Time for Jamaicans to finally deal with thorny issues

Time for Jamaicans to finally deal with thorny issues

Thursday, October 08, 2020

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The story headlined 'Teachable moment' on the back page of yesterday's Jamaica Observer is a sobering reminder for all Jamaicans of the extent to which the world has changed in the last 20-30 years.

Not so long ago the Jamaican “homophobic slur” which the talented young footballer Mr Junior Flemmings is alleged to have flung at an openly gay opponent in the USA's United Soccer League would have gone largely unnoticed. But now, despite a denial by Mr Flemmings, he has been found guilty of a serious offence and, after being initially sent on administrative leave, is now suspended for the rest of the season.

Indeed, Mr Flemmings's future as a professional footballer working overseas may be in jeopardy — at least for now.

For many Jamaicans, and indeed others across the Caribbean, the reaction to the alleged misdeed may seem over the top.

However, strong punitive action in response to perceived discrimination — not just in relation to race but also issues such as sexual inclination — are now par for the course, especially in North America and Europe.

Jamaican musical entertainers, among others accused of homophobia, have found this out at great cost in recent years.

This latest incident involving Mr Flemmings reminds us all — regardless of endeavour — that respect is always due to others.

We concur with the comment from the Jamaica Football Federation that the incident should “impress upon our players, both locally and internationally, to be mindful of their expressions within and without a game. Every player should use this incident as a teachable moment”.

Hopefully, Mr Flemmings' former coach at school, Mr Miguel Coley, predicted correctly when he said the player “will rise from this as a better person; certainly more cognisant of inclusiveness, and he will be more vigilant”.

Without doubt, Mr Coley is correct when he said Mr Flemmings will need all the help he can get.

Beyond all of the above, the incident is a reminder for Jamaicans that the uncomfortable issues of same-sex unions and the outdated buggery law need to be dealt with.

For while Jamaica has apparently put the matter on the back burner, many countries are gradually coming to terms with same-sex unions and are passing laws accordingly.

Increasingly, countries like Jamaica which continue to effectively outlaw homosexuality by way of the buggery law are being seen as backward and flying in the face of basic human rights.

Only last month Jamaican churches came out in strong opposition to reports out of Barbados suggesting that country's Government is supportive of changing their laws to allow same-sex unions. That Government has proposed a referendum on the matter.

In Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said years ago that a referendum will be used to decide this thorny issue; as well as others, including abortion.

Jamaicans haven't heard much about that lately. It was hardly an agenda item in the recent election campaign.

However, this recent incident involving Mr Flemmings tells us once more that the tide is changing and rising rapidly.

It's time for the society to stop dithering on this and other controversial issues.

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