Is Jamaica Homophobic?

Question: Why are homosexual acts illegal in Jamaica?

Bruce Golding: It is rooted in a number of things.  Firstly, we are a predominately a Christian country and a fervently Christian country.  It may not be reflected entirely in terms of how we live sometimes, but we are passionately committed to certain basic Christian principles, which [...] homosexuality.  But we have become quite tolerant.  We are tolerant provided that homosexual lifestyle does not invade our space.  And what do I mean by that?  Persons who wish, because of their own inclination, to live in a homosexual relationship, do so in Jamaica and there are many such persons in Jamaica.  The society in Jamaica in general do not want to be... do not want it to be flaunted.  They don’t want it to be sort of thrown into the face, because there are some real fears.  There are some real fears.  The basic unit of a society is a family, and there is a passionate concern in Jamaica about protecting the integrity of the family.  And it is felt that encouragement or recognition of the appropriateness of the homosexual lifestyle is going to undermine the effectiveness of that family unit and, in that process, undermine the basic fabric of a society. 

But I think much of what has been carried in the international media in terms of homophobia in Jamaica is grossly exaggerated. Homosexuals in Jamaica, they live and they enjoy their relationship.  They are intermingled with heterosexuals, they have normal relations with heterosexuals, but they do have their private relationships.  And so long is that is so, I don’t believe that the people in Jamaica are going to be particularly perturbed.

What is illegal in Jamaica is buggery, which is in fact making homosexual acts illegal.  There have been very, very few prosecutions; very, very few.  And in most instances, there are prosecutions because there is a complaint by a victim.  So that it’s not the flashpoint issue that many people in the international media claim that it is. 

Recorded on September 25, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

The country's fervent Christianity and respect for family is why "buggery" remains illegal in the country, says the prime minister. But "we are tolerant provided that homosexual lifestyle does not invade our space."

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