Last edited: June 20, 2004

British Gays use Brian Williamson’s Death to Push Agenda

The Daily Gleaner, June 13, 2004
P.O. Box 40, 7 North Street, Kingston, Jamaica
Fax: 876-922-6223

By Andrew Clunis, News Editor

LONDON (The Voice): Britain’s leading gay rights group, OutRage, wants Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson to repeal the island’s tough anti-gay laws immediately. The group is also calling for an international ban on dancehall lyrics that incite the murder of gay people and for the introduction of an education programme in local schools to combat homophobic prejudice.

OutRage, which represents gays across the United Kingdom, is also pressuring British Home Secretary David Blunkett to make the asylum application process easier for gays and lesbians fleeing persecution.

The calls come following the savage murder of Jamaica’s most public and vocal gay figure, Brian William-son, last week.

Williamson, founder of Jamaica’s gay rights movement, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), was found butchered at his home in the upscale New Kingston area last Wednesday. According to police reports, the 59-year-old who had multiple chop wounds was seen meeting two men at his home earlier in the morning.

J-FLAG said they believed the killing to be a hate crime and Outrage have expressed a similar view. “We are calling on the Jamaican Police Commissioner to look further into this killing. Because some of Mr. Williamson’s possessions were missing, the authorities are refusing to treat his murder as a hate crime.”

Spokesman for Outrage, Brett Lock, said: “This is consistent with the Jamaican Government’s callous disregard for the rights and safety of lesbian and gay Jamaicans.”

Peter Tatchell who heads the rights group said Williamson’s death was inevitable: “Brian’s death was inevitable as he was leading the campaign for gay rights in a country bent on tolerating homophobia.”

Outrage wants Jamaica’s tough anti-gay laws which allow for up to 10 years imprisonment at hard labour for males convicted of buggery to be repealed with immediate effect.

Outside gay circles, there has been little or no _expression of fury at Williamson’s gruesome death. But international human rights group Amnesty International, like Outrage, has taken the Jamaican police to task for not doing enough to protect homosexuals.

Outrage has also planned a two-hour vigil in homage to Williamson for June 23 at the Jamaican High Commission in London.

A number of gay Jamaican men have been granted asylum in Britain, on the basis that their lives were threatened, he said. This has been facilitated by a 1999 ruling in the House of Lords which allowed gays to be classified as belonging to “a particular social group”.

Tatchell said Outrage has supported and maintained links with a large and growing Jamaican gay population in the UK. “A large number of them have come here for refuge and there are others who want to come. David Blunkett should give them that opportunity before more people die.”

Outrage, he further said, was still pursuing the prosecution of several Jamaican artistes including Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and Elephant Man who the group contend, perform lyrics that encourage the killing of gays and lesbians.

“This murder has occurred in the context of reggae songs that openly advocate the murder of gays and lesbians. These records help legitimise homophobic violence whenever a new hit tune is released there is a significant increase in attacks on lesbians and gays both here and in Jamaica. These artistes have blood on their hands,” he said.

• The Voice is a UK-based ethnic newspaper recently purchased by The Gleaner Company

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