Outrage as Jamaican MP asks why “violent” gays are allowed gun licences

Tony Grew February 13, 2009
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Gay equality activists in Jamaica have reacted with disgust at the latest homophobic outburst from one of the island’s politicians.

Earlier this week during a parliamentary debate on new sex offences legislation an MP made a series of bizarre statements about gay people.

“I am very concerned at the extent to which homosexual activities seem to have overtaken this country,” said South West St Ann MP Ernest Smith. 

“I am very concerned that homosexuals in Jamaica have become so brazen, they’ve formed themselves into organisations and are abusive, violent and something that the Ministry of National Security must look into is why is it that so many homosexuals are licensed firearm holders.

“There was a report recently which has never been challenged that our security forces, particularly the Jamaican Constabulary Force, have been overrun by homosexuals … there was a front page report in one of our daily newspapers, which has never been challenged.”

Mr Smith also called for a tightening of the anti-buggery law.

Under colonial-era laws homosexual acts are punishable with up to ten years in jail, usually with hard labour.

70% of Jamaicans do not believe that gay men and lesbians should be granted equal rights, a recent island-wide poll found.

The dancehall music scene in Jamaica is notorious for its homophobia, with many artists taking pleasure in calling for gays and lesbians to be murdered.

That widespread hatred is evident in the wider culture, with reports of gay men and lesbians being attacked by gangs and murdered.

International human rights organisations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world.

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) said it is outraged by Mr Smith’s comments.

“First, he has made a sweeping statement about thousands of Jamaicans about whom he knows very little,” the group said in a statement.

“This kind of stereotyping from a parliamentarian is inflammatory and highly irresponsible.

“We are concerned that in a climate characterised by extreme violence, Mr Smith’s statement could provide another justification for mindless mobs to attack gays and lesbians on suspicion that they contribute to the country’s high
level of crime and violence.

“J-FLAG is indeed proud that despite the bigotry and opposition it faces in Jamaica, its existence and legal operation for the past decade are possible due to constitutional provisions that protect the rights to free association and
to hold views different from those of the majority.

“J-FLAG denounces his statement as being not only an amazing display of backwardness and unmitigated bigotry but also as anti-democratic and sinister.

“We urge Mr Smith’s party as well as his fellow parliamentarians to examine his statement, acknowledge the danger it contains, and call him to account for what was populist but wanton and reckless behaviour in the nation’s parliament.”

Homophobia appears to be a vote-winner in Jamaica.

Last year a poll commissioned by the Jamaica Gleaner found 45% were more likely to vote for incumbent Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his Jamaica Labour Party after he told the BBC that he would never allow gays in his Cabinet.

26% of people who identified as supporters of the rival People’s National Party said they were more likely to vote for Golding after his outburst.

Just 5% said they were less likely to vote for him after his widely-reported comments.

Related topics: Americas

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