Jamaica: Once You Go, You Know

by | April 7, 2015



In late 2013, the Jamaican tourist board introduced a new slogan, “Jamaica – Get All Right,” to replace its slogan “Once you go, you know,” but the earlier slogan may be the better one for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Canadians planning a trip to Jamaica because although the slogan tells tourists they’ll know, it doesn’t tell them what they’ll know when they get there,

In fact, know is not the best word; discover is a better word. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender tourists will discover that the Jamaican government supports “antiquated ‘buggery laws’ – which outlaw anal sex and all male homosexual conduct” and do not protect (LGBT) Jamaicans from discrimination and violence. Therefore, there is good reason to fear that LGBT tourists will be in the same danger.

Udo Schuklenk is aware of the anti-LGBT laws in Jamaica, so when he saw that his local gym, GoodLife, is encouraging its members to enter a competition to win a trip to Jamaica, he wrote an Open Letter to GoodLife’s CEO:

Jamaica is a militantly homophobic society, religious fundamentalists have written anti-gay provision into the country’s constitution. . . . My husband and I would be up ‘eligible’ for an up-to ten year jail term should we choose to engage in sexual intercourse during a vacation we might win if we took part in your competition. . . . I am writing to you today to ask that you cancel the ongoing competition and replace the ‘Jamaica’ labelled posters with posters that offer a vacation price, but a vacation of the winner’s choosing. Otherwise, you really are telling your gay and lesbian members that our well-being and safety is of no concern to you, and that the current competition celebrating the chain’s 36th anniversary is really addressed to the club’s straight members only.

Schuklenk received a reply:

A part of the rules and regulations for this contest include the ability to substitute, modify etc. trips for any reason. Should you win this trip, we would be happy to award you with a trip of equal value to another destination.

However, although Tara McLain from the GoodLife marketing department admits the company was “not aware that this legislation exists in Jamaica,” she is aware now. The response she received from Tourism Jamaica makes it very clear that its laws, including its “‘buggery laws” will be enforced and must be respected:

In keeping with travel to any destination in the world, we encourage visitors to respect Jamaican laws and community standards, and to take reasonable  measures to enhance their travel experience.

Tourism Jamaica’s reply is a obvious threat and McLain and GoodLife should recognize that the offer to win a trip to Jamaica insults all Canadian members of their gym. No straight member of GoodLife should be asked to take a vacation in a country where their LGBTQ friends and relatives are not safe.

3 thoughts on “Jamaica: Once You Go, You Know

  1. Indi

    I’m actually from Barbados, which – while *much* nicer than Jamaica – is also quite bigoted and backward.

    I can’t speak for Jamaica, but Bajans (aka Barbadians) are fairly laid back about homosexuality, at least in practice. There is a *lot* of homophobia, but it’s mostly a latent undercurrent of disdain, so as long as you don’t get in people’s faces with it they will leave you alone. Tourists, however, generally get a free pass to get away with what they please. So, in reality (at least in Barbados), it won’t be anything Canadian tourists will have to worry about.

    However, I do believe these small island nations need to have their ignorance and backwardness exposed. They coast by on the fact that they’re never scrutinized. In fact, a couple years back the Queen signed the Commonwealth Charter, which was a statement that the Commonwealth is opposed to all forms of discrimination – while it famously avoids explicitly mentioning anything LGBT related, it does mention religious discrimination. All the Prime Ministers of these little Commonwealth countries like Barbados were all smiling and clapping and supportive of the Charter in the media pictures. But Barbados, for example, still has (I’m *pretty* sure, but not 100% certain) active blasphemy laws. And they *will* use them (though, of course, never on tourists).

    Countries like Jamaica and Barbados are *EXTREMELY* dependent on tourism, so negative publicity *WILL* have a powerful impact on them. If we really get people talking about Jamaica’s “if two men have sex it’s 10 years’ hard labour” laws or Barbados’s blasphemy laws, they *will* change them. (As opposed to, say, Uganda, who doesn’t really rely on tourism and hence don’t really give a fuck about how much we condemn their homophobic laws.)


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