Also see: Caribbean Anti Violence Project
17 Reggae stars banned after breaking gay hate pledge 7/06
18 Jamaica, Island of Hate–Its Leading Gay Activist Speaks Out 10/06
Comment from a reader (2/05): "Indeed, in Jamaica, there are people in top positions in corporate, educational, theatrical, military, medical circles, etc., whom the public know are gay or bi but they do not attack or confront them about their sexuality. But if you flaunt it or reveal it or commit an offense against a minor or are caught publicly in the act, then you may be in for a brutal rude awakening. Very few people know of my interest in this area. I teach in a university."
Note: Outreach caribbean closed in late 2005
New Gay Caribbean Organization: Outreach Caribbbean–"reaching out for equality"
Outreach Caribbean assists new and established GLBTQI organisations and individuals to create a collaborative network that promotes research, education, advocacy, fund raising, and community service efforts within the culture and context of the West Indian Societies. Our ultimate goal is to foster an atmosphere of equality for same gender loving individuals and communities throughout the region.
Anthony Hron, Coordinator
P.O. Box 5540
March 9, 2005
Lesbian Activists in Jamaica Tell Horror Stories
by Jessica DuLong
Lesbian advocates in Jamaica are reaching out to the world, bringing public attention to conditions that make them fearful, even in their own neighborhoods. While gay rights activists in the U.S. push for the right to marry, lesbians in Jamaica are fighting for the right to live. Local activists say women who step outside societal norms—by dressing “ too manly” or having few male visitors, for example—risk threats of verbal and physical abuse. Women have reportedly been raped, beaten, murdered and forced out of their homes or jobs simply for being lesbians.
Read more at following link: http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/22
March 29, 2005
The new co-chair of Jamaica’s only gay rights group says he isn’t deterred by his country’s abusive police and angry mobs
by Jessica DuLong
Last June, Brian Williamson, a founding member of Jamaica’s only gay rights organization, was found brutally murdered at his home in Kingston. Many gays in that country, where violent attacks and torture by police are common, said the crime was motivated by antigay prejudiced. So it may come as no surprise that the new co-chair of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays, founded in 1998, declined to reveal his last name.
Gareth, a 27 year old student at the University of the West Indies, is known as a strong-willed individual who has fought for gay equality in Jamaica for many years. He sat down with The Advocate on January 31 while on a month long speaking tour through the United States with JFLAG’s other co-chair, Karlene. The tour was sponsored by Amnesty International to raise awareness about Jamaican gays and to ask for help.
Read more at following link: http://www.advocate.com/html/stories/935/935_jamaica.asp 14
O’Brien did not want to be gay. He did not want to be discreet. He did not want a label. He wanted to take time and discover himself. He was largely celibate. Now and then he had man/man sex. The Cries of Men is a search for love and acceptance. He did now want the kind of love he got at five, when he went into a shower with an older boy. That was love without intimacy. He wanted not the kind of love he got from two men when he only wanted to watch and masturbate. He was raped.
He gave up after that. He lost control. He lost the self love that sustained him. He spiraled into depression. A man loved him unconditionally after that. He loved him back in return. That gave O’brien hope. It made him feel that he was capable of being loved. He was capable of loving himself. The Cries of men shares the candid and true personal account of rape and sexual abuse from the voices of young Jamaican men. This is easily anyone’s story. The search for love and acceptance is archetypal. So is the journey through abuse: It is the story of the hero of every A or B list movie and every heroine in Harlequin romance.
His journey is the movement from the Tina Turner’s song What’s Love got to do with it .to the gospel song with the lyrics. "Love lift me up where I belong." Maybe his batty bun him but so what, you got hair bruises on your dick from tight pussy and women got their pussy rim bun by big buddy, so bring on the pain and its metaphors. http://www.obriendennis.com Go to your local book store and place an order or log on to bn.com or amazon.com
Review by E.B Baisden- Author of The Fever of the Years a collection of 16 short stories.
July 31, 2005
New push for gay rights debate–Rhodd’s committee wants discussion on legalising homosexuality, prostitution
by Sunday Observer editor Lavern Clarke and writer Balford Henry
In a radical shift of position, the government is now prepared to hear arguments for, and against, the legalisation of homosexuality and prostitution – a move that is likely to ignite new controversy in a country with strong anti-gay sentiments. Prior to last week, any calls for the Patterson administration to engage in a debate on the issue and for it to repeal the law against buggery had been greeted with a flat "no".
But last week, the parliamentary committee on Human Resources and Social Development, chaired by junior education minister Donald Rhodd, proposed a debate on the issue as a matter of public health. The issue was raised in the committee report on its deliberations on HIV/AIDS, as Jamaica moves to strengthen its response to the pandemic and end discrimination and stigma against people living with the disease.
Last night, the recommendation of the Rhodd committee was welcomed by Jamaica’s gay-rights movement J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians and Gays), which, however, saw it as a first tentative step in the right direction, rather than a major stride. "It’s not a great, great milestone, but we welcome debate," said J-FLAG’s programmes manager and co-chair, who called himself ‘Gareth’.
Any change in the laws affecting homosexuality and prostitution would be a victory for Jamaica’s public officials and particularly the top official on the management of HIV/AIDS, Dr Peter Figueroa. He has consistently urged that legalisation be considered, at least in the case of prostitution, to allow for regulation of commercial sex to minimise its impact on the health system.
Susan Goffe, the chairperson of the local rights group Jamaicans For Justice, declined comment on the suggestion from Rhodd’s committee, having not seen the report – saying only that as of now her organisation had "no position" for or against the legalisation of either prostitution or homosexuality.
However, J-FLAG’s Gareth, said that even with debate, he expected little change in the ‘homophobic’ reaction to gays. Having repeated a call for the repealing of the buggery laws, he said the next step has to be a policy response from the politicians to devise other laws to penalise those who discriminate, violently or otherwise, against homosexuals. "Yes, we can always change laws, but the real problem is behaviour change," he said.
Government spokesman Senator Burchell Whiteman did say last December that the buggery laws were likely to come up for review "in the future". He, however, at the time stressed that the timetable was dependent on a willingness by Jamaicans to be more accepting of sexual diversity. That statement was in the context of a Human Rights Watch broadside, in another attack on Jamaica’s reputed homophobia, in a scathing report last year claiming that official policy discriminated against gays, causing them to go underground, exacerbating the spread of HIV/AIDS. Gays, male homosexuals particularly, were routinely detained and beaten by the police, claimed the Human Rights Watch report titled Hated to Death.
There were also calls by a British junior minister for Jamaica and other Caribbean societies to be more tolerant of homosexuals.
Jamaica has a reputation for homophobia, and last year when J-FLAG’s founder and leader, Brian Williamson, was stabbed to death in his Kingston apartment the human rights group Amnesty International immediately branded his murder a hate crime. But the police said they had no such evidence.
Additionally, Jamaican dancehall DJ artistes have come under international attack for their anti-gay music and some have had to find accommodation with gay rights lobbyists in the face of boycotts and bans of their shows in North America and Europe.
Gareth, the J-FJAG official, said the proposal for national dialogue was worthless if government had been pushed to make the compromise. " I hope this is not just a debate brought by pressure," said the J-FLAG co-chair, "and that the debate disappears when the pressure disappears," he said.
Rhodd’s committee said last week that during its deliberations it was posited that the legalisation of both homosexuality and prostitution could contribute to reducing the number of new cases of HIV infection. " Whereas some members of your committee strongly objected to this proposal, mainly on the grounds of moral and religious principles, others felt that it was an issue that the leadership and the entire country would need to address as a matter of urgency," the report said.
It also called on the political leadership to spearhead the formation of a partnership between all sectors of the society to strengthen the dissemination of information about HIV/AIDS, and for increased funding of health and social services in order to facilitate accessibility to these services by every Jamaican in a more holistic and co-ordinated way. The committee said it looked into the matter of HIV/AIDS because of the far-reaching impact of the disease on all facets of Jamaican society.
It said that the issue was examined in a "comprehensive way" in order to determine the impact of HIV/AIDS on development and to seek to identify measures that could be implemented to effectively address the problem.
22 August 2005
Gay Jamaican man jailed in UK for passport lie
by Ben Townley,
A gay Jamaican man who was apparently so fearful of returning home because of the reaction to his sexuality, was jailed today for lying in a passport application. Dennis Watson, 22, was found guilty of charges that included pretending to be someone else so as to get a British passport. His defending team said he was forced to make use of the “unsophisticated” plan because he feared he would face violence in Jamaica should he return.
Watson assumed the identity of another man when he made the applications. His plan failed when authorities realised the other man had already been issued with a passport. Stephen Mooney, defending, told Bristol Crown Court that the plan was a reaction to the violent homophobia Watson feared at home. "Mr Watson is going through asylum because he’s frightened of going back to Jamaica,” Mooney told the court.
He said that, having arrived in Britain five years ago to stay with his mother, he had since come to terms with his sexuality and wished to stay, according to local press reports. He works in the finance industry near Bristol. "He realised that the risk to himself if he stayed on in Jamaica would become greater," Mooney said. The judge sentenced him to six months in prison, and ruled that an immigration hearing will be held in October to determine his status.
Jamaica has been at the centre of the immigration debate in recent years, after the British government declared Jamaica safe.
Since then, a gay activist was killed in what some campaigners believe was a murder motivated by homophobia. Additionally, the island’s dancehall and ragga music has been criticised for its anti-gay lyrics. A spokesperson for the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) said the Home Office needs to reassess how gay asylum seekers from Jamaica are treated.
“There have now been a number of cases where gay men from Jamaica have been successful in obtaining asylum, but almost always after the Home Office have first refused their claims,” Solicitor Barry O’Leary told Gay.com UK. “It cannot now be doubted that the persecution gay men can face in Jamaica can engage the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention – the violence they face is regularly extreme.”
“Unfortunately, Home Office decision making still takes place in a ‘refusal culture’ and many who need our protection can be left fearing for their lives in Jamaica because of their sexuality but in grave doubt that the UK will be willing to offer help.’
October 23, 2005
A voyeuristic morality
by Diane Abbott
For Jamaicans there is no more sensitive subject than homosexuality. I was reminded of this at dinner recently with a very senior Jamaican politician. He expressed himself vehemently on the subject of gays and gay marriage. Then he turned to me triumphantly and said, "Do you think the British Parliament would ever legalise gay marriage?" His scornful tone made it clear that he expected a reply in the negative.
But I had to point out that we had indeed legalised gay marriage. The technical name of the legislation was the Civil Partnerships Bill. But it is a gay marriage bill in all but name. The idea of ‘civil partnerships’ was piloted by the mayor of London Ken Livingstone. He is a long-time political ally of mine. So I happen to know he is a devoted heterosexual who fathered two children in his late fifties. And he was nervous about the reception ‘civil partnerships’ would receive from the public and the press.
But to everyone’s surprise there was no critical comment, just a scattering of photographs featuring excited middle-aged men exchanging their vows. Tony Blair and his government pay close attention to public opinion in general, and the right-wing press in particular. When they saw the absence of unfavourable comment on ‘civil partnerships’ they were emboldened to make them legal.
Why should something that is bitterly controversial in America, and unthinkable in Jamaica, have passed into law so smoothly in Britain? It is not that there is so much less anti-homosexual feeling in Britain than in Jamaica. Just this week a gay man was beaten to death on Clapham Common in London by a group of (white) men. In fact, the highly-coloured rhetoric that Jamaicans routinely use about homosexuals does Jamaica a disservice. It makes it appear that Jamaicans are less tolerant than they are in practice. Last year Jamaicans actually got political asylum in Britain on the grounds that merely being homosexual in Jamaica put their lives at risk. And the British courts believed them.
The reason that homosexuality is legal in Britain (unlike in Jamaica) is that the British have long believed that what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business. There are probably as many people in Britain who disapprove of homosexuality as there are in Jamaica. They just do not think this is any business of the state. And on the question of gay marriage, the general view was that if the purpose of marriage is to encourage stable unions and protect property rights (which historically it was), then there is no reason why this system should not be extended to same-sex couples.
Jamaicans (and many Americans) will argue that this all points to the monstrous immorality of the British. In fact, there are some very strong moral underpinnings to British politics. People on both the left and right of politics believe that it would be fundamentally immoral for anyone to be refused urgent health care because they cannot pay. Health care is free at the point of use in Britain, and has been for over 50 years. Any party which tried to introduce the US system of health care would be destroyed at the polls.
Equally the British would think that it was completely immoral for little children to be deprived of an education because their parents cannot pay. Perhaps the big difference between the British approach to morality in politics and the Jamaican and American approach is that in Britain we generally believe that the essence of morality is how we, as a society, treat our fellow human beings.
For the American religious right, and some in Jamaica, morality seems to consist of standing in judgement on others. I am not suggesting that Jamaica should introduce gay marriage. That is probably far in advance of where society is. But the vehement anti-gay rhetoric common in Jamaica encourages gay men to lead double lives, thus spreading HIV infection, and it gives a poor image of Jamaica abroad. Gay-bashing lyrics give people in Britain an excuse to criticise some of Jamaica’s most talented dance hall artists and to stop them performing. Many people were astounded that George Bush Jr won the last US presidential elections. He has put millions out of work, presided over a ballooning budget deficit, ruthlessly enriched his corporate friends and dragged America into the disastrous Iraq war. But tens of thousands of poor people, both black and white, voted for George Bush on the single issue of his anti-gay marriage stance. Perhaps it is time for a debate about what morality in politics really means.
November 17, 2005
In Jamaica, Gay Rights Now an Issue Worth Debating
The island, long seen as homophobic, is beginning to rethink its hard-line stance.
by Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer
Kingston, Jamaica – A call by Deputy Education Minister Donald Rhodd to discuss the possible repeal of Victorian-era laws criminalizing homosexuality has provoked predictable outrage among conservative Jamaicans. But gays here see the chance for debate as a glimmer of hope that they may one day be able to move out from the shadows. Criticized by Human Rights Watch a year ago for fostering a climate of violent homophobia, Jamaica lately has joined other Caribbean countries in taking steps toward acknowledging that discrimination and denial have proved counterproductive in efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Still, many in the devoutly religious Caribbean region reject the notion that gays and lesbians should be granted equal protection under the law, including the right to associate openly and receive public services, as well as to marry. At least eight current or former British colonies in the Caribbean retain anti-sodomy laws, including Barbados, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Jamaica.
But economic realities and the outside world’s scorn of anti-gay violence have begun making inroads in the climate of intolerance.
European impresarios have canceled concerts by Jamaican reggae artists who incite hatred of homosexuals in their lyrics. A Dutch court recently ordered authorities in Aruba to recognize a lesbian couple’s marriage. And in St. Lucia, a top tourism official has been trying to sell fellow islanders on the idea that money is to be made as a destination for gay travelers.
The most homophobic of the islands, based on Human Rights Watch’s assessment of violence against gays, Jamaica suffers one of the highest incidences of HIV and AIDS, with 1.2% of the population infected. Many believe that the consequences of publicly acknowledging that one is gay have hampered government efforts to halt the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. At the secluded offices of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, or J-FLAG, activists see progress toward a national dialogue in the fight against acquired immune deficiency syndrome but little movement toward accepting homosexuality as a way of life.
"There is still a policy of denial — ‘This does not happen in Jamaica,’ " said Gareth, who, like most gays here, uses only his first name to avoid discrimination. "People say Jamaica is a Christian country and they do not want to go down the path of allowing homosexuality." Rhodd’s suggestion of a parliamentary debate this winter session on whether to decriminalize sodomy caused a stir, but the issue remains on the agenda. Although it was just one of 31 topics proposed for debate this session, the subject has dominated radio talk shows and newspaper front pages.
"The reaction, in my opinion, was emotional, based on a high degree of homophobia in the society and also based on the strong condemnation by members of the religious community," Rhodd said of the mostly negative reaction that his proposal elicited this fall in call-in programs, the main forum for public debate among Jamaicans.
Although those leading the fight against HIV/AIDS applaud the government’s push to discuss decriminalization, they say the effort must be undertaken slowly to avoid alienating a public still deeply opposed to any notion of gay rights. "The risk in an initiative like this is that the general public can get left behind," said Robert Carr, a former director of Jamaica AIDS Support now working as an independent consultant. "There’s still much to be done in preparing the public for this dialogue." Lawmakers have yet to schedule discussions, but Carr says their initiative in raising the subject is encouraging. "If the dialogue is going to be effective, it has to be clear that it is an internal dialogue, not something imposed from outside influences with different agendas," he said.
Although fundamentalist Christians in the Caribbean say the Bible teaches that homosexuality is an abomination, the islands’ exotic hybrid culture of African and European spirituality leads others to conclude that same-sex attraction is a consequence of witchcraft, voodoo curse or demonic possession, said Steve Lyston, a Christian fundamentalist and founder of Jamaica’s Miracle Prophetic Ministries International. Lyston’s counseling center in Kingston seeks to rescue those he sees as "afflicted" through rituals aimed at their deliverance from evil spirits.
"If there is someone around you who is gay and you are spiritually weak … then that spirit will be transferred to you and you will begin to feel these urges," he said, explaining his ministry’s efforts to separate gays from the public so they can be "healed." The stigma attached to homosexuality prompts some gays to avoid testing, treatment and support, said Sheryl O’Neil of the Caribbean Epidemiology Center in Anguilla. That compounds the risk of the disease spreading because governments are unable to adequately assess the problem and allocate money for prevention and treatment, she noted at a workshop for government healthcare officials.
Pushed by courts, international rights groups and fear of AIDS, attitudes toward gays and their legal rights appear to be changing in some venues. The Jamaican government last month announced that it would try popular reggae artist Buju Banton on charges stemming from the beating of six gay men in a gang attack in June 2004. Banton’s 1992 song "Boom Bye Bye," which talks of shooting gays, has been an anthem for violently homophobic Jamaicans for a decade, but authorities had previously refused to confront him or other artists advocating violence against gays. In Aruba, the government has been preparing to register its first same-sex marriage following a Dutch high court ruling that the Amsterdam wedding of Charlene and Esther Oduber-Lamers was legal and the island territory must recognize it, said Aruba government spokesman Ruben Trapenberg.
He pointed to the now-routine gay cruises as evidence that Arubans have integrated same-sex couples into the tourism-dependent milieu, but said he doubted that Aruba’s tourism industry leaders would openly pursue the gay travel market. The most striking shift in attitudes probably is the push being made by a St. Lucia hotelier to interpret the island’s marriage law as permitting same-sex unions and attract the Western Hemisphere’s gay marriage and honeymoon market. Allen Chastanent, vice president of the island’s Hotel and Tourism Assn., points to the prospects for drawing well-heeled gay couples. A recent study by Canada’s tourism industry estimated at least $1 billion could be expected in travel spending in the Caribbean by the hemisphere’s underserved gay couples, he said.
"More and more people are recognizing the economic potential of this market and are now proactively putting things in place to attract same-sex couples," Chastanent said. "Our first step is to decriminalize homosexuality. We recognize this as an outdated law that has never been enforced and gays are not discriminated against in St. Lucia."
5 December, 2005
AIDS activist Steve Harvey slain in Jamaica
by Jen Christensen,
One of Jamaica’s best-known AIDS activists has been murdered in an apparent anti-gay attack, according to press reports.
Steve Harvey, an out gay 30-year-old, and his two roommates were home when Jamaican police say at least four armed gunmen broke into their house. The men demanded money and took several valuables from the home. According to Christian Aid, an organisation that worked with Harvey, one of the men said to Harvey and his roommates, "We hear you are gay". The roommates allegedly denied the accusation. Harvey remained silent.
The gunmen tied up the two roommates and abducted Harvey, driving him away in his company car. Jamaican police said they found Harvey’s body in a rural area, miles from his home. There were gunshot wounds to his head and back. Harvey ran a support program for gay and transgender people who had HIV/AIDS. He worked for an organisation called Jamaican AIDS Support for Life since 1997, but had been a leader in the AIDS community for over a decade. Last week, Harvey led Jamaican AIDS Support for Life’s annual candlelight vigil held in honour of HIV positive people who have died.
Activists say Harvey’s death speaks to the larger problem of violence toward gay people who live in Jamaica, where gay sex is still illegal and punishable with up to 10 years in jail. Human rights groups say anti-gay violence is rampant in that country. Harvey is not the first openly gay man to be killed in Jamaica. Last year, Brian Williamson, one of the country’s most vocal gay rights activists, was murdered. Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton and two others face assault charges involving an attack on six gay men this year. Fellow activists say working with the gay community, particularly if someone is openly gay, takes real courage.
"Steve Harvey was a person of extraordinary bravery and integrity, who worked tirelessly to ensure that some of Jamaica’s most marginalized people had the tools and information to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS," said Rebecca Schleiffer, a researcher for Human Rights Watch and the author of a recent report on anti-gay violence and HIV/AIDS. "Steve Harvey’s death is an enormous loss, but it is essential that his murder does not succeed in intimidating other human rights workers," Schleiffer said. "It is vital that the Jamaican government condemns this brutal crime and brings the perpetrators to justice."
December 14, 2005
Leading Jamaican HIV/AIDS activist Steve Harvey murdered–sign letter of protest to PM
The night of the 30th of November, 2005, Steve Harvey, a leading Jamaican HIV/AIDS activist who had been working for 14 years to defend the health and human rights of people living with and at high-risk of HIV/AIDS, was murdered. He was found dead early in the morning with gunshot wounds in his back and head in a rural area, miles from his home.
Steve worked with Jamaica AIDS Support since 1997, and represented the interests of marginalized people and people living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and throughout the region. As coordinator of targeted interventions for Jamaica AIDS Support, he had been responsible for ensuring that the most marginalized of Jamaicans—gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals; sex workers; prisoners—were provided access to HIV/AIDS information and services. By mid 2005, he was chosen as LACCASO’s (Latin America and Caribbean Council of AIDS Service Organizations), in-country project coordinator for Jamaica.
His capacity, dedication and courage signaled the way for the most successful implementation of our Advocacy Project. “Steve Harvey was a person of extraordinary bravery and integrity, who worked tirelessly to ensure that some of Jamaica’s most marginalized people had the tools and information to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS,” said Rebecca Schleifer, researcher with the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and author of a recent report on anti-gay violence and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.
Considering the enormous loss Steve’s death means for all of us, we request your solidarity, to condemn this brutal crime and request to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Please sign on the following letter, which will be sent to the Jamaican Prime Minister in the days to come. Please distribute this message and collect signatures.
Send your support to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Most Honorable P.J. Patterson Prime Minister of Jamaica 1 Devon Road Kingston 6, Jamaica, West Indies
Honorable Prime Minister Patterson: We the undersigned, organizations and individuals from around the world, condemn the brutal murder of Steve Lenford Harvey, which occurred in Kingston, Jamaica the night of 29th to 30th of November, 2005. Steve Harvey was a leader and activist who defended the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and those most vulnerable to infection. He began working for Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS) in 1997; and by the time of his murder he was dedicated to bringing a Jamaican perspective to the implementation of an important international human rights project on HIV prevention and access to HIV treatment.
Steve’s vicious assassination has brought pain, anger and desperation to people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to HIV/AIDS activists and advocates around the world. It ended a life full of commitment, energy and dedication, seeking to improve the quality of life of those most vulnerable to human rights violations.
It is difficult for us to understand how this violence without limits and control can take the lives of those who work for a peaceful world and for the development and well-being of our people.
Honorable Prime Minister of Jamaica: We, the undersigned, call on you to:
1. Publicly call for aggressive investigations into this crime, and to punish Steve’s murders to the full extent of Jamaican law;
2. Ensure that justice is carried out and impunity avoided, so that other vulnerable Jamaicans are not victims of such criminal attacks;
3. Ensure that the Jamaican Government formulate and enact policies to protect Jamaican citizens from violence, homophobia and all forms of discrimination;
4. That all investigations and findings of criminal responsibility will be undertaken in accordance with human rights conventions and treaties signed by your Government.
On behalf of human rights defenders and HIV/AIDS activists and advocates from around the world, we await your response.
January 6, 2006
Tragic End to Attempted Gay-Bash Attack in Kingston–Man fleeing mob jumps into the sea and drowns
Kingston – A young Jamaican man has died, allegedly after being hounded through the streets of Kingston by a homophobic mob who believed he was gay.Nokia Cowen was chased into Kingston harbour. To escape his attackers, he jumped into the water. Unable to swim, he drowned.
This latest tragic news comes from the Jamaican gay rights movement, J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays). It is calling on the police to investigate Cowen’s death and for the government of Jamaica to speak out against homophobic violence (see JFLAG’s statement below). Nokia’s death follows the murder of Jamaican gay AIDS activist, Steve Harvey, in November. “J-FLAG calls on the police to investigate the death of Nokia Cowen in downtown Kingston on 28 December 2005,” the group said in a statement today..
“Information reaching J-FLAG suggest that he was chased by an angry mob because of a perception that he was gay. In an attempt to flee this mob, the young man jumped into the Kingston harbor and perished because he could not swim. “J-FLAG condemns the prevalence of incidents such as this and calls on the police to fully investigate the matter. Most importantly, we implore the highest members of government to clearly indicate that violence based on sexual orientation, both perceived and actual, is unacceptable in Jamaica.”
Speaking in London, Peter Tatchell of the British gay human rights group Outrage!, reiterates its call for tougher action by the Jamaican government and police against hate crimes.
“ We send our condolences to Nokia’s family and friends, and extend our solidarity to the heroes and heroines of J-FLAG who are campaigning for gay human rights in conditions of great danger and adversity,” said Mr. Tatchell.
Outrage! is calling for:
– Comprehensive hate crimes laws to protect all Jamaicans, including women, LGBTs and people with HIV
– Stronger enforcement of the existing laws against incitement to violence and murder, including incitements to assault and kill LGBTs
– A ban on incitement to hatred against all vulnerable social groups, including women, the disabled, religious minorities, LGBTs and people with HIV
– Police training in human rights issues, including challenging sexism and homophobia, and action to ensure police awareness of, and sensitivity to, women’s, LGBT and HIV issues
23 January 2006
Gayness in the Caribbean- a personal observation
I was doing an online search about gay Jamaica and came acrosss your website. i am a gay man from Jamaica but I live in Barbados at the moment. I am always apprehensive about articles written by foreigners about gay life in Jamaica (Gay Jamaica) but on the whole yours seemed quite balanced. I agree that there is a strong anti-homosexual streak in most Jamaicans but I also know that at least in middle class Jamaica there is some level of tolerance and violent attacks are almost non-existant.
I am not out, although my mother knows and my father suspects. I have also broached the topic on occasion with my straight friends. While most disagree with it, they often work with gay people and are generally indifferent. In addition I have many gay friends who lead quite happy persecution free lives and are out. I have found that Jamaicans will be more tolerant of a masculine gay man than one who displays feminine traits. Also as long as your sexuality is not thrust upon them they are fine.
I have no doubt we will see changes to the laws in Jamaica. It will take time but it will require a gradualist approach. The brash in-your-face appproach is likely to only make the situation less secure.
Regarding Barbados, the laws are essentially the same here. The difference is that the society is more educated, more polite and less aggressive than Jamaica. Homosexuality is not accepted for the most part but people will generally not attack gays and the issue is not dicussed generally in the popular culture. I have seen guys in drag walking through downtown Bridgetown hassle free and there are a few gay friendly establishments around. Generally, from my perspective, Barbados is a more tolerant society and its is only a matter of the laws reflecting people’s attitudes. Still don’t count on a change soon as the majority is still somewhat against removing the laws and no politician wants to be the "one"
There is a common misconception that homosexuality is illegal among the English-speaking Caribbean territories, however what is illegal is the anal sex (buggery), be it between males or male and female. In order to secure convictions there has to be a witness to the act who is willing to testify. Therefore although the act is illegal it is difficult to prosecute an act that transpired behind closed doors on private property. That is why the convictions for buggery that have come to the fore in the Caribbean have essential been the non-consensual kind, often paedophilia. This serves to reinforce in the eyes of the public that gay men molest children.
Barbados and Jamaica share a similar cultural heritage. Those similarities have diverged somewhat over the last 40 years but are still close thanks to the dominance of Jamaican music within the region. Having lived in Jamaica for most of my life and now in Barbados for a year, I think it is useful for me to examine some of the issues facing the gay community on both islands as seen from my perspective. I was born in Kingston and spent all my life in one of Kingston’s volatile inner city communities. I was however fortunate because of my education and career to have an insight into how middle class Jamaica operates.
Gay Jamaica is divided along much the same line as the country in general. There are those who have and the have-nots. I don’t think that it is a deliberate attempt at segregation, but rather affirmation that in a closeted society already segregated along economic lines people are more likely to associate with their own social group. This has in effect created two gay societies: one which is less persecuted and more affluent and a more vulnerable poorer group. The one commonality is that they are operating in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” system.
Middle class gay Jamaica is more tolerated and there is little risk of anyone attacking you. People will suspect you are gay or even know but they will be polite and not comment. Gay couples live together comfortably, shop together at the supermarket, have parties at their homes for gay friends hassle-free. You are also at significantly less risk of losing your job should your status be known. Overt masculinity is not even a requirement. Sure you will get the mumbled comment when you walk among some persons (especially if you deviate from their image of a man), but it is always just words. Guys will even openly cruise you if they think you are gay.
On the other side are the gay men who are living in less affluent neighbourhoods and in lower paid blue collar jobs. Their lives are not as easy. I know persons who have been evicted after their land lord found out they were gay; people who have been chased out of areas; homes have been attacked; at least one home set on fire; persons have been beaten or stoned. I have not personally known anyone who I can say was killed for being gay though. Gay men in Jamaica’s poorer communities are more likely to lead bisexual lives on the down-low. A lot of them marry and have children because it helps to dispel rumours about their sexuality. The more “manly” you are the less likely you are to have anything said or done.
I have spoken to “straight” men from the middle class and they generally hold the view that as long as gay man does not “bring the gay thing to them” , he can do whatever he likes. The poorer inner city guys tend to be more aggressive at the thought of dealing with gay men. The responses typically range from “beat them” to “kill them”.
While I am not seeking to excuse violent behaviour towards gays, it should be noted that the poorer urban areas in Jamaica have higher rates of violent crimes. Persons are angrier, more aggressive and less tolerant in general, not just towards gays. I have however noticed a significant curiosity in the attitude of inner city Kingston to certain gay men. I have seen guys who are very feminine but who were born and raised with these other rough guys, live relatively peacefully in these neighbourhoods. They get called names but they are generally not physically attacked or harmed.
I am relatively new to Barbados so my analysis of what gay men encounter here will be limited and may not reflect the true picture.
In Jamaica, Barbados has a reputation of being a country that is filled with gay men, and at first glance, to the Jamaican eye it may seem to be true. The reality, however, is probably that because of a more tolerant society gay men are more visible in Barbados. Wider access to information technology also allows for greater interaction among gays. Barbados is a generally more educated and less aggressive society than Jamaica. It also has a noticeable smaller gap between rich and poor.
Gay life in Barbados appears to be generally in line with that of middle class Jamaica. Many guys live with their partners and lead normal lives as any heterosexual couple. There is virtually no harassment at all. There is at least one guy who dresses in drag and works in downtown Bridgetown. It seems in some instances that some employers may have a policy to hire gay men judging from the numbers on their staff. There is at least one known gay club and several other regular establishments have big gay clientele.
The lack of venomous attacks however does not mean that it is not opposed. I have heard men in the city complaining about gay men “over-running” the country. I have also heard guys shout “batty bwoy” or “Buller” when a “less masculine” guy goes by. The overall picture however is one of significantly more tolerance than what exist in Jamaica on the whole. There has also been more positive discussion here about providing legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Still any changes seem to be several years away, although I have no doubt Barbados will get there long before Jamaica does.
One glaring example of the difference in attitudes is the upcoming gay cruise that will be leaving from Barbados in March 2006. So far there has been no public outcry over the issue. When Jamaica was suggested as a stop for a similar cruise a few years ago, the uproar it created killed that idea even before it was born. The reality is that in the English speaking Caribbean territories most gay men lead comfortable hassle free lives even in fiercely anti gay Jamaica. True, most of us are still somewhat closeted, but even if we could I don’t think most of us would be any more out than we are now. We want to have our private lives private and go about life as everyone else.
P.S. This just in: my friend in Montego Bay told me that a couple of gay guys were killed in Montego Bay recently. It did not get much press because they were not public personalities. They were also involved in credit card fraud but my friend went to see the bodies after they were killed and he said the argument had been that they were flaunting their money too much and as gays they should not seem to be any better than the other guys. He also said a cousin of his (female) who was with him kicked the dead bodies and said " Dem fi dead" (they must die). I am certain it will go down as another unsolved murder.
From: Name withheld by request
9 March 2006
Jamaican Homophobia: A Personal Story by a UK Straight Woman of Jamacian Descent
Because I am a married heterosexual woman a lot of my friends cannot understand why I am so vocal about homophobia. I myself cannot understand why more "straight" people are not like me. This has led me to reflect and I have realised I am the way I am for several reasons. When I was a child I was sexually abused. Because of this I did not have any interest in sex when I was a teenager. The thought of sex terrifed me. When I was 17 I met this guy in Jamaica who became my boyfriend. He trusted me enough to tell me that he was gay and I trusted him enough to tell him about my past. I became his "trophy" girlfriend so that his friends and family did not think he was gay as they were starting to suspect that he was. I was happy with this arrangement because he did love me but not attracted to me sexually which made me feel safe and was ideal for me at that time, and I did love him.
We really cared for each other and was a couple in every sense of the word except for sex. He was really beautiful and when we went out we would get derogatory comments like "Rass, mi think a two woman a come towards mi; how dis yah boy so pretty, a gal dis ". He was not effeminate or overly masculine but he was very pretty. He tried to denied his sexuality many times, while on other occasions he was okay with it and went to a gay club in Kingston with the one openly gay friend he secretly kept. Sometimes when we would walk the plaza in Kingston other gay guys would check him out and he would pull me towards him to try and show them that he was ‘straight’.
He had a boyfriend who was also pretending to be straight. He had taken him in because he had tried to commit suicide and he was homeless. This boy’s family had disowned him because they suspected he was gay. My boyfriends Mom did not approve of her son taking this guy into their home, but we convinced her it was all above board. I think my boyfriend’s mother suspected it was all a charade because she actually tried to see if me and my boyfriend were actually having sex and only became satisfied when she saw me taking the pill.
Because I witnessed the experiences of these two men I am political about this issue. It is a basic human right to be able to express ones sexuality. What consenting adults do between themselves should not affect onyone else. I always felt this way but was forced to be more vociferous since I became a nurse. The nurses code of professional conduct states that the nurse must ensure they promote and protect the interest and dignity of patients irrespective of sexuality and gender, etc. Unfortunately not all nurses follow these directives. What I find disheartening is the fact that some people liken homosexuality to being a pedophile. Sometimes it’s said that it is worse to be a homosexual than to be a pedophile!
I went to Jamaica a few years ago and visited my former "boyfriend" to see how he was doing. Sadly this guy has decided to try and bury his true self by having 6 children with 6 different women. He has changed himself by dressing more masculine and wears a mask of bravado and machismo that could win him an Oscar, this is his way of coping as he feels he could not handle the scorn he would experience if it came out he is gay. His former boyfriend suffered from a mental breakdown due to his family disowning him, he was only 18 when he had the breakdown.
Another friend, who is also gay died in Jamaica of AIDS a couple years ago. This friends life was the complete opposite. His family supported him 100% and he always felt loved, valued and respected by his family. There were no regrets. He celebrated his life with pride and was never made to feel he had to hide his true self.
Ironically, since coming back to the UK I found out that my father had a serious homosexual relationship before I was born. He lived with another man for years as a couple in England when he was a young man in his twenties. This was a shock to me because my father is now a deeply religious Rastaman in Jamaica. I would have liked to have spoken to him about his experience and assure him that this made no difference to me. But to do so would impinge on his privacy as I believe he as the right to a private life and I may embarrass him.
Due to various reasons including religion, some people’s belief that homosexuality is wrong will never change. However, homophobia is irrational. There is no logical explanation for it except sheer bigotry, prejudice and irrational fear. I personally cannot associate with anyone that is homophobic. This has led to me losing friends. If I make one person confront their prejudice I am happy.
So far I have made several friends question their prejudice and see it for what it is, which has led to a change in attitude. I don’t know what it is like to be marginalized and despised because of ones sexuality. Nevertheless, this does not mean I cannot empathize. I saw the utter pain my friends went through in trying to deny their sexuality and I don’t think anyone deserves that. Things can and will eventually change. People will look back one day and ask themselves, ‘were we really that ignorant and dogmatic?’
6 April 2006
Jamaican gay man saved from mob
by Hassan Mirza
A gay Jamaican pupil is in police custody after an attack at the University of West Indies campus. The man, whose name has not yet been released, allegedly approached another student on Tuesday evening and made sexual advances. A group of students gathered and began attacking the man, and are said to have chased and hurled rocks at him.
The Jamaican publication The Daily Gleaner claims that it was feared that the group would have killed the student if the Police had not intervened. The students outnumbered the security officers. After a melee with the angry mob, the Police apprehended the student, and escorted him away from campus. He could face charges if guilty.
In January, JFLAG, one of Jamaica’s few gay rights groups, said that another man was chased by a mob who thought he was gay to the wharf in the city of Kingston. Fearful of a beating, he apparently leapt into the water where he drowned. The cases follow the murder of a gay AIDs activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey, who was killed on the eve of Worlds Aids Day, as well as reports of countless beatings based on a perception of sexuality.
18 May 2006
The $500,000 Question: Who Killed Ambassador Peter King?
Blogger Claude Mills writes, "In Jamaica, there are two laws, some say, one for the rich, the other for the poor." Two laws and two recent high-profile, gay-related deaths have crystallized that adage. (1) The perfunctory trial of Dwight Hayden, who plead guilty to the brutal 2004 murder of gay rights activist Brian Williamson and (2) the equally brutal death of Peter King, above right. If you haven’t heard of the case, that’s because many Jamaicans are calling the investigation a cover-up. A $500,000 reward has just been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer(s) of the prominent statesman. The facts: On March 20 2006, the former trade ambassador’s nude body was found "in his bedroom with throat slashed and multiple stab wounds to the chest." Reports also said that "two young men whom it is believed slept over at the house were questioned by detectives", but were not charged. The case certainly has all the trappings of hook-up or sex date gone wrong.
Peterking4b Since then, disturbing yet conflicting allegations have arisen. Allegedly detectives found numerous videotapes at the premises and "some of the tapes contain sexually explicit scenes. Persons were "identified." But authorities have refused to confirm or deny the existence of the tapes, leading to rampant speculation. Some reports have said that underage boys were caught on tape. The latest from the rumor mill has it that a number of reggae and dancehall performers were identified, which, if true would be the height of irony in a nation where those performers routinely sing about killing "batty bwoys."
So why the astronomically high reward? The press release is replete with hypocrisy: "We are not helping because the Ambassador was famous. Our efforts are done purely to help create a secure environment for all Jamaicans, gay, straight, and the in betweens."
"I’ve travelled across the world from Zimbabwe to Jamaica," Keith B essayed in December. "And I’ve never seen more open expressions of homophobia than I have in Jamaica." Just last month, the editors of Time agreed, asking, is Jamaica "The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?"
Which is why we doubt the sincerity of the anonymous-yet-wealthy good Samaritans. If they were honest, similar bounties would have been offered for the killers of Brian Williamson or gay AIDS activist Steve Harvey. The $500,000 question: What exactly is at stake here? If the trade-ambassador-gone-wild tape does exist and underage boys were involved, are the parents too afraid to come forward because of Jamaica’s rampant homophobia? Or, did Kingston’s gay elite recruit their trade from the dancehalls and performers want to keep this quiet? Also possible: Was there official involvement?
So many questions and, two months later, not a single answer.
Life Sentence For Killing Of Jamaican Gay Leader
Hayden was charged in 2004 with murder and robbery. A second man, known only as "Bombhead" is still being sought in connection with the killing. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), which Williamson founded, branded Williamson’s murder a "hate-related crime". In a statement the the group said Williamson was "one of
At least 30 gay men are believed to have been murdered since 1997, according to J-FLAG. In March four people were charged in the killing of another gay man – Lenford "Steve" Harvey who ran Jamaica AIDS Support for Life. (story)
June 27, 2006
by Gary Younge
This is a scene as Jamaican as a plate of calaloo and salt fish, with one exception: all the revellers are male. There is a reason why this party is up in the hills – it would be too dangerous to stage a gay party in town. There is a reason, too, why we have arrived in a small convoy – for security. One man said he was chased and had his car stoned after he left a gay club. Others tell tales of police stopping cars full of men at night and harassing them with homophobic insults. And there is a reason too why it is being held in someone’s house: there is no openly acknowledged gay social space in
That wasn’t always the case. The country’s leading gay activist, Brian Williamson, used to run a club called Entourage. Williamson was the public face of gay rights in the country, the only person willing to go before the cameras or sign his own name to letters to the press advocating gay rights in
On June 9 2004, Williamson was found murdered in his home, the victim of multiple knife wounds to his head and neck. He was 59. With the room ransacked and his safe stolen, police said the motive appeared to be robbery. Campaigners urged them not to rule out the possibility that it was a homophobic attack. "We don’t know why he was killed," says Rebecca Schleifer, of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), who was supposed to meet Williamson later that day. "Everybody knew who he was and what that meant. That’s why it was really important to investigate it thoroughly. Because there are really strong indications that it might have been a homophobic attack."
Eight days earlier, Amnesty International had released a public appeal to the then prime minister, PJ Patterson. The warning: "
Schleifer arrived at Williamson’s home not long after the body had been discovered. She found a small crowd singing and dancing. One man called out, "Batty man [derogatory term for a gay man] he get killed." Others were celebrating, laughing and shouting "Let’s get them one at a time", "That’s what you get for sin". Others sang "Boom bye bye", a line from a well-known dancehall song by Jamaican star Buju Banton about shooting and burning gay men. "It was like a parade," says Schleifer. "They were basically partying." A few days later the Jamaica Observer ran a letter which read: "To be gay in
"Brian’s death was a real blow," said Steve Harvey, an outreach worker for Jamaica Aids Support for Life, when I spoke to him in August last year. "It hit home on a personal level because he was a close friend to all of us. But it hit home at a political level, too, because he was such a crucial part of the community." On November 30, on the eve of World Aids Day,
"I think his silence, his refusal to answer that question sealed it," said Yvonne McCalla Sobers, the head of Families Against State Terrorism. "Then they opened his laptop and saw a photograph of him with his partner in some kind of embrace that showed they were together. So they took him out and killed him."
"Violent acts against men who have sex with men are commonplace in
In the Amnesty report earlier that year an eyewitness described how a mob in an inner-city area blocked a road to beat a local gay man: "The crowd stood around watching, chanting ‘Battyman, battyman, battyman’ before gathering around him as he lay on the sidewalk," he said. "The crowd beat, punched and kicked him. They threw water from the gutter and garbage on him, all the while shouting ‘Battyman, battyman’. Then they dragged him down the road for half a kilometre. They shouted ‘Battyman fi’ dead’. As I stood across the street I realised there was nothing I could do to help him. Some mothers were actually in tears at what they were witnessing but there was nothing that they could do either. The crowd was saying, ‘Give him to us! Let us kill him! He’s a battyman!’" On April 4 a man was chased across the Mona campus at the
Earlier this month the Sunday Herald ran a front page headline "No homos!" in which opposition leader Bruce Golding vowed, according to the paper, that "homosexuals would find no solace in any cabinet formed by him". The statement was supported by several clergyman and a trade union leader. During the 2001 elections Golding’s party used as its theme song Chi Chi man by T.O.K. Lyrics, which celebrates the burning and killing of gay men.
Some of the country’s most popular musicians have in effect provided a soundtrack for these attacks. Along with Buju Banton, performers such as Capleton and Sizzla have been known to devote whole concerts to lambasting gay men. At one concert in January 2004, a dancehall singer told a crowd of 30,000 in St Elizabeth: "Kill dem battybwoys haffi dead, gun shots pon dem . . . who want to see dem dead put up his hand" (Kill them, the queers have to die, gun shots in their head … put up your hand if you want to see them dead).
Beenie Man, meanwhile has sung: "I’m a dreaming of a new
Carolyn Cooper, chair of reggae studies at the
It is certainly true that gay Jamaicans make the distinction between dancehall music in general and homophobic lyrics of certain performers in particular. "I don’t know any gay Jamaicans who don’t like dancehall," says Philip Dayle, the
"I don’t buy that it’s a metaphor at all," says Schleifer. "When you get a group of people standing outside [Williamson’s] house singing these songs right after he was murdered, they know what they mean."
A lot of people die violent deaths in
"In a community without a safety net, the gun represents the safety net," says Sobers. "The gun is power, money and manhood."
Homophobic attacks have to be viewed within that general context. "The victimisation of homosexuals is part of a continuum of violence in Jamaican culture in much the same way that predial larceny (stealing crops) is often punished illegally by angry mobs who take the law into their own hands and lynch the apparently guilty," argues Cooper in her book Sound Clash, Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large. "Homosexual behaviours, or even the suspicion of intent, do put the individual at risk." So while large numbers of people are vulnerable regardless of their sexual orientation, gays are particularly at risk because of it.
But ignore the economic and historical roots of this violence, say some, and you just find one more way to pathologise
So when the issue of homophobia is raised, a tone of defensive nationalism kicks in, even among many Jamaican liberals. "Why us?" they ask. "And why this issue when there are so many?" When the HRW report came out in November 2004 this nationalism turned from defence to attack. The information minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, said: "We are certainly not about to respond to any organisation external to this country that may want to dictate to us how and when to deal with the laws of our land."
Schleifer argues that such responses are simply a way for
At the HRW press conference, no gay Jamaican would come forward to speak on the issues for fear of retribution. No straight man would either, for fear that he would be perceived to be gay. In the end, Sobers – a straight Jamaican woman – spoke up. "It was really sad," she says. "But nobody would do it. People are afraid, because of the possible repercussions."
None the less, straight Jamaicans certainly do not see themselves as homophobic. "It’s not a question of people going around looking for homosexuals to kill them," says Delroy Chuck, MP for North East St Andrew who many gay activists here regard as an ally. "At the same time there is a general homophobia against people who exhibit homosexual tendencies. I don’t think 98% of people in
For the most part
"It’s a moment-by-moment situation," says Thomas Glave, a professor of English at the State University of New York who was born in the
Either way, there is a premium on the little social space that does exist where gay people can be themselves. Otherwise socialising is divided on class lines. For the gays from uptown (the middle class) there is what has become known as the home entertainment circuit – house parties either in secluded wealthy areas or in homes up in the hills. For gay people who live downtown (the working class), things are more difficult. Without the means to attain the kind of space that will ensure privacy, they are far more vulnerable.
"Middle-class people have options," explains Glave. "They can send children abroad and they have access to information that can help them. But for people who live in poverty things are harder on all fronts."
"Things aren’t easy wherever you are," says another lesbian who did not want to be named. "Uptown you still have to deal with your family and you have to live this open secret. But uptown there wouldn’t be a community beating. Downtown kills your body. Uptown kills your spirit. I don’t know which is worse, to be one of the living dead or to be just dead."
Straddling the divide between uptown and downtown are impromptu club nights that spring up. Sophia of Elite entertainments organises one a month. She gets word out through what she calls a "network" of contacts. Outside, security guards check for knives and weapons; inside, dancehall remains the big draw with moves and outfits far raunchier and flamboyant than you will see on the home entertainment circuit and a few lesbians in the crowd. Sophia says there are no downtown people in her "network" but many come anyway. "I don’t advertise in the ghetto because I want people who know how to behave and people who come want to protect their privacy," she says.
Williamson was most definitely from uptown and that, say his friends, was the reason why he was able to be out and forthright. "Brian had a Canadian passport," says Glave. "He owned his own home. He didn’t have an employer. He couldn’t be evicted. He couldn’t be fired. He had somewhere else to go." Gay rights activists understand the tensions regarding
"These questions highlight the dilemma of the nationalist project. You have to manage very carefully how you use international help," explains Dayle. "But we must start with the universality of human rights. In
But cultural globalisation is also trumping nationalism in positive ways. Cable television has brought accessible and playful scenes of gay life into the home through sitcoms, news and documentaries. For those who can afford it, international travel is also easier, taking gay people to places where they can gain confidence to challenge discrimination when they come home. "You can see young people not putting up with some of the things that we went through," says one lesbian. "They travel more. And with Will and Grace, Queer as Folk and all of that, they see a different way."
While anxieties about the way
06 July 200
Reggae stars banned after breaking gay hate pledge
by Cahal Milmo
For a handful of Jamaican reggae stars accused of fomenting homophobia with their violently anti-gay lyrics, they were supposed to be the songs they would never sing again. But a 14-year war of words between gay rights groups and Jamaican "dancehall" performers has erupted once again after campaigners said several artists had reneged on an agreement last year to stop using – and justifying – their gay bashing songs.
Concerts by two singers – Buju Banton and Beenie Man – were this week cancelled in Brighton and Bournemouth after complaints from gay rights groups. Banton, whose 1992 song Boom Bye Bye brought the issue of dancehall homophobia to light by calling for "batty boys" or gay men to be shot in the head, set on fire or have acid poured over them, had been due to perform last night at a club in Brighton’s gay district. But the club, Concorde 2, said it was cancelling the concert after being told by the local authority that it risked losing its licence on the grounds that the performance could endanger public safety.
In a statement, the club said: "[We] believe that the concert would not have caused a threat to community welfare. Concorde 2 would like to remain a free thinking live music venue, which caters for all areas of the community." Brighton and Hove Council confirmed it had approached Concorde 2 with a warning that its licence could be revoked. Sussex Police said that it supported the cancellation. Outrage!, the gay rights group, said it will be seeking to stop performances in Britain by three Jamaican musicians, including Banton and Beenie Man, after compiling evidence that they were still singing songs with anti-gay lyrics.
October 04, 2006
Jamaica, Island of Hate–Its Leading Gay Activist Speaks Out
by Doug Ireland
“ Jamaica is not a safe environment for gay people to survive in, either physically, emotionally, or psychologically,” says Gareth Williams, the 29-year-old leader of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), the country’s LGBT group. “The climate here is very, very hostile to gay people. We have been hunted and beaten and killed because of who we are,” Williams added. “Families turn against their own members because of sexual orientation.”
Williams spoke to Gay City News from Montreal, where he had gone last week to receive the International Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights given jointly every year by Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS program said that Williams was given the award because, “Against enormous odds and at great risk to his own physical safety, Williams has been a courageous campaigner against human rights violations targeting lesbians, gay men, and HIV-positive Jamaicans.”
“ Williams” is the gay activist’s organizational pseudonym, necessitated by the fact that his predecessor as J-FLAG’s leader, Brian Williamson was brutally murdered in his home at the age of 59 in June, 2004 by anti-gay thugs, who mutilated his body with multiple stab wounds. A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed a joyous crowd that gathered outside Williamson‘s house to celebrate the murder. A smiling man called out, “Battyman he get killed!” (“Battyman” and “batty-bwoy” are Jamaican patois for “faggot”.) Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “let’s get them one at a time,” “that’s what you get for sin,” “let’s kill all of them.” Some sang “Boom bye bye,” a line from a popular Jamaican song about killing and burning gay men that was made a hit by reggae singer Buju Banton.
The lyrics from Banton’s song (in patois) are: " Boom bye bye / Inna batty bwoy head / Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man /Dem haffi dead / Send fi di matic an / Di Uzi instead / Shoot dem no come if we shot dem / Guy come near we / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel." Translated into standard English, those lyrics read: " Boom bye bye / In a queer’s head / Rude boys don’t promote no queer men / They have to die / Send for the automatic and / The Uzi instead / Shoot them, don’t come if we shot them / If a man comes near me / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up badly, like you would burn an old tire wheel."
(Banju Banton is currently on a U.S. tour. A mass demonstration to protest Banton’s appearance at San Diego, California’s House of Blues was called for Wednesday, October 4, by a coalition of San Diego gay groups. Banton appearances at clubs in Hollywood and San Francisco to promote his new album were cancelled after protests by gay organizations. In an interview with Billboard magazine last week, Banton responded to gay protests with two words: "Fuck them!")
“ Brian was the only out gay person in Jamaica who had the courage to put his face on television — I was very close to him,” Williams says with sorrow audible in his baritone voice. “His murder was really a traumatic loss for our community. After his death I was motivated even more, and so when J-FLAG asked me to serve as its lead advocate I didn’t hesitate, and took on the challenge. I just won’t allow society to trample over us.”
Another Jamaican gay leader and prominent AIDS activist, Steve Harvey was murdered on the eve of World AIDS Day last November 30. For a decade, Harvey had directed the outreach program of Jamaica AIDS Support targeting gays and lesbians and sex workers. A gang of at least four armed assailants invaded Harvey’s home, and demanded of Harvey and his two housemates if they were gay — Harvey said yes, the others denied it. The thugs then bound and gagged Harvey and bundled him into a car. Steve Harvey was later found a few miles from his home, dead from bullet wounds to his back and head.
“ Steve’s murder was a personal blow for me,” says Williams. ‘We were very close–we grew up together, and we even used to share an apartment. He has left a huge void in my life. We always feel hurt when a gay person is killed, but when it’s your buddy, your friend whom you talked to every day…” Williams’ voice trails off, before he resumes: “ There have been many other murders of gay men and lesbians whose lives have been taken because of their sexual orientation. Just two weeks after Brian’s killing, a young gay man named Victor Jarrett was killed in Montego Bay in a murder instigated by three police officers. I was there. The police had arrested Jarrett and were beating him in the street. A large crowd gathered, and yelled, “Hand the battyman over to us and we’ll finish him off!”
“ I was standing only 80 meters away watching this, and I felt so helpless. The police handed the young man over to the crowd, and stood around laughing as the crowd beat him to death. If I’d opened my mouth, I would have been killed too, so I did and said nothing. When I got home, I called the police three times to report the murder — they simply hung up on me each time. I’m still living with the horrible memory of that day,” Williams says softly.
Williams relates other homophobic killings, one that happened “just three weeks after Steve Harvey was murdered last year. A young man named Nokia Cowan was chased by an angry mob who said he was gay — the chased him into the harbor, where he drowned. And just this summer, in June, two lesbians, Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie, were knifed to death, and their bodies were found dumped in a shallow septic pit behind a home they shared in Bull Bay.” A Jamaican newspaper said a “lesbian DVD” had been found near the bodies.
The police, says Williams, “never qualify the anti-gay violence and murders as hate crimes, they always find a way to say it was not gay-related. But there is no question that these crimes are motivated by homophobia. Often, as in the case of the two lesbians, even when the police have a suspect and know who did the killings, they don’t really push the investigations.”
“ If a gay man is set upon and chased down the middle of a town, the people in the town are laughing and joining in, including everybody — young, old, both male and female, once a gay man is being beaten they bond together to do this. And if the person being assaulted goes to the police, they slam the door in their face, and the gay person is forced to look elsewhere for refuge.”
Incidents of anti-gay violence like this, Williams reports, “happen on a daily basis, but the police turn a blind eye to it. I’ve had police officers turning up at my house, calling me ‘battyman’ and saying that I’ll be murdered like Brian and Steve. In February, after a gay man was killed, there was a gang of police outside my house saying the same thing would happen to me.”
Williams and J-FLAG provide material care and support for victims of homophobic violence, help document their cases and take them through the hostile justice system. J-FLAG also organizes parties to help break the social isolation of gay people, but has to take extraordinary precautions to prevent these social gatherings from being attacked. “We usually have a once a week party,” Williams says, “but always in remote areas, and not under overtly gay auspices — they’re not publicized except by word of mouth. Some people are willing to take the risk of coming, because they are so desperate for social interaction. We have over 2,500 people with whom we have constant contact — and, we have a strong female community.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, and the so-called sodomy laws carry a penalty of 10-15 years in prison. But, says Williams, “even though it’s hard to convict under these laws, just being hauled into court and humiliated is enough to destroy people’s lives. For example, earlier this year 2 young men were arrested and charged with ‘buggery.’ The judge set their bail at $100,000 each. The somewhat older man of the couple managed eventually to make bail, but he lost his job, had to move, and later died of a brain tumor that may have been brought on or aggravated by the beatings he received in prison. The younger of the two, an 18-year-old boy, spent three months in jail and was beaten every single day! Although we eventually got the case thrown out of court, the younger boy has been rejected by his family, has nowhere to live, and survives by going from place to place where he can get refuge for a night or two.
The destruction from being dragged into court, even if there is no conviction, is as great as prison would be.” J-FLAG," says Williams, “is in desperate need of funds. As it is, most of what we want to do to benefit the community we can’t do because we don’t have the money. Our needs are great.” Another urgent need is for expert help in modernizing, updating, and expanding the group’s website, “and gay-friendly computer experts are pretty scarce in Jamaica,” he adds with a laugh.
If you want to help J-FLAG, e-mail the organization at email@example.com.
Financial contributions may be mailed to: J-FLAG, P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica, West Indies.
04 December 2006
"Gay Panic" Alleged in Killing of Popular Jamaican Priest…Unfortunately, many people are buying the defense.
Background: In November, police found the nude body of Rev. Richard Johnson in the rectory of St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Kingston. The priest was viciously stabbed and witnesses reported seeing a man flee the scene who was "known to pay frequent visits" his dwelling, detectives said. Johnson was one of the leading Anglican priests on the island. Last week, 22 year-old Prince Vale turned himself in and admitted to the murder, claiming that acted in self-defense: "The Rector invited [Vale] into his bedroom and told him that he wanted him to try on a pair of pants he had for him. According to the attorney, Mr. Vale was trying on the pants when he was attacked by the rector in a sexual manner. This led to a fight during which the rector was stabbed."
Stabbed 25 times, but that small detail will come out later in the trial. Already, the gay angle is playing to the island’s homophobic culture—Rev. Johnson was lionized after the killing, but now some are dismissing his death. Some good news: While no one has yet confirmed that Johnson was gay, his death is also forcing others to re-examine their ideas on sexuality. On World AIDS Day, the editorial pages of historically anti-gay Jamaica Gleaner condemned the government for its disastrous HIV/AIDS policy and noted that "men who have sex with men are particularly at risk of HIV infection. The strong social stigma against homosexuals drives many of them into relations with women in order to disguise their sexual orientation. Granted, a small step, but headed in the right direction.
December 24, 2006
Confessions of a homosexual man Says gay men are most often killed by their jealous lovers
by Kerry McCattty – Sunday Observer staff reporter
It took a two-year emotional and religious struggle, between the ages of 16 and 18, for this young man to acknowledge that he is gay. Today, at 22, he says the confusion is gone and he is in a comfort zone. As a result of growing up in boys’ homes across the island, he says, his life has been "mesmerised with the situation of men" since he was seven years old. "It’s such an unfair situation," he says. "A system set up with humans of the same sex is gonna create influence. Somebody is gonna become gay, three out of 10 will be gay – for me."
His acceptance of his sexuality and the subsequent foothold he has gained in the gay community have led him to share with the Sunday Observer some observations and broad declarations about that group of people, rarely ever heard from the inside. This was on the condition that his identity would not be revealed. From here on, he will therefore be referred to as the young man.
The young man claims to be gay by influence rather than by choice. Nevertheless, he says he has no immediate intentions to choose heterosexuality, because "I just have a passion for guys".
The exact number of people in Jamaica who list homosexuality as their orientation is unknown. But programmes co-ordinator and co-chair of the local gay rights group, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) Gareth Williams, says the organisation does not operate on membership because of security reasons. However, it has a database of about 3,000 people who can be called upon to participate in activities or attend events. Williams adds that the gay community in Jamaica is "very large" and that the database is not all-inclusive.
The young man, in this interview, confirmed what many Jamaicans have known all along but which some human rights and gay rights groups have tried to convince the world was the opposite – that most of the murders of gay men in Jamaica are committed by their lovers.
"Let me tell you something, all the violence of the number of gay men who have been killed in the last two to three years has not taken place because of hate crime. It’s passionate crime, a jealous situation," he says, pointing out that some of the cases, including the killing of gay rights activist Brian Williamson, were cold-blooded murder.
"Right now, I am in love with a guy who broke my heart, he hurt me.it hurts me to the extent that I find it hard to think that I would be guilty of murder, but sometimes it comes in my mind that I would hire somebody to kill him, and that is what has caused a lot of killing in our gay community – that hurt and pain and passionate crime," he says.
The reason he gives for the tremendous hurt associated with heartbreak is the stereotype that gay men are irrationally jealous. The reason for that, he says, lies in the nature of their love. "Our love is unusual. It’s not normal, and the passion, it’s a passion for somebody.we don’t even want our partner to have a best friend, to even be close to somebody, the moment we realise we start assuming. We say, ‘You a talk to dis one and you a cheat pon mi’, so insecurity, lack of confidence and trust. In rational sense, I have acknowledged in this gay life, there is never somebody you must call a hundred per cent yours, never."
Williams, however, disagrees. Pointing out that he was not attacking the young man’s views, Williams says it is the attachment of labels that have led to the perpetuation of these stereotypes.
"The notion that gay men are overly jealous is not so," says Williams. "In a heterosexual relationship, if a man catches another man [with] his woman, the same thing is going to happen. No one is going to take that lightly. How we resolve our conflicts and differences is the same way." He says progress in reducing violence stemming from domestic disputes will be made "when we start looking at how individuals operate in relationships", regardless of their sexuality. Williams claims the police and the media have also perpetuated the idea that overly jealous gay men kill each other. "With the police, the easiest way out of investigating the murder of a gay or lesbian is to say it is love gone wrong," and the media publicise these pronouncements, Williams says. He chides the police for not doing the same for heterosexual couples.
However, at least three high-profile murders committed in Jamaica paint a different picture to Williams’ claim. For instance, Dwight Hayden, who was sentenced to life earlier this year for the murder of Brian Williamson, had admitted to police in an unsworn statement that he and Williamson were lovers and did not deny his part in Williamson’s death. Hayden’s statement, however, was not admitted into evidence as it was given without his lawyer present.
Williamson was stabbed and chopped all over his body at his home at Haughton Avenue in St Andrew in June 2004. Police say Williamson’s home was a regular hotbed of homosexual activity. Two years before Williamson’s demise, the body of self-proclaimed psychic and television show host, Safa Santura, was found badly bruised and slashed at Cavaliers in St Andrew. Police say he was also murdered by his jealous lover who was also sentenced to life in prison.
In January 1985, Dr Eric Ellington was stabbed to death at his Mona apartment on the same night he picked up two male youngsters in Half-Way-Tree and gave them a ride in his car to his apartment. The two youngsters were charged with his murder but were acquitted. One of them had testified that he had stayed outside while Ellington and the other youngster went inside. The accused told the court that he heard Ellington inside laughing like a lady and that there were other men in the apartment.
He said that after a while, Ellington came outside and told him that he was missing all the fun. The witness and the other youngster testified that when they left the apartment Ellington was alive. Among the items the police said they found inside the apartment and which was tendered as evidence was vaseline.
In his summation, Justice Victor Malcolm, who heard the case, said it was one of the most sordid and filthy cases he had ever presided over. In addition, the murder of Wayne Pinnock early this month at an upscale apartment off Waterloo Road in St Andrew was also labelled a crime of passion by the homosexual young man interviewed by the Sunday Observer.
"Yes, Wayne was gay," he had told the Observer on the morning when Pinnock’s naked body was found with eight stab wounds. "He left his boyfriend but the man friend him back up and killed him. What a wicked boy!" Responding to Williams’ claim of inadequate response in relation to the murder of gay men, Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Major Investigation Task Force Les Green said historically police all over the world have not dealt with domestic violence involving gay or straight couples well, and that is also the case in Jamaica.
"We don’t have any specialist investigators here, we don’t even have a domestic violence unit, so that is a need there," Green says. Part of the difficulty involved in investigating domestic violence in Jamaica, he says, is that crimes involving love historically tend to be more violent, but the abundance of violent crimes here makes it harder to distinguish those. He points out, however, that the known gay population in Jamaica is not very large, and gay murders were not very many. There have been at least six known murders involving gay men in the last two years.
That opportunistic straight young men take advantage of gay men, which has created the circumstances leading to some murders, is also the fault of some gay men, says the young man. "These guys have dem girlfriend and baby mother to take care of and they think that one of the easiest way for them to make a way is to be with another man, even though it’s not their passionate interest, but it’s the easy way …instead of going to work in the supermarket," he says.
"We [gay men] have to learn to shun and push away. Gay men love to [say], ‘Lawd, mi want a heaviot, lawd da heaviot boy deh fabulous, da tugs deh’," says the young man. He explains that a heaviot is the word used to define thugs or roughneck guys from inner-city communities who gay men think are man enough for them.
That, jealously, sexual responsibility and sexually transmitted diseases are issues he believes the gay community in Jamaica will have to pay closer attention to in coming years. He commends the work of the Ministry of Health and Jamaica Aids Support in encouraging sexual responsibility, but says the onus is on the individual to protect himself.
"I regret, even myself I never [took] precautions…I had an experience and I am glad it has been sorted out, but there are some cruel people out there in society, they will know they are infected and want to pass it on, they don’t care," he says.
"And some don’t want to go to the doctor. People are too embarrassed to go and seek help and see what’s wrong with them. I just don’t understand it. With all the message on the TV, with all of that, some people say dem love [to have sex without a condom], it’s pleasurable darling, but there is a responsibility that you’re gonna have to take for it when the responsibility hits you."
Williams concurs with the young man that a reluctance to access treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections at public health facilities is a problem in the gay community, but says J-FLAG does the best it can through workshops on STIs and providing as many condoms and as much lubricants as possible.