Jamaica’s general election is fast approaching and while there are many matters Jamaicans have to consider, LGBTI Jamaicans have an additional issue when deciding who is deserving of their vote. Many LGBTI Jamaicans experience verbal and physical attacks, limited access to justice, and indirect state-sponsored discrimination through the existence of the buggery law. For example, their limited access to justice is visible from the most mundane cases of fear of reporting violence to the police, unsolved attacks against LGBTI people, to the withdrawal of Javed Jaghai’s case in the Supreme Court challenging the buggery law because of threats of harm to himself and his family.
The economy, employment opportunities, the IMF, human rights and corruption are all things Jamaicans are concerned with. As a lesbian and a Jamaican, I am also concerned with the human rights situation for LGBTI people. All people want to be treated with respect and to be equal in the eyes of the law. As a lesbian, I want to be able to experience Jamaica without fear of discrimination, without fear of physical violence, without the threat of sexual violence, all because of my sexual orientation. Jamaica is my home and I should be free to have a full life here.
In the debates leading up to the 2012 General Elections, the then opposition leader Portia Simpson-Miller promised a review of the buggery law within her first 100 days in office. Election promises are nothing more than promises, as the PNP so aptly illustrated. This year in its manifesto the PNP has no mention of human rights while the JLP promises to “protect the rights and freedoms of the people of Jamaica”. It will be interesting to see what each party will offer with regards to human rights to Jamaicans generally and specifically to LGBTI Jamaicans. With just a few days left before the general election, LGBTI Jamaicans, our friends and family members are asking the candidates, what will they be doing for us?
Both political parties are working for the realisation of the Jamaica Vision 2030, however, this vision will be incomplete if all Jamaicans do not experience the same quality of citizenship. It is my firm belief that all Jamaicans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or other status, must be included and valued as equal citizens to be able to make Jamaica their place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.
Written by Angeline C. Jackson
February 22, 2016