With prevalence data showing that more than a third of the population of MSM in Jamaica are HIV are HIV infected, and with the understanding that stigma and discrimination of MSM is a major barrier to accessing health and social services that can help mitigate the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic.Types of Discrimination
Verbal stigma/discrimination, enacted directly or within earshot of the target. Labels such as batty bwoy or batty man, who many believe is the country’s rifle, and those terms have become part of the general arsenal of derogatory words used in heated disputes.
Physical discrimination/harassment, with reports of MSM being stabbed, shot, and attacked with machetes and sticks or a target of violent threats due to their sexuality.
Nonverbal stigma/discrimination, including derogatory looks, shunning, and avoidance.
Stigma/discrimination, these are commonly enacted when the males is alone making him an easier target.
Perpetrators of stigma/discrimination
While both males and females enacted stigma/discrimination against MSM, the overall profiles of the perpetrators are males between 18-45 years of age. This proves that males are more likely to make more negative and threatening comments than females.
When family members discover that one of their own is a MSM, reactions often become violent threats and involve ejection from the home.
MSM experience stigma/discrimination within their own community, including from friends and partners.
This is based on divisions between more effeminate vs. masculine MSM and gay vs. non-gay-identified MSM.
This is often enacted in public places where more masculine and/or straight-identified males would divorce/separate themselves from more effeminate and/or gay-identified males or tell the more effeminate/gay-identified male to “man up” or “tone down their realness.”
The most common environment for stigma/discrimination at the community level is public spaces, including retail spaces, parks, transportation, and, most commonly, “the road.”
Stigmatizing/discriminating comments in public spaces often afford perpetrators an audience. Sometimes said indirectly within earshot of an MSN, these comments were more directly audible to others in the area with the intent of inciting a response and making the incident the focal point of activity.
Public spaces are often used to express negative opinions about MSM in general and included physical discrimination and harassment by motorists and pedestrians as well as police officers.
MSM discrimination take place in the rental property market; landlords asked discriminatory questions to determine if the potential tenant is an MSM.
Discrimination is experienced with the unwillingness of cashiers or store clerks to assist customers deemed to be MSMs.
In educational establishments MSM were a regular target of verbal insults and shunning in dormitories/on campuses; sexual harassment from MSM in positions of power (teachers, lecturers) took place.
In health facilities staff and providers often use nonverbal actions and body language to communicate disrespect; staff gossip about MSM patients take place.
In a church stigma/discrimination was manifested in both the doctrine preached and in the shunning/discriminatory behaviors of both congregants and religious leaders.
Impact of stigma/discrimination on MSM
Common feeling among MSM ethnographers include:
Depression and suicidal thoughts to resolve endless emotional pain
Fear of daily verbal abuse and physical attacks
Frustration with having to hide oneself and not live freely
Feelings of anger and acts of retaliation towards perpetrators
Conduct greater advocacy for addressing MSM stigma/discrimination among MSM and supportive communities.
Develop media campaigns to address social norms of stigma/discrimination and encourage interpersonal and community-level dialogue to support change.
Conduct capacity strengthening with education, social service, health facility staff, and others who are in the position to misuse their power with MSM.
Develop targeted interventions with youth, parents and religious leaders and church members.