’s attitudes to homosexuality are slowly evolving, last year actually saw an increase in homophobic and transphobic violence with attacks often taking place in broad daylight and shared across social media.“

So as a way to protect themselves, homeless LGBT youth near the country’s capital of Kingston have taken to living in a storm drain called “The Gully." Vice News interviewed them and examined whether repealing the country’s buggery law will help reduce the anti-LGBT stigma these youth face on a daily basis.

A conservative evangelical group called the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society states that LGBT people want to repeal the law because “deviant behaviors are now to be considered normal and positive aspects of human sexuality.” Uganda’s Martin “Eat Da Poo Poo” Ssempa used similar rhetoric as a way to de-humanize LGBT people and foment physical revulsion and disgust against their sexual identities.

Rich queens in Jamaica — LGBT people with economic standing — can insulate themselves against the worst forms of homophobia unlike the “poor queens and the scary queens” who must hustle, sell snacks or do sex work to make money.

Local politicians blame the Gully queens and their parents for their own situation, stating that the queens rob people, aren’t fit for employment and never file police reports of violence. But the queens and other LGBT Jamaicans inherently distrust the cops and inactive politicians as complicit players in the country's anti-LGBT culture.

Earlier this year, Kingston-area police burned the Gully queens belongings and tried to run them out, stating that their presence "attracted criminals." But a judge ruled that the queens had every right to live there and so they returned.

Since then, the Gully queens have done their best to form comfortable lives within self-made families while protesting for their right to exist safely  amid an atmosphere of unending hatred and violence against them.

Watch the video AFTER THE JUMP…

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Bisexual Asylum Seeker Avoids Deportation To Jamaica - VIDEO

Oraisha edwards

Orashia Edwards, a bisexual Jamaican man who says he faces danger in his native country because of his sexuality, learned on Tuesday that he will not be deported from the U.K.

Homophobia remains a major issue in Jamaican society.

The case for a judicial review of Home Secretary Theresa May's decision was thrown out by a judge in Leeds.

In his written judgement, Judge Clive Heaton QC said that Edwards was being dishonest about his sexuality.

According to Pink News, Edwards has been living in the U.K. for four years along with the rest of his family. He has a one-year-old daughter. Mr Edwards has not been in Jamaica for 14 years.

Speaking to the BBC after the verdict, Edwards said:

"This is my home, I feel safe here, my family and friends are here. I can't go back to Jamaica."

In a press release, activist organization Leeds For Change, which has claimed Home Office decisions behind asylum are prejudiced against LGBT applicants, said it “won’t stop fighting for Orashia to stay here in Leeds with us, his family and the LGBT community. An application to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Orashia will be issued shortly.”

All claims of bias in asylum applications have been denied by the government.

Edwards learned Tuesday that he will now not be deported from the U.K. A spokesperson from the Home Office refused to comment on the change in its decision.

Edwards is today in court submitting new evidence.

Watch State Of Limbo, a short documentary about the Edwards case, and a follow-up interview prior to the hearing, AFTER THE JUMP...

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25,000 Jamaicans March In Opposition To The ‘Gay Agenda’ - VIDEO

Anti-gay march in jamaica

On June 28, when cities across the world were celebrating Pride, an estimated 25,000 Jamaicans took part in a rally in Kingston to stop the “gay agenda,” according to The Jamaica Observer.

Jamaica has a history of violence against it's LGBTI citizens.

A coalition of church groups organized the rally to address their opposition to “the homosexual agenda” and what they claim is a growing threat to fundamental rights and freedoms.

The umbrella group CAUSE (Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation) was set up following the removal of Professor Brendan Bain as Director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network at the University of the West Indies. Bain’s removal came after claims by gay and human rights activists that he had lost the confidence of the community that the programme was established to serve.

According to the Jamaica Observer, rally chairman Alvin Bailey said:

"We will do all that is righteous and godly to accomplish the cause. Our emancipation means standing up for strong families, our emancipation means standing against the homosexuality agenda, emancipation for us means standing up against the repealing of the buggery law.”

Writing anonymously on 76Crimes, a Canadian-based Jamaican activist said:

"I know that in Jamaica, as in other countries that have successfully addressed this issue, love will speak louder than hate. However, as I march in the streets of Toronto with my inclusive church community, I will sadly reflect on the needless pain that blind evangelical religious ideology has inflicted on my “One Love” island. I pray that the voices of tolerant religious leaders will be amplified in my beloved homeland. Until then, I march, and speak, for those who cannot, even though my doing so is often tinged with sadness."

Watch a Jamaican television report about a homophobic gang attack on a gay man last month, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Jamaican Court Allows Gay Youth To Continue Living In Sewers: VIDEO

Gay Jamaican Youth In Sewers

Jamaica has the distinction of being a country that is particularly hostile to gays, thanks in no small part to U.S. evangelical speakers attempts to sow hatred there. The fallout of the hostility includes GLBT youth being forced into the sewers, having nowhere else to go after being kicked out by families and suffering abuse in shelters.

On Ash Wednesday, police in New Kingston forcibly evicted a gay youth encampment from the sewers. An abandoned building they had previously settled in was torn down and a gully encampment was burned down on the pretext that the encampment "attracted criminals," so many of them resisted as they had nowhere else to go.

When taken to court, the judge fined them for swearing, but told the arresting officers that the sewers are a public space and the youth have a right to be there. Once released, the youth returned to living in the sewers.

You can watch a video report on the encampment AFTER THE JUMP...

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