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

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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.)

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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?