Jamaica’s Violent Homophobia

Jamaica’s Violent Homophobia September 19, 2009

In reply to this brutal story about the murder of the honorary consul to the British High Commission in Jamaica which involved a note threatening the same fate for all other gays, “Sendai Anonymous” points me to a must-read article by the invaluable Johann Hari about the extent of the homophobia in Jamaica. Key excerpts:

Salute, a reggae concert in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. The country’s most celebrated reggae artists were present. Almost every song performed that night had a clear, consistent message: Kill gay people. “Shoot dem like a bird!” cried one artist to cheers. Another declared, “Battyman fi dead! [Gay men must die.] Take dem by surprise/ Get dem in the head.” During the show’s conclusion, the audience was asked, “Who wants to see dem dead? Put up your hand.” The crowd roared in agreement and countless hands waved in the air.

Hari describes at length some of these musicians who advance this homophobia, emphasizing the story of Beenie Man, a Jamaican superstar since childhood who has 62 No. 1 hits.  He gives the lyrics to one of Beenie Man’s songs:

One of Beenie Man’s most popular songs says, “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays.” He often uses the Jamaican slang term ‘chi chi’, which is similar to ‘faggot’ or ‘poof’. His song ‘Hang Up Dem’ says, “Hang chi chi gal [gay women] wid a long piece of rope.” In his popular hit, ‘Bad Man, Chi Chi Man’, he says that if his listeners see a gay DJ, they should, “run im off stage like a clown, kill dem DJ!”

Both songs are actually on YouTube now, go rate them down:

Beenie attributes his attitudes to his being from a “spiritual country.”

Hari goes on to list some of the atrocities against gays committed in Jamaica:

Snap. In February 2004, a father encouraged students to attack his 16 year-old son after he found a picture of a naked man in his rucksack. As his son was lynched in his school playground, the school was forced to call the police. No charges were ever brought; nobody was punished.

Flash. In June, a man was accused in the Jamaican town of Montego Bay of checking out another bloke. A mob surrounded him and began to punch and kick him, chanting, “Kill the battyman! Kill the battyman!” The police arrived after fifteen minutes. Once they heard that the victim was accused of being gay, they joined in the beating. After a while, they walked off, leaving the crowd to beat their victim to death.

Hospitals have often refused to treat victims of gay-bashing.

Members of the Jamaican Forum For Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) live in a constant state of terror. They can never appear in public, never reveal their names. Their office is in a secret location which they reveal to nobody. The one and only J_FLAG leader to go public is a heroic figure called Brian Williamson.

Williamson was born into a privileged family at the very top of Jamaica’s caste system. Although he studied to become a Catholic priest, he gave this up in 1979 to evangelise for a different cause: gay rights. He turned his home into a centre where gay people could meet in safety once a fortnight. He refused to remain in the closet, and spoke openly about his sexuality – something no Jamiacan had done since the nineteenth century. He bulldozed through the island’s homosexuality taboo – and decided in the early 1990s to do the unthinkable. He founded a gay club called Entourage. The club stayed open for two years, until Williamson was stabbed.

He left Jamaica for a few years, but returned to
intensify his solitary campaign for gay rights. On June 10th this year, his friend Desmond Chalmers visited Williamson’s small flat in New Kingston. He found a corpse that had been stabbed and hacked at over seventy times. Blood had splattered onto every wall; Williamson’s throat had been slashed open.  Brian’s small dog was whimpering in the corner. One letter-writer to the Jamaica Observer explained the day after the murder, “To be gay in Jamaica is to be

Hari calls for active solidarity with Jamaican gays:

Gay people in free countries have a choice.

(Hari’s wrong—we all have this choice, gay and straight and everyone in between.)

We can follow Tatchell and send a message to the battered, terrified gay population of Jamaica: we stand with you against the homo-cidal maniacs who say you should be burned like an old tire or shot like birds. When these thugs come to our countries, we will shun them. We will not offer them awards. We will not buy their music. We will not sing their songs.

Or we can do nothing. We can abandon Jamaica’s gay people and congratulate ourselves on how wonderfully non-racist we are. You decide.

1. Outrage! depends solely on public donations. You can give money at to help fund their campaigns against murder music and other forms of violent homophobia.
2. Boycott murder music. Janet jackson has performed a duet with Beenie Man. Outrage! calls on her millions of gay fans to stop buying her albums until she apologises for associating herself with murderous homophobes.
3. E-mail Puma explaining that you support their condemnation of Buju Banton, and you’ll be watching closely to ensure his homophobic comments stop. You can contact them at

There is much more detail in the problem in Hari’s article, so still go read it at his archive (and while you’re there read more of his important work on behalf of freethinkers, the impoverished, oppressed women, gays, and just about anyone else whose side people of conscience should be on).

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