Jamaican health minister expresses support for LGBTQ community – Los Angeles Blade

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Christopher Tufton spoke about mental health care access

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaican Health and Wellness Minister Christopher Tufton last week said people who access his country’s mental health care system should not experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Mental health services have been experiencing a number of reviews. For the LGBT community, clearly, I do not know what the specific concerns are, but I would say, as a blanket statement, that we promote the concept of non-discrimination in terms of access, and any service that we offer to the population would include all segments of the population,” Tufton said on Nov. 3 during a forum the Jamaica Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, organized.
“I think the whole issue of the LGBT community and non-discrimination has evolved, and frankly speaking, I think it is getting better,” continued Tufton. “In fact, there is more accessibility and more willingness to provide service without any prompting or punitive oversight measures.”
The Jamaica Gleaner said Tufton made the comments in response to a question that Glenroy Murray, the interim executive director of Equality for All Foundation Jamaica, a Jamaican LGBTQ rights group, asked.
Equality for All Foundation Jamaica has created two handbooks that specifically outlines ways to ensure LGBTQ Jamaicans don’t suffer discrimination when they access mental health services. The Los Angeles Blade has obtained a statement from Tufton in which he applauds the organization’s work on the issue.
“It is well recognized that mental illness is highly stigmatized, even at the primary care level, which, for many people, is the first point of contact with the health system,” said Tufton. “Due to this stigma, individuals will either avoid or delay seeking care for fear of being treated differently from others, fears over losing their jobs or out of concern for their relationships within family and friends.”
“This, in turn, can result in poor health outcomes and the loss of productive years,” he added. “Persons from the LGBT community will have an additional layer of stigma due to sexual orientation or gender identity and are therefore at higher risk of poor outcomes than other persons living with mental illness.”
Tufton in the statement also notes “this stigma is driven, at least in part, by a lack of knowledge among mental health practitioners.”
Jamaica is among the dozens of countries around the world in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity also remain commonplace on the island.
An 18-year-old man last month was hospitalized in critical condition after a group of men in the resort city of Montego Bay targeted him on a gay dating app.
Kelly West, a transgender Jamaican woman, was one of the 47 people who were living at Jardín de las Mariposas, a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, on July 12 when the Blade visited. West said she asked for asylum in the U.S. because of the anti-trans discrimination and persecution she suffered in Jamaica.
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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — An 18-year-old Jamaican man remains hospitalized in critical condition after he was targeted on a gay dating app.
The Jamaica Gleaner reports the victim on Oct. 11 went to a neighborhood in Montego Bay, a resort city that is the capital of Jamaica’s St. James Parish, to meet the man with whom he was speaking.
The newspaper reports the man and two other men abducted the victim, robbed him and partially severed his penis before they set him on fire. Officials said the three men took his cell phone and used his bank card to withdraw money from his account.
“He is a very lucky young man because although they left him in a critical condition, he managed to make his way to a security checkpoint in the community where they assisted him to the hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition,” a local police officer told the Jamaica Gleaner.
The Jamaica Gleaner reported a 43-year-old man in St. James Parish disappeared in January 2020 after he went to meet someone with whom he had spoken on a gay dating website. Authorities later found the man’s body, and two men have been charged with his murder.
Violence against LGBTQ Jamaicans remains commonplace. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in the country.
J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBTQ rights group, has condemned the latest attack.
“Like all well-thinking Jamaicans at this time, JFLAG is outraged at the recent attack on an 18-year-old man in St. James,” tweeted J-FLAG on Sunday. “His attackers must be brought to justice.”

This is not the time for victim-blaming nor slut-shaming. Justice is our only focus at this time. We appeal to community members, allies and every other Jamaican who may have information to make a report to the police. pic.twitter.com/Lmz6lYAY5s
— Equality Jamaica (@EqualityJa) October 17, 2021

Meeting took place in Santo Domingo on Oct. 7

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on Oct. 7 met with LGBTQ activists in the Dominican Republic.
Diversidad Dominicana Executive Director Rosanna Marzán, Amigos Siempre Amigos Director Leonardo Sánchez, Sirana Dolis of Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico Haitianas (MUDHA) and Bridget Wooding of the Caribbean Migration and Development Observatory (OBMICA) are among those who met with Power in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital. Power in a tweet said she also met with human rights activists who are working to “restore legal documentation” for the more than 100,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent who live in the country.
“So glad to meet these activists fighting at (sic) local and national level for equality and dignity for all,” tweeted Power.

I spent time this morning w/ Dominican human rights advocates working to strengthen #LGBTQ+ protections and restore legal documentation for 100,000+ Dominicans of Haitian descent. So glad to meet these activists fighting at local & national level for equality and dignity for all. pic.twitter.com/8VNTIg9sRy
— Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) October 7, 2021

Marzán told the Los Angeles Blade the meeting with Power was “very good.”

Me reuní con defensores de DD. HH., los cuales trabajan para fortalecer la protección de las personas #LGBTQ+ y recuperar la documentación de +100,000 dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana. Feliz de haber conocido estos activistas que luchan por igualdad y dignidad para todos.
— Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) October 7, 2021

The Dominican Republic borders Haiti on Hispaniola.
The Dominican House of Representatives in June approved a bill that would remove sexual orientation from the country’s Penal Code. The Dominican Senate has yet to consider the measure that has sparked outrage among the country’s LGBTQ activists.
Power traveled to the Dominican Republic two months after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14 left scores of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of others in Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula. Immigration Equality is among the groups that criticized the Biden administration last month over the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from Texas.
James “Wally” Brewster was the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic from 2013-2017. He is one of six openly gay men who represented the U.S. abroad during the Obama administration.
Havana gathering took place months after anti-government protests

HAVANA — Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Friday met with more than a dozen LGBTQ activists.
Tremenda Nota, the Los Angeles Blade’s media partner in Cuba, reported the meeting took place at Havana’s Palace of the Revolution. Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, a gay man living with HIV who writes under the pen name Paquito el de Cuba, and Malú Cano, coordinator of Transcuba, a transgender organization that is affiliated with the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), are among those who participated.
“I see it as a political will to advance the recognition of the rights of LGBTIQ+ people, an outstanding debt that the revolution has always had with us,” Cano told Tremenda Nota.
The Cuban government tweeted pictures of of the meeting. Rodríguez in a blog post notes CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro, was sitting next to Díaz-Canel.

#AHORA: Presidente @DiazCanelB recibe en el Palacio de la Revolución a representantes de la comunidad #LGBTI.
“Gracias por aceptar esta invitación”, les dice, y los convida al diálogo para “construir entre todos el país que queremos y perfeccionar el Socialismo”. pic.twitter.com/D9FQzVw6r9
— Presidencia Cuba (@PresidenciaCuba) October 8, 2021

Former President Fidel Castro, who was Mariela Castro’s uncle, in the years after the 1959 revolution that brought him to power sent gay men and others to work camps known by the Spanish acronym UMAP. The Cuban government until 1993 forcibly quarantined people with AIDS in state-run sanitaria.
Mariela Castro and Díaz-Canel both publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Friday’s meeting took place less than a month after Cuba’s Justice Ministry released a draft of a proposed new family code that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot.
Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man from San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province who live-streamed the first of a series of anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, and hundreds of others who participated in the demonstrations remain in custody.
14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government, earlier this week reported the country’s attorney general is seeking an 8-year prison sentence for De La Cruz. 14ymedio also notes Cuban authorities continue to hold De La Cruz “somewhat incommunicado” in a prison east of Havana.

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