Saint Catherine parish in Jamaica (Map courtesy of Map-of-Jamaica.co.uk)
At around 11 p.m. on the evening of September 21, 2013, a young gay Jamaican man was walking home after visiting a friend in the community of Newlands, Portmore, St. Catherine. Without warning he was set upon and stoned by a mob of men shouting “Ketch di battyboy” [catch the faggot], “Kill the battyman,” “Hol’ him no mek him get way” [Hold him and don’t let him escape]. This youngster had passed these men on several occasions before without incident.
The athletic young man ran for his life but not before three stones slammed into his back. Despite this he managed to escape.
He is understandably fearful of reporting the incident to the police because he feels he will be ridiculed and further victimized. I understand his fear.
Last year a young gay man in Montego Bay was similarly attacked near his home by a man who hurled stones and homophobic slurs at him. When the youngster went to report the incident to the police, they ridiculed him and said that he had not suffered an attack because what had occurred was a mere “stone-throwing.” This was because none of the projectiles had actually hit him. When the young man called me from the police station to report this ridiculous statement by the police, I immediately drove to the station and had a loud and frustrating debate with the recording officer in the lobby before finally convincing him that what had occurred was in fact an assault and that he had a duty to take the report.
Maurice Tomlinson (top center) and Tom Decker (top left) lead LGBT sensitivity program for St. Lucia police. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)
Since that time, the Jamaican police have been more responsive to anti-gay attacks. This is no doubt in part because I sought and received Precautionary Measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the Jamaican state for the documented refusal of the police to respond to my own death threats as well as the vicious and ongoing homophobic assaults against two other gay Jamaicans. The island’s Commissioner of Police has also issued a directive that all victims of crime must be treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.
I have urged the young man in the Portmore incident (who has agreed to his story being made public, but not his name) to go to the police and make a report. If necessary, I have advised him, take along a friend. It is imperative that the report be made as his assailants may be planning another attack. He therefore needs to get advice from the police (such as it will be) on how to protect himself.
While we work to eliminate Jamaican homophobia through legal challenges, public advocacy, etc., it is important that the police are trained on how to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. It is also critical that the public SEE the police effectively responding to these attacks. That will hopefully cause them to think twice before launching anti-gay assaults. The police LGBT sensitivity training that my husband Tom Decker and I are facilitating across the Caribbean will hopefully assist in achieving that goal.
– MAURICE TOMLINSON
Recent homophobic attacks in Jamaica have included:
Dwayne Jones in his casket
1) The murder of 17-year-old cross-dresser Dwayne Jones at a public street-party in St. James (the Montego Bay area) on July 22. Jones was attacked after a female party-goer complained that Jones was a man dressed as a woman.
2) A mob attack on a Kingston police officer suspected to be gay on Aug. 1. He had to be rescued by other officers firing shots in the air and firing teargas into the crowd.
3) A mob attack on the home of two gay persons in St. Catherine, also on Aug. 1. They too had to be rescued by police.
4) A mob attack on a cross-dresser in St. Catherine on Aug. 10. The police again had to rescue the individual.
5) A mob attack on five allegedly gay men, who were trapped in their house in Green Mountain on Aug. 22 until police arrived and escorted them to safety.
6) Threats by a mob that surrounded two allegedly gay men who were involved in a minor traffic accident on Aug. 26 in Old Harbour in southern Jamaica. The mob said that homosexuality might be acceptable elsewhere, but not in Old Harbour.