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In the Newsroom

September 23, 2009
Violence and anti-gay attitudes tarnish Jamaican beauty

Violence and hatred lurk close to the social surface in Jamaica.

Producer Micah Fink of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting produced the Worldfocus signature story “Jamaica’s battle against AIDS fought in the shadows.” He reflects on Jamaican culture and the homophobia that has contributed to the country’s HIV/AIDS crisis.

Jamaica, to me, is a land of deep contradictions.

On one hand, it’s a lovely, lush tropical country, blessed with sandy beaches, fantastic flowering shrubs, ripe mango and coconut trees, and inhabited by a strong, proud people who clearly share a basic sense of personal dignity and a deep-seated hospitality towards strangers. I found this to be true regardless of whom I was speaking with, be they rich or poor, educated or illiterate, straight or gay.

At the same time, I also encountered an intensity of violence and hatred lurking close to the social surface that shocked me. I was amazed at how easily people expressed their disregard for the human rights of gay people. Or how the same individual could argue that most violence against gays is carried out by other homosexuals while also acknowledging how “understandable” it is that gay people would be beaten by a mob, perhaps even killed, if they “flaunt” their sexual identity in a public space.

I was also surprised by the homophobic venom expressed, openly and on-camera, by the political leaders we met. Perhaps it was to be expected from Representative Ernest Smith, an outspoken opponent of gay rights, but I felt side-swiped to hear similar views expressed by the Reverend Bishop Herro Blair, who is Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman and widely credited with reducing political violence in Jamaica’s inner cities. And I was stunned when their most inflammatory remarks were repeated by leading public health officials, teen-aged school children, and, sometimes, even by members of Jamaica’s gay community.

The ideology of homophobia is as deep as it is pernicious in Jamaica.

It is widely held that homosexuality is a mortal sin, which the Bible (and by extension God) has ruled should be punished by death. And if that wasn’t inflammatory enough, there is a wide-spread perception that gayness is transmitted by homosexual contact (gays are made, not born) and that gay men and women are out actively raping young Jamaican children to “recruit” them into a new generation of homosexuals. Many people also seem to believe in the existence of an “international gay lobby” that is conspiring to undermine and destroy the nation’s moral values and political sovereignty.

In the context of HIV and AIDS, of course, these attitudes are deadly. So it wasn’t surprising for me to meet a young gay man who rejected every safe sex message ever created. “It’s not AIDS that is killing us,” he told me. “If it were, I would use a condom. But it’s people, not AIDS, that is killing us. AIDS has nothing to do with it.”

Jamaica, it seems, needs to be reminded of another old biblical adage, expressed succinctly in Galatians: “You shall reap what you sow.”

– Micah Fink

  • Watch all the Worldfocus In the Shadows video signature series
  • Listen to Worldfocus Radio on LGBT politics and gay asylum
  • For more information on homophobia and HIV in Jamaica, visit The Glass Closet, a multimedia project produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

See more Worldfocus coverage on Homosexuality Around the World.

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[…] all sounds too divoon. Except that teeny part where they mostly hate the gays. They used to; maybe they’ve opened their hearts a bit down that way since I last got chased […]


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At a certain time they were killing people because they were Jewish in Poland, Russia, France…
At an other time they were killing black people in Alabama and South Africa…
At an other period they shipped African to Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica where they were used as beast of burder for the rich European…

Finally the world open their eyes and make and effort to bring justice to those persecuted black slaves, Jewish, and others…

Jamaican are living on an island and they do not realize that behaviour toward gays are changing drastically in other countries, Spain, U.K., Canada, Belgium, France…

Maybe one day economic sanctions could hit Jamaica for their non respect the U N Human Rights Agreement…

Some people are serving God, others are using God for their own benefits… Jamaican clergy, Jamaican politicians…


To deny the real cause of AIDS is to delay solutions to the grief it’s causing. Check out “Gays in Hell!” at


this is sad to hear…


To write this foolishness and believe in it is simply amazing. Your people are dying because of ignorance. Gay men are marrying women, in order to conceal their gay life style. This in turn leads to a greater number of infections for straight males, because they are sleeping with women who are unknowingly infecting them. Your explanation is nothing more than an excuse to ignore the fact that some 27,000 people in Jamaica are infected with AIDS. We are in 2009, not 1829. Wake up!!!


To write this foolishness and believe in it is simply amazing. Your people are dying because of ignorance. Gay men are marrying women, in order to conceal their gay life style. This in turn leads a greater number of infections for straight males, because they are sleeping with women who are unknowingly affecting them. Deal with aids, not with molestation first.


I am jamaican, it is common practice for those who cannot come out openly and proposition another male to molest young boys thus the stigma.After all younger children have no real grasp of sex . Molestation of children is a large problem in Jamaica on a whole whether boy or girl.Fathers molest their young girl child as well as family members and men of the community,same incidence in boys.Unfortunately Jamaica only abides by some of the commandments.
The molestation of boys will always go on but there would be a lower rate if gay men could openly proposition each other and they could stop living a lie.

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