THE Jamaican nation continues to struggle with the delicate issue of how to treat those of our citizens who are homosexuals.
In fact, the problem has been seriously exacerbated by the emergence of a growing band of homosexual men, largely operating in New Kingston, who have demonstrated a willingness to attack other citizens and to carry out criminal acts.
With the situation getting out of hand, the lobby group, Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays, (J-FLAG) has been forced to distance itself from the homosexuals they are calling "homeless gays", declaring: "We want to make it absolutely clear that, while J-FLAG advocates for the rights of all Jamaicans, and, in particular, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, J-FLAG does not condone any form of misconduct, violent or criminal behaviour.
"In addition, while these individuals may be members of the LGBT community, J-FLAG cannot be held culpable for their actions and behaviour," the lobby group said in a January 2013 press statement.
In its infancy, J-FLAG became known for its public statements condemning 'homophobic' Jamaicans and its tendency to blame every killing of a homosexual on 'homophobia', no matter how clear it was that the incident was a domestic one involving gay lovers. Our police force and our national image overseas suffered terribly because of this practice.
Jamaicans who were incensed by these false accusations would have found the January statement a welcome departure, in that it acknowledged that not everyone who shunned a gay man, was doing so because of his homosexuality.
Said the group: "J-FLAG, as communicated to the police on many occasions, is fully supportive of their efforts to resolve the issues created by homeless gay men. J-FLAG agrees it is necessary to apprehend and incarcerate persons who commit crimes, and understands the necessity of mitigating the impact of lawlessness on business people, residents, employees, and commuters. J-FLAG does not in any way consider the police undertaking their duties as homophobic or being anti-gay..."
We suspect that a statement of this nature could only have come after much angst and desperation on the part of J-FLAG which admitted that it had made several attempts to intervene, but had been unsuccessful in its bid to rein in the culprits, some of whom are involved in frequent internal fights as well as criminal offences such as robbery.
"J-FLAG has met and collaborated with a broad range of stakeholders, including the police, the member of parliament for the constituency, the mayor, the Ministry of Health, the councillor, the Child Development Agency, church leaders, and representatives of the business community, but the outcomes have not been significant enough to address the behavioural issues from which these issues stem," the organisation said.
J-FLAG, we believe, cannot like Pontius Pilate, wash its hands of the problem and must continue its efforts at intervention on behalf of that section of its constituency.
We hasten to say, however, that this is not just a problem for J-FLAG. These are Jamaican citizens who must be treated as all other Jamaicans. They are entitled to protection under law. Many of them have been cast out of their homes and communities and are living on the streets of Kingston. They are in urgent need of rehabilitative care, education and medical attention.
The society ignores them at its own peril.