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Jamaica: Gay activist’s case against three TV stations begins

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson hopes a panel of Supreme Court judges decides that three Jamaican TV stations' refusal to air a queer-friendly ad "constitutes constructive rejection and a violation of his Charter rights."

According to an AIDS-Free World press release, the case, set to run until May 31, is deemed to be the first constitutional challenge to address systemic homophobia in Jamaica and has implications for citizens’ rights regarding freedom of expression and media access.

The 30-second spot in question features a woman who tells her nephew (played by Tomlinson) that she doesn't understand why he is gay, but she loves and respects him nonetheless.  

The ad was sent to TVJ and CVM in March last year and to PBCJ in October, but none of the stations aired the spot, despite a Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica finding that the content did not flout any regulations, the release states.  

“We want to see an end to the negative and debilitating stereotypes that drive gay Jamaicans underground,” says Tomlinson, a legal advisor to AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization. “Homophobia drives LGBT people away from HIV prevention, care and services,” he says, and is one of the "key reasons why nearly one-third of all Jamaican men who have sex with men are now infected with HIV." 

“The result of this intolerance is that gay men, lesbians and trans people are subjected to violence, especially sexual violence, are forced to engage in risky behaviour, and are often compelled to take part in heterosexual relationships to cover or mask their homosexuality," he adds. "By getting rid of stigma and discrimination, LGBT people will be able to protect themselves, their partners and the wider society.”

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