Cabinet Reshuffle Good for Gay Community?

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For months there have been rumours of an impending Cabinet Re-shuffle, with names floating around concerning who should get the boot versus, who remains. In this regard, the unceremonious dumping of Dorothy Lightbourne should come as no surprise to anyone for indeed the surprise was that she was ever thought of as being worthy of a ministerial appointment in the first place. On the other hand, whilst the resignation and thus exclusion from the Cabinet of Industry Minister, Karl Samuda is not entirely surprising, given the war of words that erupted over the General Secretary race in December, 2010; it is certainly worth a pregnant pause.

Yet whilst it is easy to get caught up in the political analysis of the event as it unfolds, especially as it regards the fortunes of individual personalities so close to a General Election, there is a selfish question that requires answering namely: what benefits does this shuffle have for Jamaica’s marginalized and much maligned Gay and Lesbian community?

The Answer

Truth be toldit is nigh impossible to tell the benefits from this vantage point. However, there are some good signals not least of which is the fact that the Prime Minister has decided to keep the

Minister Spencer: A Powerful man in a Powerful Ministry

services of the Hon. Rudyard Spencer as Minister of Health and Olivia “Babsy” Grange as Minister with responsibility for Gender Affairs along with Youth, Sports and Culture. His choice of Delroy Chuck as the new Minister of Justice may also prove positive in a particularly critical area. Put another way the reshuffle’s benefits for the community may very well be who stayed in as opposed to who is new.

As it regards Minister Spencer! Whilst Gay and Human Rights Activists have since that infamous 2008 Hardtalk interview with Steven Sackur of the BBC, flayed the Golding Administration for its “Not in My Cabinet” policy statement, he has been a relatively outspoken cabinet level (by Government of Jamaica standards) critic of the island’s Buggery Laws. Academics and theorists will argue and speculate that the Minister is of the view from a purely health services delivery perspective and not from a genuine belief in the fundamental Human Rights of the island’s gay population. That is a debate that is important but for another time and space. We at Pink are not too overly concerned with the route by which the Minister arrived at his position but the fact that he is there and still in the Cabinet notwithstanding; and view it as positive.

To be clear we are not under any misguided delusions that his continuity is illustrative of any commitment on the part of the Administration to work with the community on developing programmes of social inclusion and support. In fact it is our belief that his survival has more to do with his standing within the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the general clout he has in the JLP. However, this is a powerful man in a powerful ministry with a particularly friendly viewpoint on an issue that speaks to the very existence and treatment of the community. As such there is an open and continued opportunity to develop a coalition and partner on the development of genuine social inclusion projects.

Honourable Olivia "Babsy" Grange remains Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture with responsibility for Gender Affairs

Much of the analysis that goes for Minister Spencer goes also for Babsy in a significantly slimmer version, as whilst she is powerful her Ministry is not particularly impressive nor viewed as being nationally important. Yet the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports with responsibility for Gender Affairs is very much a creation for her, consequently she out of the Cabinet would spell the demise of the whole Ministry apparatus.

For those who are not aware, the Ministerial positioning of Gender Affairs and Culture is of particularly importance to the design of social and economic policy as it affects the sexual minorities and women. In reality the mere existence of that Ministry is a massive triumph for social policy and social protection especially in light of the fact that post an IMF Agreement, the mere existence of it would be questionable giving its lack of direct link to the main productive sectors of the island’s economy. For our community, the specific importance of the Ministry is in relation to, the development of policies surrounding the music and content creation industry that will and should have a disproportionate impact on attacking the reinforcing agent of the island’s much celebrated homophobia. In addition the subject of Gender Affairs plays an important role in ensuring that there is a mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian issues in every facet of life including Human Resource policies and access to credit and fair housing. Thus getting rid of Minister” Babsy” Grange and thus the Ministry would be a huge step backwards for Gay and Lesbian issues beyond the Health debate.

The usefulness of Delroy Chuck is yet to be seen, however, we note that he has been an outspoken advocate of Justice Reform. The extent to which Justice Reform translate to advocacy on ensuring that inequalities that exist in the system as it regards treatment of the LGBT population is for future analysis and discussion.

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Pink Engagement

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It has been awhile since we have posted anything on Pink, so long that one must admit that there was some difficulty remembering the username and password to log into the wordpress backend to the blog site. However, once we got in: the statistics on the visitor numbers both surprised us and humbled us. For the month of May in which the editorial team made no posting,the blog site had over 700 unique hits and for June the traffic is running close to 500. That there has been fall off is indisputable but it is nowhere close to what we at the editorial department thought or expected.

We must apologize to you our loyal readers that we have not been able to cover major events such as the J-FLAG stand at Little Theater just last week or the nuclear disaster that was the Pink A List party in late May.

What is Pink?

As you all may be aware, the Pink Report is in the process of moving to its own website or home on the World Wide Web. Such a move has had to force us to take a step back and take a surgical look at our Vision, Mission and Mandate but also equally importantly, assess how these fit squarely with those of our partners at the Grata Foundation. There is no point in trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

At the close of this highly therapeutic session it was recognized that; the Pink Report had grown beyond the musings of an inarticulate dunce of a man and his band of social misfits and miscreant friends. Indeed the publication provides an opportunity for there to be a narrative of the LGBT community in the 21st century in Jamaica and the Wider Caribbean, a narrative which is composed by community members and not on behalf of the said community. From our vista this story or narration should be alive, and follow-able and not some Hitlerite Declaration of existence.

In this regard, the Report provides the platform such that:

  1. The Activist and the Human Rights Advocate can communicate directly to his client about the issues, the laws that affect them, and in turn hear from the community about the struggles related to everyday mundane matters;
  2. The Corporate Attorney whose technical skill set is not in Human Rights Law can write articles about navigating complex legal matters such as purchasing a home, setting up a business
  3. The Banker who enjoys home repairs can now speak about “FABBING UP” ones home or apartment on a budget
  4. The sex worker can share his/her tales of life on the street or other place of work
  5. Through our online classifieds, any member of the community can find places to rent, things to buy, employment opportunities etc.

The list is not exhaustive but the purpose is to illustrate the possibilities of us telling the world, albeit through the safety of nicknames and pennames, our story our own way.

The Future of Pink                                                                                                                                                                         

Pink through a process over the coming weeks will be gradually opening up the site such that any member of the community that wishes to write, shoot a video, paint a picture will be provided an access key to share said works with the community. This process has begun with this posting and will continue with re-launching the main site.

Stories we are currently working on include the Belize litigation process regarding the decriminalization of Buggery in that country and how one Transgender woman in Jamaica got her birth certificate and drivers license changed to reflect her new status as a woman. You can also begin to follow us on Twitter at Pinkreportja.

We welcome everyone back to Pink and hope that you will all join us on this journey

Selah