State Department Report On Jamaica’s LGBTs: Arbitrary Detentions, Mob Attacks, Stabbings, Harassment and Targeted Shootings
March 17th, 2009
Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department issued its annual Human Rights Report for 2008. Jamaica, a favorite holiday destination for millions of Americans, was singled out for extensive official and unofficial abuse of LGBT citizens of that country.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The law prohibits “acts of gross indecency” (generally interpreted as any kind of physical intimacy) between men, in public or in private, which are punishable by 10 years in prison.
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals. Police often did not investigate such incidents.
J-FLAG members also suffered attacks on their property, home intrusions as people demanded to know the number of persons and beds in a home, and in one instance, a fire bombing at the home of two men that left one of them with burns on more than 60 percent of his body. In addition homosexuals faced death and arson threats, with some of these directed at the J-FLAG offices. J-FLAG did not publicize its location due to such threats, and its officials reported feeling unsafe having meetings with clients at the organization’s office.
In February a mob broke into the home of four presumed homosexual men, killing three of them. The fourth was missing and presumed dead. The men had reported being harassed for their perceived sexual orientation prior to the fatal attack. Police made some inquiries in the case but did not conduct a full investigation or make any arrests by year’s end.
The trial of six suspects arrested for the 2005 robbery and murder of Lenford “Steve” Harvey, initially begun and then postponed in 2007, was scheduled to recommence in January 2009.
Male inmates deemed by prison wardens to be homosexual were held in a separate facility for their protection. The method used for determining their sexual orientation was subjective and not regulated by the prison system, although inmates were said to confirm their homosexuality for their own safety. There were numerous reports of violence against homosexual inmates, perpetrated by the wardens and by other inmates, but few inmates sought recourse through the prison system.
Homosexual men were hesitant to report incidents against them because of fear for their physical well-being. Lesbian women were subject to sexual assault as well as other physical attacks. Human rights NGOs and government entities agreed that brutality against homosexuals, primarily by private citizens, was widespread in the community.
We reported on the mob killing last February. The situation in Jamaica has continued to deteriorate, with high-ranking Jamaican officials shrugging off anti-LGBT violence. Calls for “tolerance” in the popular media have remained decidedly one-sided by advocating tolerance only for those who espouse homophobic hatred. Courts in the United States, Canada and Europe have been providing asylum to LGBT Jamaicans who fear for their lives if they are forced to return. Meanwhile, support for boycotting Jamaica continues to build. Stay tuned.