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Jamaica’s oppressive and archaic anti-gay laws are costing the island nation $11billion per year

Lily Wakefield October 30, 2019
Jamaica's anti-gay laws costing $11billion per year

Supporters from Jamaica join the Caribbean Equality Project during WorldPride in New York. (Sean Drakes/Getty)

Archaic anti-gay laws in Jamaica and discrimination against LGBT+ people are costing the nation around $11billion per year, according to the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI).

CAPRI held an event on Tuesday, October 29, called “Paying for Prejudice”, at which it looked into the financial costs to the country as a result of anti-LGBT+ discrimination.

In Jamaica, anal sex is prohibited and punishable by life imprisonment for any individual, any sexual encounter between men is illegal, and there are no protections for LGBT+ people against discrimination.

According to The Gleaner, although a lack of LGBT+ visitors to the tourism-dependent country is causing financial losses, there are more serious ways that discrimination is affecting the economy.

LGBT+ people in Jamaica are three times more likely than non-LGBT+ people to suffer from mental health problems, which puts a huge strain on services.

Damien King, co-executive director of CAPRI, said at the event: “The incidence of mental health in the LGBT community is 69 per cent. It is more than triple the rate in the general population.

“Treating mental health costs Jamaica about $5 billion each year – only a third of which is public cost. The rest is a private cost.

“That $5 billion gives you a sense of what would be both the public and private savings that could be put to other uses if we were able to have a better attitude towards this marginalised group.”

According to CAPRI’s data, LGBT+ discrimination alone adds $175 million to the Jamaica’s annual mental health treatment costs.

Even more costly is treating HIV in Jamaica, and because of discrimination LGBT+ people struggle to access care and information, worsening the problem.

King added: “Each untreated case of HIV costs half a million dollars. It is estimated that each HIV-positive person is likely to pass it on to two other persons in the absence of treatment… When you add all that together, taking account of our estimate, an additional 7,000 persons become infected simply because of the discrimination.

“Multiplying all of that together, we end up with a cost of $3.5 billion for each cohort that is not treated.”

Unemployment also costs Jamaica, and LGBT+ people face huge struggles in finding work.

According to King: “Employers have said that they would not hire an openly gay person because they do not support that orientation.”

He added that they had surveyed employers, and 54 per cent said they would not hire a gay person. Moreover, 35 per cent said discovering that an employee was gay would be reason alone for dismissal.

Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, claimed on a visit to the UK last year: “I think we are generally very liberal, but more so, very tolerant.”

More: Discrimination, Employment, HIV, Jamaica, mental health, prejudice, Tourism

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