Before we launch into the community’s response to the recent happenings at UTECH, praise must be heaped on the divisional command of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in charge of Papine. Listening to the Senior Superintendent speak on Nationwide News Live at 5 Programme on Friday afternoon (November 2, 2012), it became clear the police force was willing to use all necessary force and tactics available to ensure the protection of the life of the young man at the epicentre of the mob gatherings at UTECH on the 1st November. This stands in stark contrast to the action of the security guards in beating and assaulting the young man who in an ironic twist of fate had actually only ran to the security guard station seeking their protection.
Yet this posting is not about that incident, as we suspect that the details will become the subject of a court case and ultimately a decision will be rendered regarding its particulars. What we are more concerned about is the wider societal impact. Indeed it must be noted that restitution in this case does not by any stretch of the imagination begin to address the larger issue of homophobia and intolerance.
We should recall that the genesis of the November 1st events at UTECH was that two men were accused of engaging in acts contrary to Sections 76, 77 and 79 of the Offences Against the Person Act. Readers should be aware that even if it is deemed that the bathroom facilities at UTECH constitute “Privacy” the Act makes no distinction between public and private spaces for the purposes of permissibility. In fact note the language of Section 79, it reads that Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
The impact of the above is that, those within the gay community who are desperately trying to make a distinction between themselves and the fellows involved, need to realise they are actually in the same boat. The law makes no distinction between gay sex undertaken in a four poster King sized bed in upper St. Andrew and that done in a bathroom stall and neither does the general society (as the UTECH action when compared to the earlier evictions in Jones Town illustrates).
Thus given the foregoing the question arises where do we go from here, as the society cannot maintain the offending laws whilst now admitting that its male homophobia is wrong. Legislation such as those contained in Sections 76,77 and 79 of the Offences Against the Person Act simply have no place in tolerant, civilized societies. Indeed, noting that all of the official responses have steered clear of this point, including sadly that of JFLAG, means that all that really has occurred is a condemnation of VIGILANTISM and not necessarily homophobia. Sadly, what this means is that even if just restitution is made in the UTECH case the ingredients are there for this action to occur again.
One wonders when gay Jamaica will learn that what happens to one happens to all!