By Andwele A. O. Boyce
According to a report by Caribbean Policy Research Institute CAPRI, Jamaica’s anti gay laws and practices are costing the country a staggering J$11 billion a year.
This new data should not only alarm us but inspire a political will and hitch the previously uninitiated to the cause as well as shed light on the cost of hate for countries across the region.
The study indicates” that the incidence of mental health in the LGBT community is 69 per cent. It is more than triple the rate in the general population. Treating mental health costs Jamaica about $5 billion each year – only a third of which is public cost.
The country could therefore save a small fortune if it understood and cared enough to realize that there is a tremendous price associated with the bad treatment of members of the LGBT community.
In relation to workforce,” employers have said that they would not hire an openly gay person because they do not support that orientation. The number of them who said that was half of those surveyed (54 per cent). A third (35 per cent) of employers said that that discovery is reason alone for dismissal,” a data point that cries out for a meaningful solution.
The data further reveals that LGBT people under invest in education because of societies’ intolerance. Put graphically, the community refuses to spend money on education because of a recognition that homophobia will be an impediment to attaining top spots. Admittedly, that bit of information is startling; the idea that in recognition of a glass ceiling members of the community foreclose on their dreams should at least worry us if not hurt us all.
It must be noted that is not often that we measure the costs of hate, in this instance homophobia. Usually the measure we take of society’s discrimination is its effect on the victim, this time we take the macro approach and thus the research reveals and crystallizes the national cost.
Given this, it is the role, of government to find the political will to legislate against discrimination of the community. Legislation of that kind would encourage more employers to create the enabling environment through explicit and fulsome non-discrimination policies and by so doing become equal opportunity employers.
Lead the way
The realities for the LGBT communities in states across the region are very similar. Legislatively there is an archaic buggery law that criminalizes sex among consenting adults. There is no legal protection for the community against discrimination in education, healthcare or the workplace. Not to mention a cultural identity that is defined by conservatism that despite some contemporary progress has stunted major gains.
Suffice it to say that these findings could represent some indication of the magnitude of loss for each island across the Caribbean. An exact conversion would suggest that we are losing enough to build roads, to improve school plant, to modernize hospitals and engage in research and design to initiate new industrial thrusts.
This research has the ability convince citizens who have never considered the issues faced by the LGBT deeply but who now having engaged with these findings would be convinced that there is reason to work towards better for the LGBT community.
Discrimination of any kind is a development issue with effects on the economy and the fostering of human resources. The loss of $11 billion a year for any country is alarming, more so for a developing country, navigating its way through the contemporary challenges facing Small Island Developing States.
Therefore, there is value in this kind of research if we are to rid the region of many of its social discontents; sexism, disability, discrimination, even crime and violence, to name a few.
One can only hope that this data accelerates a shift in regional realities as it relates to the LGBT community, because now we know, and we now know in ways we have never known before.
(Andwele A. O. Boyce is a communicator and Disability Advocate who holds degrees in Political Science, International Trade Policy, and Law)