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Jamaica: A culture of hate, a climate of fear

By |2017-05-02T09:00:00-04:00May 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|

Boom bye bye
Inna batty bwoy head
Rude bwoy no promote no batty man
Dem haffi dead
Boom bye bye
Inna batty bwoy head
Rude bwoy no promote no batty man
Dem haffi dead
-Buju Banton
Batty bwoy, like Chi Chi man, is a commonly used derogatory term that refers to a gay male; and the above lyric, by dancehall artist Buju Banton, prescribes a gunshot in the head for such a man. The lyrics are a far cry from the “one love” message that reggae sensation Bob Marley, perhaps the most popular Jamaican of all time, espoused during his lifetime. But the sentiment, death to gays, is a popular one in today’s Jamaican culture.
Marley was a Rastafarian. Many branches of this religion, such as the Bobo Shanti, embrace a literal interpretation of the Bible. Such an interpretation makes it possible for popular recording artists like Banton, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Sizzla and others to use their religious beliefs as a justification to call for violence against gays. Much like America’s rappers and hip hop stars, dancehall artists are often revered by Jamaican youngsters who are awed by these self-made men and impressed by their wealth.
Unlike the United States, whose 2003 Supreme Court decision overturned the remaining sodomy laws on the books in just over a dozen states, homosexual sex is still a high offense in Jamaica.
“The sodomy law is a Victorian relic of the British colonial penal code which has remained on our legal books even though it has since been repealed in Britain and many other countries which also inherited the same colonial penal code,” an anonymous employee of JFLAG, the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, told Amnesty International. “In Jamaica, you can get up to 10 years imprisonment if you are convicted of sodomy.”
Gays and lesbians can also be arrested for performing public displays of affection under Article 76 of the country’s Offenses against the Person Act. However, it’s far more likely that such an offense would be punished by anti-gay vigilantes who would face little to no repercussions for beating or even killing any gay man brave enough to display affection in public.
When you hear a Sodomite get raped…
But a fi wi fault
It’s wrong
Two women gonna hock up in bed
That’s two sodomites dat fi dead.
-Elephant Man
JFLAG takes many incident reports from gay and lesbian Jamaicans who witness such violence. Most of them are received anonymously, as gay Jamaicans are afraid to attach their name to anything that may connect them to a gay-rights cause. One such report recounts the story of gay man who was beaten by at least six men.
“The crowd stood around watching, chanting, ‘battyman, battyman, battyman,’ before gathering around him as he lay on the sidewalk,” the account reads. “The crowd beat, punched and kicked him. They threw water from the gutter and garbage on him, all the while shouting ‘battyman, battyman.’ Then they dragged him down the road for half a kilometer. They shouted, ‘battyman fi dead.’ As I stood across the street I realized there was nothing I could do to help him. Some mothers were actually in tears at what they were witnessing but there was nothing that they could do either. The crowd was saying, ‘Give him to us. Let us kill him. He’s a battyman.'”
As JFLAG becomes more visible, and as gays and lesbians in Jamaica attempt to advocate for their rights, the violence is actually increasing.
“The situation is getting worse,” said Gareth, a JFLAG co-chair who visited Detroit recently as part of a seven-city U.S. tour coordinated by Amnesty International. “The more we advocate for what is rightfully ours – our human rights – we are beaten on.”
Amnesty International encourages everyone to write to Jamaica’s prime minister calling on him to publicly state that violence and abuse against LGBT people will not be tolerated and urging him to call for debate on the repeal of legislation that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct. You can write to him at:
The Right Honorable P.J. Patterson
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Office of the Prime Minister
Jamaica House
;1 Devon Road
Kingston 6
JFLAG, Jamaica’s only gay rights organization, also accepts donations. They can be reached at or you can send donations to:
P.O. Box 1152<;br/>Kingston 8

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.