Human Rights And Health Problems Facing Jamaica

Discrimination of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Persons

The human rights condition of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in Jamaica is horrible. Recently, the Jamaican government amended some parts of the constitution, adding a different charter of fundamental freedom and rights (Gibson et al., 2010). Unfortunately, the charter does not cover protection against discrimination on the gender identity. In fact the Jamaican government deliberately excluded protection on sex and in place it only granted protection against discrimination in terms of male and female, hence excluding any further possibility for judicial clarification of the charter as being part of shield on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. On other words, Jamaican government has retained colonial regime of criminalizing same sex act. This has been enforced by politicians who publicly give homophobic speeches. Discrimination and violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons is widespread and very common. Similarly, persons of opposite sex and same sex relationship are treated distinctly according to Jamaican law. Transgender people are given no legal acknowledgment as per their preferred gender. This sidelines them from the rest of the society. The government has completely failed to protect, investigate and prosecute culprits of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

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The government of Jamaica encourages and endorses discrimination and violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons by government and non-government actors through giving homophobic speeches to the public (Jamaica Ministry of Health, 2011). Politicians have also exploited the Jamaican society’s homophobia for their selfish interests. For instance, Jamaican Labour Party formulated a song to celebrate the killing and burning of gay men so as to gain support from the society during its campaign. In response to that, the opposition; People’s National Party adopted another song that was about stomping and kicking the gay men. .

The media also played a role in violating and discriminating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons by disseminating messages of animosity to the society by justifying their views through religious guidelines. Preservation of Jamaican culture was also a reason for discriminating against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. For example the Prime Minister Golding was quoted saying that recognition or encouragement of homosexual was going to demean the value of family set up in the society.

Politician’s public speeches on homosexual in Jamaica show not only the level of intolerance but also the ignorance of the entire issue affecting the community. For instance in 2009, Smith, the Jamaican Labour Party MP for South West Jamaica said that, reports of violence against them was a legend. Public intolerance of the same sex individuals shutters them from gaining political influence in the society. This in the end makes them to hide their sexual inclination so as to maintain the position. This was evident in May 2008 when Prime Minister Golding said that he was not going to pave ways for homosexuals into his cabinet. This type of dissemination by politicians natures a culture in which prejudgment against the same sex individuals is not only acknowledged but also encouraged which attracts open discrimination and violence by the society (Jamaica, Planning Institute, 2010). An example is a man of the name Kenneth who was compelled to go out of his sister’s house by a group of men from the society who believed that he was gay. The group of men beat him thorough to death. Such incidences shows how culture of homophobia has encroached into Jamaica’s society to the extent that barbaric violent acts towards people believed to be homosexuals go unnoticed by the authorities.

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According to ICCPR, the state has a role to carry out an investigation and apprehend the culprits of violation to the same sex individuals. Surprisingly, the Jamaican government had proved its reluctance to protect persons who are subjected to discrimination and violence. In fact, police are the common violators and are never held responsible for their cruel acts. Between 2009 and 2011, 17 reports of homophobic were registered to the organization upholding human rights of the same sex individuals.

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Unlawful killings, Inhuman jail conditions and Ciolence against Children and Sexual abuse

Other critical human rights problems in the country included; unlawful killings, inhuman jail conditions and violence against children and sexual abuse. The government made a step in punishing the police officers who committed injustice but there were no cases where prosecutions or arrests arose hence giving freedom to the police to exercise injustice without having fear of facing charges (National Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2010). A number of cases arose where the government’s security personnel committed unlawful killings.  For instance, a police killed Grinnion and claimed to have recovered a pistol in his home but those allegations were denied by the family of the deceased. They said that Grinnion had been killed far away from his home. After his death, the family urged the government to carry out thorough investigation into his death but nothing happened until the end of the year. Basing on the official’s statistical reports, the number of killings carried out by the police had rose up to 235 by the end of that year. The human rights watch indicated that several killings done by the police were unreported to the authorities. The police gave a common reason for their killings claiming that the victims were carrying fire arms and were attempting to shoot them.

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Overpopulation in Correction Centers

Prisons and correction centers were severely overpopulated and this posed a serious threat to health and life of the inhabitants. The government had failed to safeguard the safety of the prisoners. There was extensive overcrowding since the evaluated volume showed both low and high security services. Despite of the law prohibiting of children being jailed to the adult prisons, there were approximately 60 children in adult prisons. It was reported that at least 15 prisoner had passed on during that period of detention. The conditions at the young people’s prisons were very poor. From investigations carried out in Moneague and Glengoffe children detention facility, it was discovered that children complained of being infected with fungus disease due to the cell’s condition. They also complained of cockroaches crawling on their bodies during day time and night. The children could then be let out of the cells for only five minutes every day to take a shower and access the toilets. They were also provided with bottles which they used to urinate in.

Even though the law is not very clear about uncontrollable child, very many children were categorized to be uncontrollable and hence this made them to be detained for longer period of time without necessary considering the kind of their offenses they committed.

Maternal health

Maternal health is yet another health problem affecting Jamaica in its mission to attain millennium development.  Maternal mortality observation has improved as the treatment and preventive interventions have been reinforced. However, maternal mortality remains to be a bone of contention with maternal mortality rate remaining constant for the past 19 years (National Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2010). Examples of these causes are; eclampsia, sepsis and haemorrhage have been reducing since the past four years. However, cause such as violence, HIV/AIDs and other conditions like cardiac diseases and obesity have continued to enhance the condition of maternity mortality rate. The effect of mental health due to stress has also had a direct negative impact in the fight of mortality. Recently, suicide has been discovered to be a direct cause of maternal deaths. Examples of the constraints that would tend to limit Jamaica’s effort to reach the millennium development may include; inadequate human resource, illegal abortion status, increase in HIV/AIDs infections, inadequate funds, violence, and lack of public education or awareness. Anemia also remains a threat in pregnancy in Jamaica.  A research showed that 52% of the pregnant women in Jamaica suffer from iron deficiency. 

Dumping of Waste Products and Water Quality

The following are government agencies that entrusted with the environmental responsibilities; Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Authority, Environmental control and Ministry of Health. The main environmental problems being experienced in Jamaica are; dumping of waste products and water quality. Main pollutants of water at the cost of Jamaica are; industrial wastes, sewage and oil spills form the boats. Mining of bauxite along the cost is another hazardous source of water pollution. This mining of bauxite has contaminated the underground water with red mud waste. Land erosion is yet another environmental problem in Jamaica which leads to deforestation. A research indicated that there was a decrease of 7% in woodland and forest annually between 19991 and 1996. The coral reefs of Jamaica have also been damaged. The quantity of waste produced by the Kingston city is estimated to be about 0.35 million tons every year. Kingston has a problem with waste disposal and pollution due to densely population in the city (Jamaica Ministry of Health, 2011). Due to this pollution, four of Jamaica’s mammals’ species were declared to be endangered as were 8 reptiles and 7 birds’ species. It was also found out that 681 plant species were in danger of becoming extinct due to various environmental problems encountered during this era. 25% of Jamaican houses still do not have solid waste collection coverage and none of the four landfills island wide satisfies the minimum sanitary landfill requirements. Societal Based Sanitation Initiatives are inadequately funded and requires to be established to ensure sustainability of the programs. There are currently a number of legislation policies and guidelines that address dissimilar features of sanitation but their interrelationship is not well defined. Overlaps Gaps and sometimes conflicts occur resulting in less than optimal utilization of scarce resources and the long-term beneficial impacts of some programs are never realized. Despite the Ministry of Health’s efforts to strengthen health and safety practices in health care facilities, statistics on occupational health and safety remains incomplete.

Human Resources are inadequate both in terms of quality and quantity. The environmental health problems are now more difficult and frequent. The Environmental Health Unit has not been worked with all the specialists required. A better integration and Human Resources Situation Analysis between demand and supply for human resources training and research are required. Jamaica is susceptible to numerous types of natural disasters namely earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides and flooding. Jamaica has experienced several main hurricanes throughout the last decades and global warming is expected to increase the number of hurricanes and their magnitude. Landslides present a major economic, social, and environmental risk to Jamaica. Increases in storm activities and rainfall and changing land use and land degradation.

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