Jamaica has a bad reputation for anti-gay prejudice. This small island in the Caribbean has become notorious not only for its anti-gay laws, political rhetoric and murders, but also for its broad societal acceptance of severe sexual prejudice and openly hostile music.

Most people remember dancehall star Buju Banton, who hit the scene when he was 15 with the hugely popular Boom Bye Bye. The lyrics go: “It’s like boom bye bye / Inna batty boy head / Rude boy nah promote no nasty man / Dem haffi dead.” Hard to decipher for someone not familiar with Jamaican patois, but Buju is essentially describing shooting a gay man in the head – he doesn’t want to “promote no nasty man”.

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In the decades after, hosts of other dancehall artists took up the banner, such as the group T.O.K. who proclaimed that “chi-chi [gay] man fi dead and that’s a fact”.

Jamaica is not alone; sexual prejudice is all over the news at the moment – from the Sultan of Brunei’s introduction of Sharia law, to the anti-gay bill in Uganda. And it’s worth remembering that in the UK gay people only acquired equal marriage rights earlier this year. But Jamaica has the double problem of being described as “the most homophobic place on earth”, but also being one of those places where little or no research is done to explain these anti-gay sentiments.

This is why, in collaboration with Dr Noel Cowell from the University of the West Indies, I decided to conduct the largest piece of research of its kind to date, using data collected by Professor Ian Boxhill.

By interviewing about 2,000 people across 40 communities in Jamaica, we looked at the predictors of anti-gay bias and measured them.

Our results confirm the suspicion that Jamaicans, in general, hold very strong prejudices against gays and lesbians. This was true whether we referred to attitudes, perceptions of gay rights, or prejudiced behaviour. But why? This question isn’t easily answered. However, thanks to this research, we can now point to some important variables.


As in other countries, wealth, education and (younger) age were associated with less anti-gay prejudice. Religiosity, which is often the reason offered by anti-gay lobbyists, also predicted more anti-gay bias. However, it was neither the strongest nor the most reliable predictor. When all the factors were taken into account simultaneously, the two that were most reliable were a preference for dancehall music, and gender.

There has been much debate about dancehall in Jamaica. Internationally, many people view artists like Banton, Vybz Kartel and Beenie Man as inciting sexuality-based violence, while others defend these “calls to action” as being much more metaphorical – a litmus test of what is and isn’t acceptable in Jamaican society.

This research provides the first empirical evidence that these songs may be harmful, leading to more negative attitudes and anti-social behaviour. We need more research looking at the consequences of anti-gay dancehall, and policy on what we should do about it.

We also found that male gender was an important predictor, trumping education, age and even religion. This raises important questions about what it means to be a man in Jamaica. What it is about those perceptions of masculinity that finds the existence of gays so unbearable? Is it that Jamaican masculinity has become overly focused on toughness and anti-femininity, at the expense of socially beneficial constructs such as responsibility? Interventions aimed at reshaping gender norms in Jamaica may be useful in reducing negativity towards those seen as “deviant”.


Research like this is essential to understanding why that is, and how to change it. We Jamaicans are, for the most part, open and accepting people. Although in Jamaica sexual boundaries are rigidly and violently monitored, we integrate readily and easily with different ethnicities, political views and national boundaries. More than our European and American counterparts, we tend to see a boundary as permeable, which encourages a general atmosphere of inclusivity.

The good news is that work is finally being done in Jamaica, by Jamaicans, to tackle this aggressive policing of heterosexuality. And this is integral for change to happen; more than we need western intervention, we need Jamaicans who are ready to take the initiative.

This is a long road, and many would say that we are moving too slowly; but at least it is now an inescapable fact that we are moving. Perhaps we will soon be saying boom bye bye to anti-gay prejudice in Jamaica. I hope so.


  1. Jamaica is not bad at all. Gay ppl go about their business everyday and no one bothers them. Whenever something happens to a gay person its 99% by another gay man. Trinidad has immigration laws to not let known homosexuals or prostitutes into their country. Some years ago elton john had to get special clearance from the government just to perform in trinidad. Jamaica is not bad

  2. Jamaica is not homophobic anymore because homosexuals go about as they like and prostitute as they like. Not to mention robbing and killing as they like. If the country was still homophobic then none of these would be happening.

  3. Jamaica being a homophobic country is a myth…. Open your eyes, there are lesbians and bisexual women all over the place in Jamaica. When you go to strip clubs you see more women there than men and what do you think those women’s sexuality is? Straight? Give me a break… The girls that dress like boys are everywhere in Jamaican society and I’ve yet to see one get harassed for being a butch. The men all seem like they’re encouraging the girls to be lean as well. Rich gay men in Jamaica are known and tolerated, the only gay men who might get harassed in Jamaica are poor ones with low social status. I’ve seen poor ones with high social status be popular and unmaligned. Jamaica people are way too shallow to just ostracize someone for what they do in their bedroom.

  4. I think this research is to just point fingers on individuals, ntn in this report points to the orgin of why ppl do not believe or supports gay behaivor. Where in this have they looked into Jamaica’s main religious beliefs and practices? Jamaicas main beliefs is Christianity and we all know what the bible says even tho I find it hypocritical that they exercise some of the ten commandments but ignore the rest. Then they have Rastafarism come on rasta n gay naah no way and I’m talking about the true rasta now. So I think that’s what they shld focus on instead of what a DJ sings about and no I’m not saying that they shld promote killing or any violence either.

    1. This far from research. This is some bullshit jfag agenda, written by a Jamaican with citizenship abroad.

      If anyone want to find the root cause of Jamaica not accepting homos they should look towards the European church doctrine instilled in US from slavery days, not to forget the use of homo acts upon our males in order to demean and break them into plantation way of life.

  5. Bwoy dem luv target poor Jamaica all when dem go das di batty demon dung deh dem still a blame Jamaicans

  6. What a bunch of garbage I am against homosexuality because its a unnatural act the ass was made to past out waste matter it was not made for a penis, when a woman is horny she get wet a man batty cannot get wet so bun batty man.

  7. What you mean by batty man batty don’t get wet? Their battam is always leaking bile mixed with shit

    1. Like your cum catchment father and stay at home lesbo mother?

      Go hold a proper SYM this god given day.

  8. But so much lesbian act in all jamaican celebration??? when one girl whining on a next girl…everyone think it’s normal but all i see is homosexuality.

  9. This is one of the most eloquently written cow processed grass. As someone who was once in the research field this is pseudo science and should be brushed aside for what it is. For a country with 3 mil ppl a sample size of 2000 nuh all that plus no word on the methodology, no figure on the ratio man to woman whether is 50/50 or wah. Not even a mention of the research it self so ppl can go look pon it themself. Probably know ppl would tear it apart for what it truly is Propaganda!! How can u draw that conclusion when the lifestyle is gaining prominence and acceptance among those, one would consider the most vile? Many of biggest anti-gay voices come from the closeted gays and bisexuals. The issue now is not about getting society to accept it, it is for these said ppl mentioned above to accept their sexuality and stop hiding behind heterosexuals and drawing fire upon them.

    But let me ask this, bcuz this is nothing more than propaganda aka “public relations”. What does it mean to accept? Does it mean that I “have to” teach my child about it? Do I “have to” accept a man looking me even after I have made it clear Im not gay or interested? Do I “have to” tolerate being bombarded by gay images, ideologies and pseudo science? As a Jamaican, I have no issue with a man choice but when his choice is being thrown in my face and my rejection is seen as malicious and anti-gay, there must be a point where a line is drawn.

    If the gay community wants acceptance, start by weeding out the predators and victims out of the lifestyle. Yes, that is where you start bcuz in my experience only a few ppl are really gay i.e. they really and truly attracted to the opposite sex in a natural and mature sense. The rest are gay for pay, predators/pedophiles and the victims of these ppl. I especially want the focus on the victims, who because of the trauma and stigma, which is pushed by the predators too e.g. so wah u ago tell the police? man f u? U want everybody know u funny? These victims many times just give up and accept the lifestyle believing they are at fault and they are gay because they were abused by someone.

    The violence against gays 90% of the time is perpetrated by gays. Gone are the days when a gay would get abused just from the rumor of being gay. Yes you have isolated cases still but they are just that, isolated. Harming a gay in Jamaica right now is sure to land u in jail and/or get you fired. I have seen this first hand, gay walks in clerk face mek up, gay never like it and next morning clerk get fired. So who is really under pressure? Right now as a heterosexual I feel under threat. Hetereophobia is becoming rampant. Who will champion my cause with pseudo science and propaganda

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