Monday, 24 August 2009

Jamaica, Homophobia, and Hackney

I thought readers might be interested to see this intriguing article, by Diane Abbott MP in the Jamaica Observer.

In particular, the following passage slightly surprised me:

In any case, it is not difficult to imagine how a campaign on the subject of gay rights by the High Commission would be received by the Jamaican populace. Parliament is on its summer recess at the moment. But when I next see the foreign office minister appearing concerned, I will suggest that he meets with Jamaica nationals here in Britain to get a more nuanced view of attitudes to gay men and women in Jamaica. This is a delicate issue on which public opinion in Jamaica and Britain take widely differing views. There definitely needs to be more dialogue.

Of course, no one could object to dialogue over such an issue - that is how progress is made. And, certainly, an aggressive and condescending campaign on LGBT rights from the British state would not go down well in Jamaica - for many understandable reasons. We have a long history of preaching at other countries, often the ones we formerly colonised and oppressed.

However - 'this is a delicate issue on which public opinion in Jamaica and Britain take widely differing views'. Indeed, it is an issue on which people everywhere take widely differing views - some people are homophobes, and others are not. As my friend Peter Tatchell has pointed out, we can't turn a blind eye to prejudice and discrimination anywhere - because it is still prejudice and discrimination. By all means, lets be smart, strategic and enter into much needed dialogue and discussion - but lets not avoid difficult truths because they might be uncomfortable. Homophobia is unacceptable, wherever it occurs.

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