Jamaican Homophobic Violence
June 2, 2004
Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal to
people all over the world to write to the Jamaican Prime Minister asking him
to take urgent steps to protect gay people from violence, and to repeal
legislation that criminalizes same sex relations.
Amnesty International has received many reports of
vigilante action against gay people by members of the community, and of ill
treatment or torture by the police. Gay men and women have been beaten, cut,
burned, raped and shot on account of their sexuality. Once a person’s
homosexuality becomes known to family or community, they are frequently at
“We have talked to people who have been forced to leave
their communities after being publicly vilified, threatened or attacked on
suspicion of being gay. They face homelessness, isolation or worse,” said
Amnesty International UK Media Director Lesley Warner.
“We are concerned that these reports are just the tip
of the iceberg. Many gay men and women in Jamaica are too afraid to go to the
authorities and seek help,” she added
One man described to J-FLAG (Jamaica’s only lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender organisation) how six men from an infamous
“garrison community” (poor, inner-city communities dominated by either of
Jamaica’s two main political parties) blocked a road to beat a local gay
“The crowd stood around watching, chanting “battyman,
battyman, battyman.” They beat, punched and kicked him, and then they
dragged him down the road for half a kilometre. They shouted “battyman fi’
dead.” As I stood across the street I realised there was nothing I could do
to help him. Some mothers were actually in tears at what they were witnessing
but there was nothing that they could do either. The crowd was saying, “Give
him to us! Let us kill him! He’s a battyman!”
Lesbians are also targets of homophobic violence in
Jamaica. Amnesty International has assisted in several cases of lesbian women
from Jamaica who have sought asylum abroad following persecution at home.
Amnesty International has received reports of acts of violence against
lesbians, including rape and other forms of sexual violence. There are reports
of lesbians being singled out for attack on the grounds of “mannish”
physical appearance or other visible manifestations of sexuality.
Amnesty International is concerned that musicians in
Jamaica are actively promoting homophobia and share responsibility for
violence against gay people. In January 2004 around 30,000 people attended a
huge stage show and Rastafarian celebration, Rebel Salute, in St. Elizabeth,
Jamaica. Throughout the night, Capleton, Sizzla and other groups sang almost
exclusively about gay men, urging the audience to “kill dem, battybwoys
haffi dead, gun shots pon dem… who want to see dem dead put up his hand”
(kill them, gay men have got to die, gun shots in their head, whoever wants to
see them dead, put up your hand). Elephant Man, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, TOK,
and Capleton are among the stars who have written lyrics variously urging the
shooting, burning, rape, stoning and drowning of gay people.
Against this backdrop of high levels of violence against
gay and lesbian people in Jamaica, tacitly accepted by the police, are the
laws that continue to criminalize consensual gay sex between males. Article 76
of the Jamaican Offences against the Person Act punishes the “abominable
crime of buggery” by up to ten years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
Article 79 of the same act punishes any act of physical intimacy between men
in public or private by a term of imprisonment of up to two years and the
possibility of hard labour.
Lesley Warner concluded: “This kind of violence and its
incitement must be challenged and ended. Amnesty International wants to see
legislation which criminalizes homosexuality repealed, and the police
providing protection for gay people.”
More information about homophobia in Jamaica and details
of how to write to the Jamaican government are on the Amnesty International UK
website at: www.amnesty.org.uk.
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