Voices for Equality: Jamaica Pride 2016

By Shawn M. Gaylord

Pride season began in June, and over the past two months lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities in cities and nations across the world have celebrated diversity, equality, and inclusion. In metropolises like New York City and Berlin, tens of thousands participated in city-wide marches in honor of Pride, while in communities in nations where LGBT identity can make one a target of violence and discrimination, small groups have gathered privately to do the same. Now, as this year’s season of Pride draws to a close, it is Jamaica’s turn.

Jamaica’s Offences Against the Person Act of 1864, also known as the sodomy law, criminalizes all forms of intimacy between men, even in private. Although the law is rarely enforced, it provides the foundation for the marginalization of the entire LGBT community. LGBT Jamaicans face threats and violence as well as discrimination in access to education, employment, healthcare, and other services.

Jamaica’s LGBT community is striving to create a better, more inclusive future. Next week’s Pride celebrations will highlight numerous ways the community is combating homophobia.

When visiting Jamaica in 2015, Human Rights First saw that civil society groups are creating a roadmap towards equality. By combating the legal and institutional structures of homophobia, providing direct services to LGBT people, and spearheading public education campaigns, activists are pushing back against homophobia and the multiplicity of challenges to the human rights of members of the LGBT community. And they are not solely working with one another, but are also reaching out to government leaders and international partners to tackle stigma, provide sensitization training, and offer support to the most vulnerable LGBT Jamaicans.

In the end, their efforts are building towards an inclusive future in which all Jamaicans recognize that members of the LGBT community are an important part of Jamaican society.

On Monday, August 1 the week-long celebration of Jamaica Pride will begin with a series of events that capture the diversity and contributions of LGBT Jamaicans. Comprised of sporting events, entertainment, symposiums, community outreach, and a gala, the celebration is a chance for participants to proudly stand up for who they are—both as members of the LGBT community and as Jamaicans.

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Published on July 29, 2016

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