Jamaican gay cop fears for his life

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A 24-year-old police officer is in hiding in Jamaica after being abused and attacked by fellow officers because of his sexuality.

Michael Hayden told the Toronto Star that he wants to seek asylum in Canada.

A leading gay rights activist from Jamaica, Gareth Henry, did so last week, claiming that thirteen of his gay and lesbian friends had died in the last four years.

“I want to stay here and fight,” Mr Hayden said in a telephone interview from Jamaica with the Toronto Star.

“But it’s not safe for me. My life is in great, great jeopardy.”

He is on leave and in hiding while his allegations of abuse at the hands of other officers are investigated.

Mr Henry, a prominent member of gay rights group J-FLAG, Jamaica’s Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, claimed refugee status in Canada earlier this month.

He spoke at Pride London last year about the plight of lesbian and gay people in his country.

Mr Henry told the Toronto Star that the situation is getting worse.

On Valentine’s Day last year he was one of three gay men stoned by a huge mob in a homophobic attack.

Police eventually escorted the men from a pharmacy in Saint Andrew Parish, where they had been hiding for almost an hour.

An angry crowd had gathered outside the pharmacy, hurling insults and threatening to kill the men. Officers dispersed the crowd with tear gas. As many as 2,000 people were involved in the attack.

Mr Henry, 22, told CBC:

“When you find police officers who are leading mob attacks, turning up at people’s home like myself, pointing guns at my window, with civilians with them, and saying that I need to leave or they’re going to kill me, it reinforces homophobia.”

Two weeks ago an attack on a group of men alleged to be homosexual left one man seriously injured and another missing feared dead.

International human rights organisations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world.

Sex between men in Jamaica is illegal, and punishable with up to ten years in jail, usually with hard labour.

In December 2003, a World Policy Institute survey on sexual orientation and human rights in the Americas said:

“In the Caribbean, Jamaica is by far the most dangerous place for sexual minorities, with frequent and often fatal attacks against gay men fostered by a popular culture that idolises reggae and dancehall singers whose lyrics call for burning and killing gay men.”