Political geography
2 min

Will Portia walk her pro-gay talk?

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Jamaica's new prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, recently got tongues a-wagging with her unequivocal verbal support for gay citizens.

It would be a more-than-bold move to make without an election on the line, but Simpson-Miller made her gays-can-serve-in-my-cabinet declaration, among other pro-gay noises, in a televised election debate, just over a week before her country headed to the polls.

Granted, most Jamaicans were probably more irked about the economy and domestic security issues. Still, talk of gays and gay sex riles, but apparently not enough to derail the bid of Simpson-Miller's People's National Party (PNP) to reclaim power – by a landslide 41 out of 63 available seats on Dec 29. And despite the opposing Jamaica Labour Party's ratcheting up of its homophobic rants, accompanied by homophobic lyrics, from election soapboxes.

Noteworthy, too, was The Jamaica Gleaner's Christmas Day editorial take — four days before the election — on what it called the JLP's "vulgar fire bun rhetoric" in the wake of Simpson-Miller's gay-friendly overtures.

Unfortunate that the editorial writer felt it necessary to suggest that the JLP's campaign went "beyond making a coherent philosophical or even religious fundamentalist argument against a gay lifestyle to a kind of mindless homophobia that belittles the quality of the discourse in which the parties had hitherto engaged." 

It further accused now-defeated PM Andrew Holness of waffling about homosexuality and dodging behind popular Jamaican sentiment against gays.

Too bad the folks at the Gleaner didn't go all the way themselves and debunk "fundamentalist" anti-gay arguments, critique the island's buggery laws and unpack their colonial legacy.

How else do they expect the homophobic tone of election campaigns — which they decried — to change?

And now that Simpson-Miller is back in power, it remains to be seen whether the media in general will hold her feet to the fire about her pro-gay rhetoric, or whether gay Jamaicans can expect virulent homophobia as usual.

So . . . we wait: for Simpson-Miller to let us know how many openly gay people she will actually appoint to her cabinet; for how she plans to convert on her stated belief that no one should be discriminated against based on sexual orientation; and for that long overdue buggery law review.

Over to you, Madame PM.

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