Human Rights First Welcomes President Obama’s Support for Jamaican Civil Society
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praised President Obama for highlighting the work of LGBT human rights activists during today’s youth leadership forum held at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. Following a letter issued by Human Rights First, signed by a broad-based group of 20 human rights organizations, that urged President Obama to raise concerns for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jamaicans during his visit, President Obama today participated in a town hall with young leaders including Quality of Citizenship Jamaica’s Angeline Jackson and J-FLAG’s Dane Lewis.
“We welcome President Obama’s continued leadership in promoting the human rights of LGBT people worldwide,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “Activists fighting for freedom look to the United States for support, and we thank the president for seizing this key opportunity to demonstrate the importance of protecting civil society in addressing human rights challenges.”
“By taking the time to participate in today’s youth leadership forum, President Obama has sent a clear message of support for the protection of the rights of all Jamaicans,” said Quality of Citizenship Jamaica Executive Director Angeline Jackson, who was recognized by President Obama during the event for her work to advocate for equality.
The criminalization of homosexuality in Jamaica dates back to the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act, which calls for a punishment of up to 10 years of hard labor for those convicted of the “abominable crime of buggery.” LGBT people in Jamaica often live in a climate of fear of violence, including threats, sexual attacks, and other physical violence. Activists also report widespread discrimination against the LGBT community in access to services, including housing, employment, and healthcare. Access to healthcare is of particular concern, and activists report that members of the LGBT community are fearful of seeking treatment, including for HIV, given experiences of mistreatment or discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to partner with activists who are working to fight ongoing discrimination and violence against LGBT people in the Caribbean.
For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.