Jamaica Is a Hateful Place. But Should We Boycott It?


When it comes to choosing which city should get to host the Gay Games (the annual “gay Olympics”), plenty of you believed only a place that’s gay-friendly — anti-discrimination laws are on the books, same-sex partner benefits — should receive the honor … and the tens of millions of tourism and production dollars that come flowing in. So what about choosing a destination to holiday? Or a brand of alcohol to drink? If the logic is the same, then there’s a helluva case to boycott Jamaica. And it’s just what some activists are hoping to do.

Michael Petrelis, Wayne Besen, and Jim Burroway launched BoycottJamaica.org, a site hoping to draw attention to the island nation’s homophobic ways and keep dollars from flowing to such a region. Which means no stopping over on a cruise. No more drinking Red Stripe or Myers Rum. Rich in culture but poor in most every other regard, Jamaica is a place where gay hate flows as freely as your cares while sunning yourself on the beach. Human rights advocates call it the most homophobic place on earth. Violence against gays and lesbians isn’t just prevalent, but tolerated, condoned, and practically celebrated by society. Bigoted reggae artists like Buju Banton are national heroes. And sex between two men is rewarded with 10-year prison sentences. (Catholicism Christianity is cited as the rationale for the laws.)


And thus, the boycott. But as with any movement of its kind, it begs the question: Is this a noble message, or an empty threat? Does it impact the right people, or strip away foreign dollars from a society that desperately needs them?

Boycotting nations is nothing new. The American government has its own brand of this practice: embargoes. Cuba. North Korea. Iran. All have suffered the effects of American (and, to varying degrees, worldwide) boycotts, and the outcome usually goes like this: The tyrants remain in power, while the people at large suffer. (The reason Cuban cars haven’t been updated since the 1950s isn’t because they’re classic car aficionados.)

So does boycotting Jamaica — refusing to spend your dwindling travel dollars on a Kingston getaway, or choosing an Amstel Light instead of a Red Stripe while clearing out your TiVo queue — accomplish a goal, or just send a message of discriminating against the discriminators?

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  • Rob Tisinai

    The last phrase of the article, “a message of discriminating against the discriminators” makes it sound like we’re in a moral paradox, but that’s just a semantic illusion. There’s a huge difference between putting people in prison and simply choosing not to visit a vacation spot — and calling them both “discrimination” implies a moral equivalence that just doesn’t hold up.

    If you phrase it differently, “Is it okay to withhold your vacation money from people who think you’re scum,” the answer is much easier.

  • RM

    I think a public international shaming of Jamaica is called for.
    If you have friends that plan vacations to Jamaica, ask them why they’d go to a country that so ruthlessly persecutes its minorities.

  • Landon Bryce

    That any gay person visits Jamaica for fun, as opposed to because of business or family connections, is obscene.

  • Chitown Kev

    @Landon Bryce:

  • Tarcash

    Boycotting is NOT discrimination, it is a political act.

    I will not, nor will I ever, willingly give money or help support any country, group or person advocating for an ant-gay agenda, let along killing people and letting them get off without so much as jail time, because they killed someone who is gay or perceived to be gay.

  • Tallskin

    I think I am correct in pointing that whilst Jamaica is the most vile example, the other islands of the caribbean are nearly as bad for homophobia.

    Please correct me if I am wrong on this.

    On a point of accuracy Queerty, how can Catholicism be responsible for the homophobia of the place??? It is a protestant island. Now whilst I am happy to blame catholicism for everything evil on the planet I fear that I cannot blame Jamaican homophobia on them this time!!

  • scott

    i’ve been boycotting them for awhile now and tell people I know to do the same.

    i don’t think all the caribbean islands are like that but I think a lot of them are not good.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    “Boycotting nations is nothing new. The American government has its own brand of this practice: embargoes. Cuba. North Korea. Iran. All have suffered the effects of American (and, to varying degrees, worldwide) boycotts, and the outcome usually goes like this: The tyrants remain in power, while the people at large suffer. (The reason Cuban cars haven’t been updated since the 1950s isn’t because they’re classic car aficionados.)”

    Erm, tyrants? Like ALL your presidents who can’t stop causing wars and boycotting countries because they won’t give them a) oil or are b) left?


    The US only boycott places that they want to take over and fuck up, ‘shock and awe’, isn’t that what good ol free market Friedman calls it? And his buddy Rumsfeld took it on with Iraq?

    The day America actually genuinelys boycotts a country because it is persecuting it’s inhabitants INSTEAD of because they want the oil, resources, diamonds OR because it’s those ‘damn dirty socialists muther fuckers’..

    I’ll eat both my feet!

    At the same time!


    Lol David, tell the US government that the Island of Jamaica has petroleum or something hidden in those palm trees….you’ll get your boycott! :)

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    Not good is a fair assesment.

    Jamaicans are agressively worse…

    They are a funny lot…can either be really open minded and spiritual or just plain and madly judgemental! It’s like this fascinating juxtoposition of characters….odd..

  • J

    Although you say the ordinary people shouldn’t suffer, I think that the ordinary people of jamacia are largely complacent in this, as you’ve said it is socially condoned. I’m taking up the boycott.

  • sparkle obama

    i’m not going to fly to new york and shop at louis vuitton either because

    …i really don’t have any more money, after my bills!

  • EveryoneKnewHimAsNancy

    Actually, you can’t blame either Catholicism or Protestantism for Jamaican homophobia. It’s all the fault of Rastafarianism.

  • BrianZ

    @Landon Bryce: I agree.

    I don’t care what the root cause is, I don’t need to contribute anything to any group or company that is hostile towards gays.

    I was amused by the notion that we’re hurting the common people, not the ones in charge. Oh the hell well. I find it highly unlikely that homophobia was instituted at a government level and then spread to the general population. In fact I would say it’s rather ass-backwards. So, fuck ’em.

  • Jon Q

    I would never go to Jamaica or any Muslim country, for that matter….who needs that medieval crap? I’m not real happy when I go to Rome….but the boys are too cute and the food too good to stay away. And the priests at the Vatican are very cruisy.

  • BobP

    Aside from boycotting jamaica for the obvious reason, no one should go there because jamaica has the high per capita murder rate in the world. The idiots are even violent towards each other. NYPD always knows when a drug related murder is done by a jamaican because they are so brutal and vicious.
    When a female travel journalist disappeared there several years ago, governtment officials blamed HER.
    These are horrible violent people. Stay the hell away.They HATE us.

  • dfrw

    There is no question that Jamaica should be boycotted. Non-heterosexual Jamaicans attack and kill other homosexual Jamaicans and it is simply not safe for ANY homosexuals to travel there. Asylum should be granted to all homosexuals from Jamaica in various western countries.

  • Alec

    Of course. Although there are plenty of countries on that list.

  • Attmay

    I’ll support the boycott. Personally, I wouldn’t mind total war on all nations where homosexuality is illegal.

  • Thomas

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s):

    “Erm, tyrants? Like ALL your presidents who can’t stop causing wars and boycotting countries because they won’t give them a) oil or are b) left?”

    Nice Harold Pinter impersonation. Your country has its own history of intervention and it’s much longer and genocidal than America’s. Get over it limey.

  • dfrw

    Sorry, 16 should have read, “Heterosexual Jamaicans….”

  • jamaicathugz

    gays are looked down upon even in America, and i’m sure there have been attacks on gays in America, Canada and the UK. oohh but since it happens in Jamaica on few occasions, we are the most hateful place. Listen to America’s rap music, they hate on queers. Prop. 8 was even banned Cali…get real guys

  • Alec

    @jamaicathugz: Well, there’s soft hatred and violent hatred. Like this:

    “In the past two years, two of the island’s most prominent gay activists, Brian Williamson and Steve Harvey, have been murdered — and a crowd even celebrated over Williamson’s mutilated body. Perhaps most disturbing, many anti-gay assaults have been acts of mob violence. In 2004, a teen was almost killed when his father learned his son was gay and invited a group to lynch the boy at his school. Months later, witnesses say, police egged on another mob that stabbed and stoned a gay man to death in Montego Bay. And this year a Kingston man, Nokia Cowan, drowned after a crowd shouting “batty boy” (a Jamaican epithet for homosexual) chased him off a pier. “Jamaica is the worst any of us has ever seen,” says Rebecca Schleifer of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and author of a scathing report on the island’s anti-gay hostility.”


  • jamaicathugz

    I am not saying I support violence against gays, any violence against a human being should not be tolerated. Just do not blow things out of proportion from what a few have witnessed. I personally do not have a problem with gays, I’ve actually had a gay roommate and we got along well. I might have condone his lifestyle but that did not make me think lesser of him as an individual. Jamaica is not a hateful place, yes we do have our problems with crime and drugs that we have to deal with. Jamaica is a young nation that is searching for its identity, just like America during the wild wild west. So do not force change on a nation that is only going to generate more resistance and hate.

  • sal

    @jamaicathugz: ummm hi close(CLOSE) neighbour……the hate is real REAL!!!!trust me,i knowwwww

  • scott


    let’s put it this way. If you read what Alec posted and you were gay would you travel to Jamaica? And if you were so brave, why would you support a nation that let’s things like this happen to your people?

    And the Wild, Wild West is glamorized in movies. It doesn’t sound like a place I’d like to be around either.

  • sal

    ….be honest,not even close to achieving equality,that’s such a dream..the hate is,hmm THICK(best way i can describe it)

  • jamaicathugz

    You guys make it sound like you have personally been attacked in Jamaica for being homosexuals. I have been to bars, concerts, and clubs where I see gays enjoying themselves, I once even had a gay neighbor in Jamaica who has never experienced any violence. Sure.. the horrific things that you guys write about gays in Jamaica would scare me from going there. But the level of attacks on gays in Jamaica is not greater than anywhere else in the world, just last week there was a gay attack in Seattle. Also in a lot Muslim societies homosexuals are tortured and the justifiable punishment is death. So don’t put Jamaica on a list as the most hateful for homosexuals.

  • Alec

    @jamaicathugz: The difference is, we usually prosecute it here and there’s no breakout of mob violence to celebrate it.

    The fact that there are hate crimes committed in one location doesn’t mean that it is particularly anti-gay. But….on the one hand, you have Human Rights Watch’s report, and on the other hand we have your account. There are editorials out of Jamaica attacking homosexuality and gays and lesbians all the time.

    As far as Muslim countries that torture and execute gays (as opposed to the imprisonment they get to enjoy in the Caribbean), so what? I wouldn’t encourage anyone to spend money in Tehran, either.

  • jamaicathugz

    I just think Jamaica is a conservative nation that needs time, unlike certain certain Muslim societies. Proactive measures needs to taken in curbing these “widespread” attacks on gays in Jamaica. Boycotting might be one such step for you guys, but that does nothing to solve the problem. Yes Jamaicans need to experience the real world and accept the fact that there are individuals who lead different lifestyles, even if they do not condone it. I just think Boycotting would only put the government in a harder situation, they might be open to change, but in Jamaica it is the people that lead, not the politicians as they are merely a representation of what the people want. So instead of running away from the problem by Boycotting, come up with more constructive ways of solving this problem with the government and the human rights groups in Jamaica. Change is not something that happens overnight, especially when it comes to a change in mentality that is deeply entrenched. Just like other countries across the globe, Jamaica is in their own little bubble and when they face outside pressure from protests, instead dialogue, resistance and more hate is created.

  • getreal

    I agree i wish a gay rights organization would sponsor a ban on Jamaica beside the culture of homophobia ( there are coded references to killing gays in a lot of contemporary reggae music) it is a dangerous place.I think all LGBT people and allies should avoid this country like the plague. The leader of their country regularly spouts homophobia this country is dependent on tourist dollars to survive America could hurt their country greatly by just boycotting them.

  • Chitown Kev


    With the government?!! Dude, I don’t want what you are smoking.

    The government are the ones heating up the rhetoric against gays in Jamaica. The prime minister has already said that he doen’t care what governments do, he will continue to pursue anti-gay policies.

  • jamaicathugz

    @getreal: Wrong! Its not Jamaicans that are dependent on the tourist dollars.. It’s those mega all-inclusive resorts and Cruise liners owned by foreigners that are dependent. SO don’t be misconceived on where the tourist dollars go. There might be poverty in Jamaica but we are a proud people. If tourism falters in Jamaica, we will rebound and specialize in another sector. If Jamaica was a dependent nation, then we would be like the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caico, Bermuda etc…who are all dependent on the Crown. Jamaica has a long way to go and we will reach there one day, the nation just needs time. Now boycotting will do nothing other than perpetuate the hate and this so called widespread violence.

  • getreal

    @jamaicathugz: The people are largely homophobic or quietly aid and abet homophobia by continuing to vote these officials in. As someone who has been to Jamaica to a so called mega-resort every person who worked there was Jamaican perhaps if those people saw their livelihood being affected they would be more inclined to vote differently.

  • Monica Roberts

    As a genitalia-snatched representative of the “extremely dark skinned yet bright white teeth” community of “transy activists..”

    I have never had enough money to visit Jamaica. This is so TYPICAL of “gay white privilege,” assuming that people in the lgbT communitu have time or “money” to “travel.”

    As a transvestical, I am often called upon to tour the nation, which means leaving my 3 roomates behind to try to REMEMBER to flush the commode.

    So, no, Haiti, there is no Santa Clause.

  • Chitown Kev

    @Monica Roberts:

    OK, Monica, I love you and generally like you commentaries, but I gotta call bullshit on this one.

    Haven’t you supported a boycott on Jamaica for sometime now, since 2007, I believe?

    And do note that the boycott is also on products from Jamaica [including Myers Rum, which used to be my absolute favorite but I haven’t had a drop of it (or anything else) in a good little while).

  • getreal

    As a black female who has been to Jamaica and does have the time and the money to travel internationally I think you are unfairly injecting the whole “white gay privilege” into this dialogue. Had you been to Jamaica or even done your research before you rushed to drop the race card you would know that a LARGE percentage of the Americans tourists who frequent this country are black. Jamaica is the number two international tourist destination for African Americans so this is hardly just a “white gay privilege”

    Monica I understand that trans people have been marginalized in the LGBT community but at a certain point it is counterproductive to drop the race card into EVERY subject. I have in my activism had the privilege to work with many trans woman activists. My one criticism is that they seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time complaining about the gay male privilege or the white privilege. It is counterproductive.

  • getreal

    So my original point “Boycott Jamaica”!

  • John in CA

    In the case of Jamaica, I’d say a boycott might be warranted. However, I also recognize that this isn’t an exact science. And every person will have to evaluate their travel plans on a case-by-case basis. The simple reality is, If we eliminated every homophobic place from the itinerary, we’re left with a very small universe to explore. I’m not about to spend the rest of my life vacationing in Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway. The world is far too diverse and fascinating to impose those sorts of artificial limitations on oneself. I tend to draw the line at countries which actively punishes homosexuality with severe prison sentences or execution.

    Even then, it is a highly subjective judgment call. India has a particularly nasty sodomy law (life imprisonment) and a conservative society. But the law hasn’t been enforced in years and anti-gay hate crimes are extremely rare. It isn’t quite as clear cut as a Jamaica or Saudi Arabia.

  • petted

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s): Just thought I’d remind you of a something my teacher said about the end of the British Empire: when it became necessary to define the nations that were to arise the map was doodles on a napkin and the borders of nations whisky stains.

  • Attmay

    @petted: The same could be said about the Ottoman Empire. And that’s why the world is in the state it’s in.

    Jamaica is a terrorist state, benighted by the scourge of Christianity. But if I hear the boogeyman phrase “gay white privilege” again I’m going to throw something at its user. Every gay person of every race is a second class citizen in this country.

  • An Other Greek

    I think it’s important to do this because many people, gay and straight, do not know exactly how bad things are in Jamaica.

    they can’t imagine.

    And things are really bad.

    It is a horrid combination of colonial residue coupled with missionary Christian dogma (the hardcore-fundamentalist type) along with the general hate that often accompanies communities living in poverty and therefore ignorance and hate. (believe it or not, the Rastas are MINOR players in this, and the Rocker culture, with their hateful lyrics are not Rastas)

    And, here is “an other” complex problem: Jamaica society is extremely liberal when it comes to –heterosexual– sexuality. Even the Christians and the conservative “tryers” have practices that would make heteros in other countries blush! Imagin a Jamaica that was actually tolerant towards homosexuality?! Perhaps that’s also a cause for the absurd and violent manifestation of homophobia. The powers-that-be have not have had great success at controlling sexuality in Jamaica, and the homophobia unites a disparate and desperate collective, alas through hate and it’s manifestation: violence.

  • sal

    @jamaicathugz: im not speaking from “the outside”….for your information

  • getreal

    @Attmay: So you talk about boogeymen then you throw one out yourself? Seems hypocritical. Christianity is not the boogeyman it is mean and hateful people who use it to justify their bigotry. There are many christians gay and straight who are using their commitment to christianity to fight all types of bigotry including homophobia. So if you don’t like being stereotyped with the whole “gay white privilege” thing (which if look at my previous post I also addresses) don’t stereotypes others based on the actions of hateful fundamentalists.

  • Rob Moore

    The word boycott has a connotation that I find unpleasant simply because the religious nutters are always trying to boycott something because it passively or actively directs attention to gays that isn’t overtly negative. Ford and Disney are two examples. Having said that, I do make personal choices when I have them.

    I don’t travel to Jamaica nor the Cayman Islands (or anywhere else in the Caribbean). I don’t buy produce from California since it comes mostly from areas that voted for Prop 8. If I know a business is controlled by a far right organisation such as most religious organisations, I look for alternatives. I even avoid Florida as much as possible for its long term and codified homophobia. I will buy orange juice from Florida because they dumped that sour bitch, Anita Bryant, as a spokesperson when she helped rouse the fascists in Florida to repeal gay friendly laws. As a matter of morality, I avoid any state that has ever been governed by a member of the Bush family.

    I don’t campaign for formal boycotts simply because that is almost always counterproductive and provides our enemies with another target. I do choose personally not to give them any more money than life’s necessities dictate. Most religions and religiously based charities are not on my list of acceptable recipients of my money. This includes so-called liberal churches who go on about loving the sinner and hating the sin which I liken to loving the bird but hating the feathers. I choose charites such as Doctor’s Without Borders, AMFAR, Unicef, and my local NPR station.

    I don’t advocate violence, but if someone defaced buildings occupied by the offices of Focus on the Family, I would smile on hearing the news. When Jesse Helms died, I felt like celebrating the end of an evil life lived in consciously chosen ignorance. I’ll stop now before I ramble anymore.

  • Brianna

    JFLAG has taken a position on this.

    ” Over the weekend, Saturday to be precise a small group of LGBT persons launched a public demonstration against Jamaica’s human rights abuses against its gay citizens. The “Rum Dump” as it also named was successful as outlined on
    boycottjamaica’s site and http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/

    While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

    Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE’s boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before. The stories told to us by many victims included hints that we (gays) were getting foreigners to force their nasty lifestyle on Jamaica and other derogatory remarks so the attackers felt justified in their actions.”

    The rest is here:



  • getreal

    @Rob Moore: So it sounds like you do boycott certain places and entities privately. Just because christian fundamentalist have used it successfully used it does not necessarily make it a bad thing. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi also used boycotts to push their own agendas of social justice. Refusing to give money or patronization to people,places, and things that marginalize LGBT people is not a bad thing. As far as a Church that would love the sinner hate the sin that is not a liberal church that is a hateful church. Homosexuality is not a sin and every real christian knows that.

  • Rob Moore

    @getreal: Privately, I do personally boycott. My primary objection is to publicly organised boycotts with leaders, etc. I am old enough to remember the boycott of Coors Beer. After the company agreed to begin selling to gay bars, it occurred to me that now not only was the Coors family continuing to support its fascist political and social objectives, but now, we were helping them. To me, it seemed a pyrrhic victory.

    Having formal boycotts that unite a nation to resist oppressors is one thing, but strategically they mostly fail to accomplish their goals when pushed by a relatively small minority.

    When I made my comment about love the sinner hate the sin, I had in my mind the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches. The Baptists, Catholics (of which I was once a practitioner), Mormons, et. al. don’t even pretend to have any social liberalism so don’t count.

    If other people of like mind choose to do the same things I do, great, but our enemies cannot say we are organising an attack against their “traditional” values.

  • sal

    @Brianna: no excuse,the pure hate existed b4 a boycott.i say boycott,because what’s the alternative??giving money to our Caribbean governments who stand by hate???no,i say give ya money to countries that show tolerance and show the world that u dont get rewarded (with people’s hard earned money) when u hate

  • sal

    …show the world that tolerance will give a country an appeal.

  • Krawlz

    Jamaica doesn’t just encourage (I think the best word) homophobia within its own beautiful shores, it exports it.

    There’s a long tradition of young West Indian men coming up from Brixton in south London to barrack gay men in Old Compton St, and people on gay marches in Brixton have borne the brunt of hate-filled diatribes from middle-aged women and men standing outside the tube station. There again I pity anyone growing up gay in Muslim Bradford. At least demotic Jamaican homophobia will fade in time, whereas fiery Muslim interdicts will not.

  • Tamra Jones

    You all need to check this out:

    It is amazing how hateful and extremely antigay the comments are in the discussion board attached to the Jamaica Gleaner’s story on the boycott. This island is sick, and sad.

  • kavel

    am a jamaican and they have no right to boycott jamaica. everyone has their own belief and thats ours we are small but it is what we believe in so leave us alone

  • getreal

    @kavel: I absolutely will continue to boycott Jamaica.I will not support a country with a culture of violent homophobia with my money.

  • LaReina

    There’s nothing wrong with discriminating against discriminators, since murder is illegal – except in Jamaica, where murder of gays is condoned and celebrated. The minute we get a gay President, this island is done for!!

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