A friend and bioethicist and fellow academic blogger recently wrote the following letter to Goodlife Fitness: Goodlife’s straight members only competition – Open Letter to its CEO.
My partner and I have been members of your gym chain for many years. We happen to be gay. Your competition misleads members into thinking that Jamaica is a tourist destination like any other, sun, beach and a good time. Nothing good be further from the truth.
Jamaica is a militantly homophobic society, religious fundamentalists have written anti-gay provision into the country’s constitution. Here is a helpful link to a 2014 report by the respected human rights organisation Human Rights Watch on anti-gay violence in Jamaica.
My husband and I would be up ‘eligible’ for an up-to ten year jail term should we choose to engage in sexual intercourse during a vacation we might win if we took part in your competition.
Local civil rights groups lament, ‘serious human rights abuses, including assault with deadly weapons, of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of gay and lesbian patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of such persons.’
Given the current attention to laws permitting the active discriminations against gay customers in Indiana, I cannot help but wonder what drove your company to offer a competition that would subject your gay and lesbian members to serious risk of bodily harm, not to say long jail terms, should they win your competition and decide to actually go to Jamaica.
I am writing to you today to ask that you cancel the ongoing competition and replace the ‘Jamaica’ labelled posters with posters that offer a vacation price, but a vacation of the winner’s choosing. Otherwise, you really are telling your gay and lesbian members that our well-being and safety is of no concern to you, and that the current competition celebrating the chain’s 36th anniversary is really addressed to the club’s straight members only.
Goodlife forwarded the concerns to Tourism Jamaica who wrote back as follows ( bolded the bit that might be of concern to GLBT travelers):
Jamaica welcomes visitors from all over the world and from all segments of society equally with the warmth and courtesy they expect and deserve. We recognize that there are diverse communities and cultures interested in Jamaica as a travel destination, and we embrace that diversity with respect. In Jamaica, we are committed to the safety of all travelers. We respect the right of all visitors to Jamaica to express their own beliefs and to satisfy their own vacation experiences while staying with us.We respect the choices of adults and responsible adult activities. In keeping with travel to any destination in the world, we encourage visitors to respect Jamaican laws and community standards, and to take reasonable measures to enhance their travel experience. Please know that we welcome everyone with open arms and look forward to sharing the beauty that is Jamaica with them.
Luckily Goodlife also allowed that Udo and his partner could substitute another trip if they chose. ” Should you win this trip, we would be happy to award you with a trip of equal value to another destination.”
He’s satisfied with that reply but wonders whether they ought also to warn gays and lesbians who might win this competition *not* to go to Jamaica due to the risk to their well-being, as well as legislation criminalizing the sexual conduct of gay men.
What do you think?