GAYS and lesbians in the US have targeted Jamaican products Red Stripe beer and Myers Rum in a boycott of the Caribbean island to support local homosexuals who they said were being oppressed.
On Tuesday, gay advocates at a New York City inn – the self-styled birthplace of the gay rights movement – dumped the Jamaican liquor products in the sewer and called for continued support to send “a clear message to Jamaican people and their government”.
In a statement yesterday Red Stripe, which is owned by the international Diageo Group, displayed surprise at being targeted. “Over the years, by our actions and our policies, we have demonstrated that we do not advocate any bias or prejudice against any individual or group(s),” said the statement.
“We have not had any consultation with this lobby group, but we do not rule out engaging them in discussions,” Red Stripe said.
According to the group, through their website boycottjamaica, international human rights activists have labelled Jamaica “the most homophobic place on Earth” because homosexuals were being beaten and murdered on the island, while authorities do little to stop the violence.
As a reZsult, the US group said they were calling for a boycott of the island’s products, including tourism.
Said the organisers of the boycott: “We, as the owners of the Stonewall Inn, birthplace of the gay rights movement, refuse to support, in any way, shape or form, the oppression of any people especially our gay brothers and sisters in Jamaica.
“We ask all people of all walks of life to send a clear message to the Jamaican people and their government, that as long as they continue to allow and condone violence and hatred toward the gay community, we will neither buy their products nor support their tourist trade.
However, Jamaican homosexual group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, and Gays (J-Flag) in a release posted on the Internet disapproved of the position taken by their counterparts in the US.
“It is important that our international allies understand the nature of our struggle and engage us in a respectful way about it,” J-Flag said, adding that it required the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees homosexuals.
“We have been doing this through a small but growing group of increasingly aware opinion leaders who are concerned about the damage homophobia does to our society.”