Jamaican LGBT rights activists are taking this week’s official visit of the country’s prime minister to New York to speak out against homophobic violence. Seven protesters from Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand paced the sidewalk in front of the Ford Foundation headquarters during Prime Minister Simpson-Miller’s visit. When the prime minister came out to meet her motorcade, she blew kisses at them, and walked straight back inside the building.
Protesters are on Simpson-Miller not out of any stated animosity towards gays in Jamaica. Instead they are asking her to make good on her 2011 campaign promise to hold a “conscience vote” on repealing Jamaica’s anti-gay laws, which are so old (passed in 1864) that they’re still referred to as “buggery” laws.
Even if those suspected of consensual gay sex are not sentenced to the typical 10 years of hard labor, mobs will often torture or kill those who are suspected of being gay.
The country saw a serious rash of violence against gays this summer, the most high-profile of which was the brutal murder of 16-year-old transgender woman Dwayne Jones in July. For the crime of appearing at a party in a dress, Jones was beaten, stabbed, shot, and run over by a car.
JAHS spokesman Dwayne Brown told Runnin’ Scared that protesters stood outside and the building shouting “Gay rights are human rights!” and “Portia, shame on you!”
The few demonstrators present must have spooked Simpson-Miller’s security detail enough that they spun her around and walked her back inside the Ford Foundation building.
Simpson-Miller seemed casual throughout the encounter, waving, blowing kisses, and smiling at the protesters.
Simpson-Miller isn’t off the hook yet. The prime minister is set to address the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday morning. JAHS plans to picket U.N. headquarters that morning at the same time as her speech.
Click through for photos of the protest and video of the prime minister’s bizarre response.