“Every dog have him day, every puss him twelve o’clock.” — Jamaican proverb.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Jamaica. Anal sex, described by statute as buggery is a criminal act that can attract a maximum sentence of 10 years. Case in point, some time ago, a Montegonian resident was arrested and charged by the police after he was caught in a romantic embrace kissing another man. When the matter was brought to court, the accused was freed as the presiding judge declared that there was no legal basis or precedent on which the accused could be convicted.
Jamaica being a Christian country sees many of its citizens using the Bible as their reference point in terms of expressing their abhorrence of buggery, which is condemned as an abnormal act deserving of death. Interestingly, the Bible also condemns fornication and adultery — both of which attract similar punishment but do not attract a similar level of violent rejection by modern-day Christians.
What is also conveniently ignored is that anal sex is practised among heterosexuals; meaning that men commit buggery on women. In the meantime, Jamaican law puts buggery in the same category as bestiality. It is common for donkeys, goats and cows to be singled out for such an act. Indeed, a female goat in Jamaica is oftentimes referred to as “dem boy gal”; thus the ram goat is the much preferred meat to be curried and eaten by many sceptical Jamaicans.
The Bain/UWI saga has opened up a can of worms, as it is felt by concerned churchgoers that the ‘Gay Agenda’ is becoming too much in their face. The introduction of seemingly provocative and unsuitable sex education material in a number of private children’s homes by a Jamaicans For Justice-led effort has added more fuel to the fire. And so, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Half-Way-Tree Jamaicans from all walks of life and various religious persuasions took off the gloves and came out punching, insisting that the buggery law should be kept as is, and that marriage should continue to be a union between a male and a female. The reported rape (buggering) of a male jogger by two alleged thugs also got the nation into a frenzy fuelled by the national media that have sought to over-sensationalise this issue.
There is nothing wrong with the Church taking such a stance. What would be wrong is if hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and violence are the weapons used by these followers of Christ to fight the Gay Agenda. To a large extent, some sections of the gay community had become too barefaced and so were seen as wanting to overpower the heterosexual community. But this gay issue is a far more complex one than is being imagined.
To begin with, Jamaica is not a homophobic society as has been posited over these many years based on the many violent deaths that have befallen gay men — some of them high-profile and well known individuals. A careful analysis of many of these murders will reveal that the majority of the victims were killed by someone close to them; either a lover or someone who is being used and then refused. Young men who have sex with men for money also can become very violent if they are “outed” by their seducers. There are also cases where promises are made and not kept in terms of financial rewards or expensive gifts. Then there is the tragic incidence in which an individual is infected with HIV on the ‘down low’ and ends up giving his girlfriend or wife. All these scenarios, and other such vexing situations, can lead to a bloody end and, indeed, crimes of passion.
In the meantime, we have to be careful as a nation that we do not take extremist positions. There has to be a middle ground to be found because, as renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell once said with respect to world peace, it is either co-existence or no existence.
Jamaica or the World is not going to wake up one morning and find no homosexuals around. Like the poor, they will always be with us. Which church choir does not have at least one gay soul singing his or her heart out praising the Lord alongside his/her straight brothers and sisters? So what is needed is to establish some ground rules based on appropriate education, tolerance, and a respect for citizens’ human rights as guaranteed in the Jamaican Constitution.
In this context, I am of the view that every generation and succeeding ones to come must deal with issues of sexual lifestyle and morality in a timely and rational manner. In this vein, I do not think that Jamaica, at this time, is ready to accept same-sex marriages. But I do believe that decriminalising buggery should not be seen in the narrow way as those who object to it are doing. In that the State ought not to interfere with what goes on in the private space of consenting adults. Is it that doors should be kicked down to catch persons in the act?
In the final analysis, we all need to take a deep breath and then debate this controversial matter in a way that does not make us descend into barbarism or, even worse, neo-fascism. Lest we forget, Hitler started to persecute homosexuals before turning on the Jews, who he sought to annihilate.
Finally, it ought to be posited that not all homosexuals seduce little boys in the same way that not all heterosexuals seduce little girls. Even more intriguing is that research has shown that not all gay men indulge in anal sex and not all gay men behave like a “bitch” or lesbians like a “butch”. And those who help to perpetuate this myth are indeed homophobic, no doubt unsure of their own sexuality. As Bob Marley has sung, for some who scream the most, we would be amazed if their night should turn to day.
George Weinberg, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Society and the healthy homosexual” (in which he coined the term homophobia), proposed that those who harbour prejudice against homosexuals, and not homosexuals themselves, are suffering from a psychological malady, an irrational state of mind. Weinberg, though supposedly heterosexual himself, became a leader in the ultimately successful struggle to have homosexuality removed as a diagnostic category from the DSM — the professional therapeutic handbook. Indeed, he has argued that genuinely straight men do not oftentimes react violently to homosexuals; it is those who suffer from sexual insecurity.
The bottom line is — no pun intended — that, while most Jamaicans from all indications are against same-sex marriage, a stance which should be respected and upheld by them is that it is imperative that the rights of minority groups, which include gays, should be respected and upheld as well. Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.
Lloyd B Smith is a mmember of Parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People’s National Party or the Government of Jamaica. Comments: [email protected]