Jamaica ‘not intolerant of gays’, assistant police commissioner says

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Jamaica’s third highest ranking police official has said the country is not as anti-gay as “public hype” suggests, despite laws criminalising homosexuality.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green was leaving the post after eight years on the police force this week and told the Jamaica Observer he did not see widespread homophobia or anti-gay violence.

Mr Green said the country was now “far more tolerant than the public hype” than it had been in the past.

He said: “There is a vibrant community in Jamaica and there isn’t the sort of backlash that some people say. I think we are much more tolerant and accepting.

“Just go around and you will see they are more flamboyant in the way they dress and behave as if they are comfortable with it. If that’s the case, why are they stigmatised?”

He went on to say most crimes committed against gay people were perpetrated by other gays: “All of those murders that I have investigated have been in relationships and are victims of gay attacks, domestic situations.”

Further, he said he had worked closely with the Jamaica Forum for Lesians Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) on investigations into the deaths of gay people.

Mr Green, however, told the Observer he was only aware of one murder of a gay person which was not perpetrated by another gay person, and that had one occurred as part of a robbery.

In 2009, John Terry, a British honorary consul, was found dead in at his home with a note saying: “This is what will happen to ALL gays”.

At the time, Assistant Commissioner Green said: “I don’t think it is a homophobic attack, although it’s been run in the UK press. It isn’t consistent with the information that we have. It is unlikely.”

A spokeswoman at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said at the time she had been “surprised” to see reports claiming the murder was motivated by homophobia.

Following Mr Green’s most recent comments, J-FLAG’s Executive Director Dane Lewis said: “Mr. Green’s assertion that he worked closely with J-FLAG is worrying as thus far, during my tenure, our engagement was limited to John Terry’s murder which he said was not homophobic even when the evidence of a note stating that “this will happen to all gay men” was found at the crime scene.”

Police believed Mr Terry may have been killed by someone he knew and, according to Jamaican news reports this week, a man is due to stand trial this month for the crime.

Mr Lewis went on to say the community enjoys a “much better relationship with the police” regarding security at public demonstrations, but added: “If a gay man is murdered in his home with no visible sign of forced entry it does not automatically mean his lover killed him. And even so, it must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrator brought to justice nonetheless. Our willingness to park in this position and move no further is most startling.”

Gay sex between two men can carry a ten-year jail sentence or hard labour in Jamaica. Sex between two women is currently legal.

Mr Lewis added: “It is encouraging that we have begun to really debate in 2012 that “homophobia” still exists in Jamaica, especially when there is empirical evidence of this.

“But clearly, we do and all views must contend if we are to move this issue forward. Jamaica certainly has a vibrant thriving homosexual community; no one denies this but Jamaica has a far way to go in normalising its relationship with those of its citizens who find themselves being counted among the ‘other’.”

Mr Lewis warned that “one’s own reality is framed by one’s experiences and so one must be careful not to negate another person’s reality based on their own contrary perception.”