The Caribbean appears to be one of the most homophobic regions in the world.
Whereas this is so, it’s not fair to suppose that every one Caribbean countries are strictly homophobic as the situation is more one of contrast as countries such as Cuba have upped their activism to ensure acceptance.
In Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and St Lucia all acts of same-sex activities are unlawful, while the Guyanese and Jamaica laws forbid men who have intercourse with males but are silent on same-sex relations between women.
The psychology of homophobia in the Caribbean is by no means superficial. It is one of the most staunchly defended psychological norms present in the region today.
There are a number of reasons for this ideological view.
One such reason is the deeply rooted ultraconservative Christian, cultural movement (especially Rastafarian) and religious beliefs as well as accepted norms in the Caribbean.
Caribbean nationals are extremely resistive to anything that attempts to thwart their own understanding of what is morally acceptable according to their own standards and values.
These standards, values, and morals, are deeply rooted in Christianity and African retentions of what is just and right.
This strong ideological obscurantism presents itself across all the islands and as such people are generally intolerant of anything that they may consider even faintly taboo.
The perceived ‘perversion’ of the sexual act is therefore one of the most unforgivable and egregious social/sexual sins that anyone can commit in the eyes of most Caribbean nationals.
Regardless of the rampant homophobia that pervades the Caribbean, there are homosexuals living in the region.
Time Magazine, in a 2006 edition, asked the question: Is Jamaica the most homophobic place on earth?
You may have a laid-back image of Reggae, Rasta, sunsets, beaches and sand. For the gay population, however, Jamaica is akin to hell.
Among all the other Caribbean countries, Jamaica is considered the most homophobic in the region.
In fact, many people consider Jamaica the most homophobic country in the world.
In general, homosexuality is characterized by a vicious intolerance in Jamaica.
Openly, gays must contend with the constant fear of violence.
Verbal and physical violence, ranging from beatings to brutal armed attacks to murder, are widespread. For many, there is no sanctuary from such abuse.
Interestingly, Caribbean nationals are quite sexist with respect to homophobia.
There is a tacit acceptance for lesbianism in fact, some even finding it erotic.
However, if two males are even seen holding hands, they may end up losing those very limbs.
In a May 2012 report, the International Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) listed Jamaica as one of 78 countries, roughly 40 per cent of the United Nations members which have legislation criminalising same-sex acts between consenting adults.
According to the report, four of the 11 regional countries, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and St Kitts and Nevis, do not criminalize lesbianism.
Opposition to the homosexual lifestyle is an easily identifiable facet of Caribbean popular culture, especially in Jamaica.
This is reflected in the music, especially reggae and dancehall.
Boom Bye-Bye, a popular hit song by recently incarcerated Jamaican dancehall musician Buju Banton is one very strong demonstration of this. Buju’s lyrics are hardly unique among reggae artists today.
Numerous Dancehall artistes have had their US visas revoked due to same opposition and ‘hate songs’.
Recently, Beenie Man posted a video on YouTube, apologizing to the gay community for his anti-gay songs and remarks. He has recently had his visa reinstated.
Other artistes such as Bounty Killer have come out to condemn Beenie’s move, writing it off as a cowardly act; and simply a ploy to regain a piece of the US music market.
Opposition to the gay lifestyle is not only in music, but in many other aspects of Caribbean life including social behavior and general deportment.
Hate crimes against gays is common in countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Many people will incite ‘jungle justice’ (the act of an irate mob taking it upon themselves to judge and punish perceived crime/behaviour) on the accused if caught.
In fact, any act of homosexuality (between males), whether it may be in public or confined to a private space is considered a criminal act of buggery and the accused may be charged and sentenced if found guilty.
Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago ban relations between same-sex couples, especially men.
Penalties for this crime vary between 10 and 50 years, depending on the laws of each country.
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