The Jamaican government, according to its Ministry of Justice, has officially refused to grant basic human rights protections for its gay and lesbian citizens and visitors, despite calls and formal objections from local and international groups, including the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and The Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights.
The Jamaican decision comes on the heels of a very public protest staged by local church leaders in March in opposition to a performance by the pop vocal group The Village People. Church leaders said that performance highlighted "a behavior repugnant to the majority of people in this country." Prior to the March incident, Jamaica gained international attention in the summer of 1997, when prison inmates killed 16 fellow prisoners believed to be gay.
According to IGLTA Executive Director Agustin Merlo, speaking on behalf of his global board of directors, "The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association strongly condemns Jamaican authorities for failing to ensure the safety, welfare and comfort of gays and lesbians living on and visiting the island nation. We call on the government of Jamaica to ensure the safety of gay and lesbian citizens and tourists to Jamaica. The nation appears to be a leader in the region's emerging homophobia that has already shown its ugly face in the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica. That is a tragedy."
"The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is to expand the choices and travel opportunities for lesbian and gay consumers. Our members work very hard not only to offer quality and value, but also to make sure that the gay and lesbian travel experience is both rewarding and safe. We can only achieve this if governments, tourism authorities, and the private sector work together to end the climate that spawns these kinds of decisions."
"IGLTA stands with our members and with all of the travel sector to insist that this decision by the Jamaican government ultimately be reversed, and that steps are immediately taken to ensure that the nation's human rights protections are extended to gays and lesbians. If Jamaica is unwilling or unprepared to welcome gay and lesbian tourists to their shores, then IGLTA is prepared to warn all of our member companies and associations that our tourist dollars are no longer welcome in that country."
Founded in 1981, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is committed to professional excellence in promoting travel opportunities, services, products and above all, choices for gay and lesbian consumers. Through its vast network with over 1,350 members today, IGLTA enhances its leadership by maintaining an effective, visible and growing association of professionals in travel, hospitality, and related businesses. Its worldwide headquarters are in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. However, its directors and members may be found on every continent in both hemispheres.