J-FLAG, The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays, issued a statement today commemorating International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). To learn more about AQ Online's coverage of IDAHO, visit our Issues in Depth page.
Kingston --- May 17, 2011
The first national survey of attitudes and perceptions of Jamaicans towards homosexuality, conducted by a research team headed by Professor Ian Boxill, has found that negative views of homosexuality tended to be greatest among males, non-university educated persons, those who listened mostly to dancehall and reggae music and those in lower socio-economic groups.
As J-FLAG celebrates International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), the findings of the study underscores the reality of homophobia faced by many gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender Jamaicans. The study showed 59% of respondents chose negative words to describe their feelings towards homosexuals. 51% acknowledged learning about homosexuality at 14 years old and younger, with family & friends (32.9%) and media (31.3%) being the main sources of exposure.
Strongest objections to homosexuality were raised on religious grounds and the need to ‘protect Jamaican society from changing its cultural practices for the worse’, with 85% saying that they did not think that homosexuality among consenting adults should be legal, pointing to a widely held misconception that it is illegal to be homosexual. Additionally, the survey showed that 81.8% of respondents attend church and 82% deemed male homosexuality to be morally wrong as opposed to 3.6% who did not see it as a moral issue.
Of significance is the fact that 30% agreed that someone can be homosexual and also be a Christian, but 56% believe that it is not possible to be a homosexual and be religious at the same time. However, a significant minority (43%) did not share this view, suggesting some conflict on the issue of homosexuality and religiosity again highlighting the need for dialogue to begin to allay concerns that are unfounded and rooted in fear and ignorance.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr. Michel Sidibé, in his message for IDAHO called on the world to “replace violence and discrimination with acceptance and tolerance,” emphasizing the need for greater tolerance towards gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. Echoing the call for increased tolerance, Dane Lewis, Executive Director of J-FLAG noted that “the rise in the number of reports to J-FLAG in the last three months has been significant pointing to the reality that LGBT Jamaicans continue to be victims of human rights violations in varying degrees.
Despite the strong negative perceptions and attitudes towards homosexuality, which cut across all social classes, gender and social groups, the research offered some hope of greater tolerance, revealing that 49% of respondents believe that homosexuals experience genuine love and affection, like heterosexuals, in their intimate relationships. A significant minority, 20%, of respondents chose positive words such as tolerance and acceptance when asked to describe their feelings towards homosexuals in spite of the prevailing climate of homophobia. Interestingly many respondents readily pointed out that persons who are homosexual make an important contribution to the society. Most of the respondents did in fact believe that homosexuals were and can be productive members of society.
The research team conducted the research using a nationally representative sample of 1007 adults from 231 communities between October and November 2010. The survey was also supported by a qualitative study based on five focus groups conducted across the island between October 2010 and January 2011.
The research was commissioned by the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) with the support of AIDS Free World and Open Society Institute.
Contact: Dane Lewis; Executive Director
Telephone: (876) 978-8988 or (876) 875-2328