Report documents widespread anti-LGBT violence in Jamaica

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A report by Human Rights Watch has documented widespread discrimination against Jamaica’s LGBT community.

In its 86-page report titled “Not Safe at Home,” Human Rights Watch noted that LGBT citizens in Jamaica are often driven from their communities by neighbours and sometimes even family.

Between 2009 and 2012, J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBT rights organisation, recorded 231 incidents of attacks against LGBT people, including home invasions, physical assaults, and mob attacks.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted five weeks of field research in Jamaica in April and June 2013, interviewing 71 LGBT people – 44 of whom reported being victims of “some form of violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Many LGBT people on the island “live in constant fear,” HRW said.

Nineteen had reported these crimes to the police, who only took formal statements in eight cases. Victims were aware of arrests by police in only 4 of the 56 cases of violence that HRW documented.

Twenty-six of those who had experienced violence said they did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation from the perpetrators or because reporting a homophobic or transphobic hate crime would “out” them to broader society.

Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as one of the most homophobic places on Earth because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people.

Dwayne Jones, a transgender teenager, was murdered at a party in the parish of St James in July 2013. Police have yet to make a single arrest.

The report called on the Jamaican government to strike down the country’s buggery law that prohibits “acts of gross indecency” between men. While prosecution is rare under Jamaica’s 1864 law making sexual intimacy between men a crime, the advocacy organisation warned it gives “social sanction to prejudice and helps to create a context in which hostility and violence is directed against LGBT people.”

Police should undertake rigorous investigations into all allegations of anti-LGBT hate crimes, the campaign group insisted.

HRW also recommended Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, parliamentarians, and other leaders should consistently condemn violence and discrimination.

A recent poll commissioned by the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper suggested that 91% of Jamaicans are opposed to repealing the law.

As part of her election campaign in 2011 Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller vowed to review the buggery law – she has so far failed to do so.

Sentences for buggery can include 10 years imprisonment with hard labour.

Speaking to PinkNews in May, leading Jamaican LGBT rights lawyer Maurice Tomlinson accused Prime Minister Simpson-Miller of a “blatant betrayal” for refusing to abolish the buggery law.