Not Just Battyman Fi Dead
I've been mulling this one over for a few days, trying to figure just exactly where I wanted the pistol to be pointed when I finally pulled the trigger. Today being World HIV/AIDS day, though, guess I'll just stop worrying about it and do the old Quick Draw McGraw thing and start blazing away.
A few days ago, Human Rights Watch released a report named Hated to Death: Homophobia, Violence, and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic. I read the entire thing and found it shocking. I've never been to the Caribbean, and probably won't be going for some time. I'm not exactly yer Jet-Setter. Those commercials for Jamaica with Marley's "One Love" playing underneath sure make the place look sexy and hot and fun and full of love, though. That's for sure. Were I ever to go, that looks like the place for me.
Well, except I had some friends who went there a while ago and reported back to me some very disturbing things about the place, things they saw a little bit off the standard, touristy, well-beaten paths. And now I read this Human Rights Watch report...
From its introductory summary:
On June 9, 2004, Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, was murdered in his home, his body mutilated by multiple knife wounds. Within an hour after his body was discovered, a Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed a crowd gathered outside the crime scene. A smiling man called out, “Battyman [homosexual] he get killed!” Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “let’s get them one at a time,” “that’s what you get for sin,” “let’s kill all of them.” Some sang “boom bye bye,” a line from a popular Jamaican song about killing and burning gay men.
Jamaica’s growing HIV/AIDS epidemic is unfolding in the context of widespread violence and discrimination against people living with and at high risk of HIV/AIDS, especially men who have sex with men. Myths about HIV/AIDS persist. Many Jamaicans believe that HIV/AIDS is a disease of homosexuals and sex workers whose “moral impurity” makes them vulnerable to it, or that HIV is transmitted by casual contact. Pervasive and virulent homophobia, coupled with fear of the disease, impedes access to HIV prevention information, condoms, and health care.
Victims of violence are often too scared to appeal to the police for protection. In some cases the police themselves harass and attack men they perceived to be homosexual. Police also actively support homophobic violence, fail to investigate complaints of abuse, and arrest and detain them based on their alleged homosexual conduct. In some cases, homophobic police violence is a catalyst for violence and serious—sometimes lethal—abuse by others. On June 18, 2004, a mob chased and reportedly “chopped, stabbed and stoned to death” a man perceived to be gay in Montego Bay. Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that police participated in the abuse that ultimately led to this mob killing, first beating the man with batons and then urging others to beat him because he was homosexual.
Because HIV/AIDS and homosexuality often are conflated, people living with HIV/AIDS and organizations providing HIV/AIDS education and services have also been targeted. Both state and private actors join violent threats against gay men with threats against HIV/AIDS educators and people living with HIV/AIDS. In July 2004, for example, the Jamaican Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) received an email threatening to gun down “gays and homosexuals” and “clean up” a group that provided HIV/AIDS education for youth. In a 2003 case, a police officer told a person living with HIV/AIDS that he must be homosexual and threatened to kill him if he did not “move [his] AIDS self from here.”
Jamaica's Ministry of Health is working hard to end human rights abuses against gays and HIV patients because it understands that such abuses cause grave harm to its efforts to curb the epidemic of HIV in the Jamaican population. But other parts of the Jamaican government seem to do their best to undercut these efforts by "condoning or committing serious human rights abuses" against gays and the HIV infected. The country's sodomy laws are used to foster "a climate of impunity" and are sometimes used to "justify the arrest of peer HIV educators". Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and his Minister of Health "repeatedly refuse to endorse repeal of discriminatory legislation, ignoring not only international human rights standards but also reports by both the government’s national HIV/AIDS program and its advisory National AIDS Committee on the role of these laws in driving Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS epidemic."
In 2004, Jamaica launched an ambitious project to provide antiretroviral treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS and to address underlying human rights violations that are driving the epidemic. These are promising initiatives. They will be compromised, however, unless government leaders make a sustained commitment to end discrimination and abuse against people living with and at high risk of HIV/AIDS. The government knows that although HIV/AIDS is stigmatized as a “gay disease,” in reality, in Jamaica as in most of the Caribbean, the most common means of transmission is heterosexual sex. It also knows that if the epidemic in Jamaica continues to accelerate, all Jamaicans will suffer.
According to a number of online sources, back in 1993 the Very Rev. Jerry Falwell said "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." I haven't actually seen him saying that anywhere, so I dunno', maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But let's just say that whether he actually said it or not, there is some certain percentage of the population that believes it. Which raises the question, of course, what exactly is meant when people suggest that society ought not to "tolerate homosexuals"?
Do we like the Jamaica Model? Think that's a good fit in the U.S.A? If not, what sort of model would those opposed to "tolerating homosexuals" like to see?
Me, I'm an atheist so I get to postulate any sort of God I want. I propose a God that actually understands the fundamentals of the science of public health. Sort of a Dr. Koopy-type-God.
I say Dr. Koopy-type-God's message in sending us HIV is to tell us that if, as a society, you are hateful and intolerant and if you condone human rights abuses against the least of His, then this disease will spread everywhere and all you bums will be punished. Ha-ha. Serves you right, Dr. Koopy-type-God says.
"Not just battyman fi dead".