Jamaica faces legal action over anti-gay laws

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Three people have launched legal against Jamaica due to the country’s continued enforcement of homophobic laws.

The case is being sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has the support of the Human Dignity Trust, an LGBT-rights group based in the UK.

The people are: Gareth Henry, who successfully obtained asylum in Canada due to the violent abuse and persecution he suffered in Jamaica, based on his sexual orientation.

Dane Lewis, the director of J-FLAG – Jamaica’s only human rights lobby group and Ian McKnight, CEO of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities –  who are the largest coalition of HIV/AIDS groups in the Caribbean.

The Jamaican criminal code prohibits sex between men and sentences for buggery can include 10 years imprisonment with hard labour – the laws date back to the island’s colonial past.

In December of last year, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller promised to review the country’s homophobic legislation.

However, campaigners have accused her of inaction.

J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis told the Guardian that homophobic killings in the country have increased:

“This year alone there have been nine [murders],” he said. “The violence in Jamaica is having a spillover effect on other parts of the Caribbean: St Lucia now has a murder or so every year.”

One prominent Jamaican victim was John Terry, the 65-year-old British honorary consul in Montego Bay, who was found dead in 2009 having been beaten and strangled.

A note left on his body read: “This is what will happen to all gays,” it also featured the word “batty man” – a homophobic term of abuse.

Jamaican police claimed Mr Terry’s death was not a homophobic murder.