20 February 2007
The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine CathedralFort Lauderdale, FL USA
The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller
Office of the Prime MinisterJamaica, West Indies
Madam Prime Minister:
I write to you as a concerned citizen of the world who is particularly dismayed by frequent reports of anti-gay violence in Jamaica. I am concerned that anti-gay violence may be under reported by official agencies in Jamaica and that not nearly enough is being done to assure the safety of Jamaica's lesbian and gay citizens.
As a resident of the United States, I live less than two hours by airline from your beautiful nation. As your neighbor, I happen to meet rather a large number of lesbian and gay Jamaicans, both those who continue to live in Jamaica and those who have left Jamaica for the sake of their safety. My friends report to me regularly about horrifying violence and even murder that is waged against gays and lesbians in Jamaica. Some of the violence my friends have witnessed, and some of the violence my friends have experienced. These first hand reports coupled with reports from international human rights agencies and radio and newspaper reports in your own country all confirm that Jamaica is a very dangerous place for same-gender loving people.
Not only is violence against gay people apparently epidemic in Jamaica, but also little seems to be done to change that reality. And, when Jamaican media report anti-gay violence it is often to deny that it is truly a problem or to blame the victims for somehow deserving the abuse.
Whereas it is true that every nation has a right to govern itself without undue interference from outsiders, it is also true that every human being has the right to live safely in her or his own country.
Homosexuality may not be well understood as part of normal sexual diversity in Jamaica, and it may not be embraced as desirable by the culture at large; and yet, gays and lesbians, however misunderstood or unappreciated they might be, still have a right to live their lives as the people they are without fear of violence or death. All people, no matter what racial, ethnic, religious, economic, or sexual minority group they may represent, are entitled to equal opportunity in a society and to equal protection under the law of a society.
Regardless of what any individual believes about human sexuality, surely all people of conscience and character can agree that assault, harassment, and murder are immoral and criminal acts that harm not only the intended victim but all of society.
I appeal to your sense of human kindness and decency and ask that you take firm leadership in protecting lesbian and gay citizens of your country. Increasingly, the world is taking notice of the plight of homosexuals in Jamaica, and your leadership in increasing tolerance and goodwill in Jamaica can only strengthen the relationships between Jamaica and other nations that are concerned with justice for all people.
I call on your government to act in the interest of human rights, full equality, and safety for all. For the sake of the people I know and love in Jamaica, please do all that you can to protect them from hatred and violence.
Yours most sincerely,
The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins