Editor-At-Large: After Turing, the shameful abuse of gays goes on

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The Independent Online

It's become fashionable for politicians to say sorry – generally for events they have no control over. It's easier to demonstrate humility for a social injustice that happened more than half a century ago than to admit responsibility for handing Rover cars to a bunch of avaricious buffoons who presided over its demise, resulting in thousands of workers losing their jobs.

Belatedly, Gordon Brown has made a public apology for the "horrifying and utterly unfair" treatment of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and code-breaker whose work undoubtedly helped to bring the Second World War to a swifter conclusion, and who made an important contribution to the development of computers.

Turing was gay, and after being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 he was offered chemical castration or a prison sentence. He submitted to the highly controversial medical procedure; however, his criminal record ensured he lost his security clearance and his job. He committed suicide two years later.

There's been a long campaign to clear Turing's name – more than 30,000 people signed a petition – so it's not as if the Prime Minister woke up one day and decided that this repulsive episode in the history of gay-bashing should be publicly atoned for half a century later. In 1999, Time magazine included Turing in its 100 most important people of the 20th century and some campaigners want him to be posthumously knighted.

I'm glad that Brown felt bad about what happened to Turing, but I wonder whether he spends any time considering the ongoing harassment of homosexuals in one of our former colonies, a country millions of Britons visit and one with very close ties to a large number of British citizens. I'm talking about Jamaica, where last week John Terry, a British diplomat, who was made a MBE for services to tourism, was found murdered at home in Montego Bay. A note attached to his body reportedly called him a "batty man", slang for homosexual.

Whether this particular murder was homophobically inspired or not, the context is not encouraging. The attitude of most Jamaicans towards gay men and women is prehistoric – in a survey last year, 70 per cent questioned said they didn't think homosexuals should be entitled to the same rights as other citizens; only 26 per cent disagreed with that. In a recent poll of Jamaicans, 96 per cent were against legalising sex between consenting males. The Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has gone on record saying he would never allow gays in his cabinet. Popular musicians including Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Shabba Ranks, Elephant Man and Beenie Man have all had hits with lyrics that call for gays to be attacked and killed.

In 2006, Time called Jamaica "the most homophobic place on earth". Prominent gay activists have been murdered and homophobic attacks are routine. Homosexuality itself is not illegal, but sodomy is. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long complained about the treatment of gays in Jamaica, to no avail.

In spite of the image of sun-kissed beaches and carefree living, Jamaica is now one of the most violent places on earth. After the government announced a new "peace management initiative", 13 people were killed in the first 48 hours of 2009. More than 1,600 people were killed in 2008 and almost as many in 2007. Last January, at the height of the tourist season, there were 70 murders in less than three weeks. Gay rights groups estimate that more than 30 gay men have been murdered between 1997 and 2004.

Jamaica is beautiful and vibrant – I used to holiday there every year, driving all over the island exploring back roads and wild countryside, and bought a plot of land on the south-west coast, where I planned to build a small house. Now I won't go back. It's not just the violence and the police corruption (friends are routinely asked for money when stopped driving after dark by police), but Jamaica's shocking record on gay rights. In 2005 the EU parliament passed a resolution calling for Jamaica to repeal its sodomy laws – it's been ignored. The attacks continue, and the Bible is used as a justification.

The Jamaican constitution (and the Queen is Jamaica's chief of state) states that all citizens shall be entitled to "security of person". It also forbids sexual discrimination. Perhaps Mr Brown should make his well-documented concerns about homophobia known to his counterparts in Jamaica.

Best left veiled: How wedding lists can leave you exposed

Getting married is highly stressful without the indignity of seeing your wedding present list printed in the national press, enabling everyone to sneer at your taste in silver frog place-card holders. Sophie Winkleman starred as a scheming, unscrupulous princess in ITV's gloriously tacky series The Palace, which probably meant she was well prepared for the circus surrounding her wedding yesterday to real-life minor member of the Royal Family, Lord Freddie Windsor (whom I remember being a lot of fun at Kate Moss's gloriously decadent 30th birthday party a few years back). Wedding lists reveal a lot about your character. Apparently, Freddie's mum, Princess Michael of Kent, thought the couple should have asked for "works of art" so they could start their own collection. The beauty of lists is that they let everyone give something, even if they can't afford more than a set of spoons or a couple of sheets. Princess Pushy clearly doesn't move in the real world – a decent print would set guests back nearly 2,000 quid. Elizabeth Hurley's wedding list was highly original: guests had the option of buying chickens, sheep and cows for her organic farm! (I think I gave her a hen or two.) The first time I got married, I thought lists were "vulgar". After receiving four toasters, I changed my mind. But you can't be brazen and come up with a list when marrying for the second, third or fourth time.

Snobbery: a disposable luxury

Duchy Originals trades on snobbery. Most ingredients no longer come from the Duchy Home Farm and the levels of salt and sugar in some products are hardly healthy. But snobbery is a disposable luxury in a recession: Duchy Original profits plummeted to £56,000 in 2008, and went into loss in the year to last March, meaning that there was no donation to the Prince's Trust, the reason for the company's establishment. Now Waitrose has stepped in to license the range, and a grateful Prince of Wales and his duchess stepped out to be photographed shopping at the Belgravia Waitrose. Waitrose might have got themselves a bum deal. These days, the middle classes are flocking to Morrisons, Lidl and Netto.

The BBC is too big for our good

BBC bosses have finally admitted the corporation might be too big, ordering a "strategic review" to evaluate its activities. Buying travel guides and constantly expanding websites are areas it might start some serious pruning – not just to save money, but to prevent the BBC dominating the market. Why should it offer more and more services, blogs and associated activities online, and how many digital channels does it really need? Licence-payers expect to be able to catch up on programmes they've missed via the iPlayer, as well as logging on to BBC news for free. The BBC always uses "in the public interest" as its justification, but if it continually stifles competition, viewers and listeners suffer from a lack of choice.

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