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  • Writer's pictureDean Nelson, (he/him) CTC, LLD

5th annual Montego Bay Pride heats up Jamaica

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Maurice Tomlinson, producer and founder of the Montego Bay Pride is excited to usher in the 5th annual Pride and Human Rights festival in Jamaica October 13-20, 2019.

The week long pride festival has a whole host of exciting events from receptions, movie night, dance parties, Human Rights panel, Pride faith service, Pride walk for Rights, a Pride talent show and an exciting social justice project that will no doubt inspire many people.

Maurice Tomlinson is an internationally known human rights and LGBT activist from Jamaica. He is the coordinator of Anglicans for Decriminalization and a senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.  At the Legal Network Maurice acts as counsel and/or claimant in cases challenging anti-gay laws before the most senior tribunals in the Caribbean, authors reports to regional and UN agencies on the human rights situation for LGBT people in this region, conducts judicial and police LGBT- and HIV-sensitization trainings, and facilitates human rights documentation and advocacy capacity-building exercises.  Maurice won the inaugural David Kato Vision and Voice Award in 2012, which recognizes leading campaigners for the human rights of LGTB people around the globe.

Tomlinson recently filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) challenging Jamaica's constitutional ban on relationship/marriage equality. The government of Jamaica must respond by October - so fingers crossed the 5th annual Pride week may have even more to celebrate as the tides of tolerance for Gender and Sexual Diversity slowly changes in the Caribbean island.

Why does Pride Matter?

Visibility and safety in numbers. When Pride gathers it signals to the community that they are not alone. It gives us hope and strength to stand up and be visible. Pride builds a sense of community, showcasing how resilient the LGBTQ folk are. When the Jamaican constitutional challenge became public it attracted the attention of Karamo Brown, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Karamo, Jamaican born, American actor/reality star uses his voice to help the cause.

On July 27th Karamo saw the front page of Jamaica's national newspaper, the Gleaner, with the headline "Gay Marriage Fight." He poses a question to his followers - "What can I do to help? Activist, let me know what I can do to support? #MarriageEquality

Other LGBTQ Jamaican's have reached out to Montego Bay Pride to share their own stories, and to share how important these constitutional challenges are as well as bringing the community together.

Montego Bay Pride - what you can expect

Speaking with Maurice Tomlinson, he is very proud of the grassroots Pride week. They have chosen their partners carefully to ensure everyone stays safe. The venues are kept confidential and only shared with the vetted registered pride participants. It is an extra layer of complexity needed in a developing pride in a region where tolerance is still a battle but they are slowly moving the needle towards acceptance.

The 5th annual pride celebrations will have many beautiful social gatherings full of colour, love and joy. Movie night, dance parties, talent show, pool party to Human Rights panel, Pride faith service, an exciting social justice project and finishing off with a Pride Walk for Rights.

Round Hill Hotel & Villas - an LGBTQ welcoming property

Earlier this year while in New York city, I was able to meet the team at Round Hill Hotel & Villas and learn what they are doing to ensure everyone regardless of where one identifies on the spectrum of gender and sexual diversity feels safe and has an enjoyable stay. They are one of the few resorts in Jamaica that actively engages the LGBTQ community.

Tips for visiting Montego Bay

While Montego Bay is a pretty safe city, it is recommended that you stick close to the tourist areas and never wander alone to the rural areas, especially at night. Visitors may be occasionally offered "the Bob Marley," as the locals call it, say no and move on, it is illegal. Those looking to travel should call a taxi; it is the safest way to get around.

LGBTQ Rights in Jamaica

⚠️ Female same-sex encounters are not explicitly outlawed. However, all individuals (male/female) are prohibited from buggery (anal sex) with another individual. Punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment with or without hard labor. All male-male sexual encounters are prohibited under law. Punishment of up to 7 years imprisonment with or without hard labor.

Interested in joining me? Click here for more information.

Interested in helping the folks at Montego Bay Pride? Consider donating to their GoFundMe Page - Click here to donate now.

Rainbow Refugee - Helping LGBTQ refugees resettle in Canada

Proud to be working with Rainbow Refugee for the past decade - an Olympic Story

Rainbow Refugee - helping LGBTQ refugees resettle in Canada

I have been working in the LGBTQ space since 2004. In 2006 I went to the first WorldOutGames in Montreal and attended the Human Rights Conference. Here I met so many amazing people, was heart broken with some of the stories and inspired by others. In 2008 after attending the InterPride Conference in Zurich, Ken Coolen and I made the decision to create a safe space for our LGBTQ community at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. In 2009 as we announced to the world we would be hosting the first Pride House, we engaged with our friends at Rainbow Refugee on how we can work together to handle any inquiries for asylum requests, refugee claims and more. Since then with the annual Whistler Pride and Ski Festival we have been able to give a platform for Rainbow Refugee to share their story and what they are doing to help make a brighter future for marginalized LGBTQ / HIV/AIDS folk in areas of conflict where diversity of Gender and Sexuality is a criminal offence. Interested in learning more about this amazing organization? click here.

Rainbow Connection - a Circle of Hope

Interested in helping to support the Rainbow Connection - a Circle of Hope with Mr. Gay Canada, Josh Rimer and friends raising funds to help bring an LGBTQ refugee from Africa to resettle in Canada. Click here to learn more.

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