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Jamaica: Benjamin Zephaniah calls on Jamaicans everywhere to stand up against homophobia

Benjamin Zephaniah said:

"For many years Jamaica was associated with freedom fighters and liberators, so it hurts when I see that the home of my parents is now associated with the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation.

"I believe it is my duty to call upon all the progressive people of Jamaica, and those who have an interest in the political and cultural life of the country to take a stand against homophobia."

Brian Williamson was a founder member of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), and one of very few people prepared to speak openly about the need for greater tolerance of gay people in Jamaica.

He was brutally murdered on 9 June 2004, and no one has yet stood trial for his killing.

Gay men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Jamaica are often subject to serious violence, including beatings, rape and shootings, both in the community and at the hands of the police, on account of their sexuality.

J-FLAG is regularly subjected to verbal threats from members of the public.

Benjamin Zephaniah continued:

"Jamaica is a beautiful country. I consider it my second home, and when I consider how small this island is I feel proud of its accomplishments.

"Every Jamaican has the right to walk in her or his country without fear of persecution, the legal system and the citizens should understand that everyone has the right to live and be free.

"Jamaicans at home and abroad, let us raise Jamaica high once more, let us place Jamaica alongside those nations, large and small, who hold the banner of human rights high, and then we can shout our motto with pride; one love, one aim, one destiny."

Amnesty International members have been writing to the Jamaican Prime Minister asking him to take urgent steps to protect gay people from violence, and to repeal legislation which criminalises same sex relations.

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