Homophobic Violence on the Increase in Jamaica

More than fifty men and women who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexualhave faced various human rights violations between January and June2011.
The lack of public policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Jamaica has resulted in an increase in homophobic violence in the first half of this year, according to documentation by the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

 

As a result, between January and June, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued two requests for precautionary measures to protect Jamaican citizens threatened by such violence. Yet, homophobic violence isn't new to Jamaica. The IACHR also expressed concern about such violence in 2008 after its visit to the country.

IGLHRC joins J-FLAG in calling on the Jamaican government to condemn, discourage, investigate, persecute and punish such violence with vigor and determination.

IGLHRC believes that a vital part of our mission is supporting the work of activists, organizations and allies by disseminating information affecting LGBT communities worldwide. To this end, we are posting this press release from J-FLAG.

Jamaicans continue to experience human rights violations at the hands of their family, friends, neighbours, landlord, police or mobs because of their sexual orientation. Since January 2011, fifty-one incidents, including mob attacks, physical abuse, home evictions, and discrimination were reported with forty-seven of these meted out to males. Similar to national statistics on crime and violence, young people, 18 to 29 years, continue to be the main victims of violence based on sexual orientation. Young people made more than 30 of the 51 reports.

“On average, J-FLAG has documented between 30 and 40 cases annually over the past three years, but we have seen an increase in the number of reports which shows that homophobia based harassment and discrimination continues because of the lack of protection of the human rights of homosexuals living in Jamaica by the state,” says Dane Lewis, Executive Director at J-FLAG.

“There is a Policy Statement on violence against persons based on their sexual orientation, agreed by Cabinet on April 7, 2008, to support this, but there is no hate crime law,” Corbin Gordon, J-FLAG’s Programme & Advocacy Coordinator highlighted. In a communiqué with the organisation, Prime Minister Golding said that the Government’s position has been that violence against gays and lesbians is unequivocal. It should be condemned, discouraged, investigated, persecuted and punished with vigour and determination.

J-FLAG is therefore urging the Government to protect and promote the human rights of persons, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “Action needs to be demonstrated beyond that of a policy statement if we are to achieve our national vision to ensure that the ‘Jamaican society is secure, cohesive and just,” Lewis said.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons have and continue to play a crucial role in Jamaica’s development in the areas of arts and culture, sports, education, job creation and entrepreneurship, among others. They are efficient and productive members of both public and private sector entities. Lewis also said “Vision 2030 would never be truly materialised if there are distinctions in our constitution about the protection of one set of people over another.”

View JFLAG Homophobic Violence Summary