BBC documentary highlights homophobia worldwide

Gemma Pritchard July 31, 2007
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This month the BBC World Service broadcast a documentary about homophobia in Jamaica and what it is like to come out in such an intolerant country.

In the first of two programmes in a new series entitled Coming Out, Clare English explored why some societies are more tolerant than others.

The first programme examined the struggle for acceptance in Jamaica and speaks to LGBT people about coming out on the island.

Jamaica is a notoriously homophobic country. There have been calls for a gay eradication day, mob violence towards homosexual people is tolerated by the police, and fear and ignorance prevail.

Gay rights are not on the agenda and are unlikely to be in the future. As a result, many homosexuals stay firmly in the closet.

Jamaica has a long history of homophobic crime and controversy surrounding gay rights.

In 2005 Jamaican AIDS activist Lenford ‘Steve’ Harvey was abducted and murdered by gunmen on the eve on Worlds Aids Day.

British pop star Elton John has openly criticised violence against gay men and women in Jamaica and said it showed how important it was for governments and laws to set a good example.

He told The Observer in 2005: “It is precisely because homosexuality is a criminal offence, punished with up to 10 years hard labour in Jamaica, that ordinary people feel it is OK to hate and exclude gay people. It does not take long for this hate to turn to violence.”

There are many examples of homophobia within Jamaican society, from the gay hate lyrics of dancehall stars to Christian ministers telling their congregations that homosexuality is ‘imported’ from the US and UK.

Coming Out looks at what happens when people choose to be honest about their sexuality under such hostile social circumstances.

UK residents can hear the BBC World Service documentary on Jamaica. Click here.

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