Jamaica: Gay rights activist shot dead outside home

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Tributes have been paid to gay rights campaigner Kenrick Stephenson, who was murdered outside his home in Jamaica last month.

Mr Stephenson, popularly known as Bebe, was an openly gay activist for the ruling Peoples National Party (PNP).

According to reports, Mr Stephenson was shot several times at the entrance to his home in Montego Bay on Sunday 24 May.

“People might say a lot of things about him, but he was a loyal and dependable person,” said Michael Troupe, Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay. “He will be sadly missed.”

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) expressed condolences to Mr Stephenson’s family.

“We are not a membership organisation, so we can’t say he was a member … but we knew of him,” J-FLAG said.

“We would like to express our condolence to his family and we are urging the police to conduct a speedy investigation so that the perpetrator can be brought to justice.”

Police have yet to make any arrests in connection with the killing and refuse to say if they believe it was motived by homophobia.

Some on social media have speculated it could have been linked to Mr Stephenson’s alleged involvement in a lottery scam.

Elsewhere in Jamaica on Thursday, The Gleaner, a leading newspaper, published an editorial questioning the country’s ban on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The Jamaican criminal code prohibits sex between men and sentences for buggery can include 10 years imprisonment with hard labour.

Last week, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson called for greater acceptance of gay Jamaicans.

He said: “It’s an issue, I know, where people have very strong positions, but we have to find a way of moving away from polarised positions into one that accepts that differences of race or colour, differences of class, [and] differences even in terms of sexual preferences may have to be addressed in conformity with the prevailing global environment in which we live”.

“Those who wish to have changes must accept the right of persons to speak freely, reflecting their convictions and they can’t expect to have all the say going one way, they must expect others to have contending positions,” he added.