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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