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Human Rights Support for Jamaica

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Dear Friends and Supporters,

As you may know, Jamaica is widely recognized as the most brutally homophobic country in the Caribbean. Jamaican dancehall music proclaims it. Violent homophobic attacks and anti-gay rhetoric are on the rise in this island nation, even as international headlines herald gay-rights victories elsewhere.

In the Capital's upscale business district, three men with batons recently brutalized a gay man, chasing him into a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant where the assailants were joined by the security guard when he realized the victim was gay. The police have refused to make any arrests. In yet another incident, two gay men received machete wounds inflicted by residents of their inner-city community. When local police refused to file a report, a friend of the victim protested the discriminatory treatment. He was arrested and spent the night in jail for indecent language. As horrendous as these attacks may be, the greater long-term evil may lie in the redoubled efforts of anti-gay conservatives across political, religious, and socio-economic lines who actively work to ensure that Jamaica's sexual minorities will never receive equal treatment before the law.

Fortunately, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays ( J-FLAG ) will continue its efforts, begun in 1998, to promote legal reforms for the protection of sexual minorities, to educate the public about the brutal anti-gay violence and lack of recourse to the law that is an everyday occurrence, and to serve the needs of the gay community through social and educational programming.

J-FLAG is at a crossroads, however, and we are faced with closure. In October, we will lose our ability to retain even a single staff member to do the basic work of the organization. Much of our programming is done by volunteers, but we cannot continue to enhance this work without staff. We are therefore appealing to our supporters for assistance to help us raise US$24,000, which will cover the salaries of a full-time Programme Director and an Administrative Assistant for the next year. This modest amount will provide critical short-term support as the organization strengthens its successful programming, and focuses more energy on fundraising activities.

Without this support, the following programming is in jeopardy:

Legal Reform/Advocacy Programme

— Parliamentary submission for Constitutional reform

— Networking to garner allies for repeal of discriminatory laws

— Documenting testimonies from victims of abuse

— Assisting in asylum cases abroad

— Challenge discriminatory governmental policies

Education Programme

— Train community members and supporters in public speaking

— Release press statements and position papers

— Hold public forums and stigma reduction panels

— Provide interviews for print and electronic media

Social Support Programme

— Community Helpline

— Web site with message board and chat room

— Lending library and research archive

— Computer resource room

— An autonomous women's support group Women for Women

Despite international awards and support J-FLAG still struggles to cover its core operating expenses. Please consider a generous donation to keep the organization and its essential work going.

Jamaican, U.S. and UK cheques can be written to 'J-FLAG Management, Ltd.' and mailed to: J-FLAG, P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica, W.I.;; ( 876 ) 978-8988; Fax: ( 876 ) 978-7876

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