Last edited: November 19, 2004

‘DISGRACEFUL’- New Report Says Gov’t, Police Condone Abuse of Gays, HIV Persons

Jamaica Gleaner, November 17, 2004

By Trudy Simpson, Freelance Writer

HUMAN RIGHTS organisations yesterday accused the government and the police force of turning a blind eye to the rampant abuse of homosexual males and persons living with HIV/AIDS.

In an explosive new report, launched by Human Rights Watch ­ an international organisation ­ at the Courtleigh Hotel, New Kingston, local human rights groups the Independent Jamaica Council For Human Rights (IJCHR), Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and Families Against State Terrorism (FAST) called for the establishment of an independent body to investigate allegations of discrimination and abuse based on sexual orientation or HIV status. Perpetrators, they say, should be punished to the full extent of the law.

 The report also accused government officials of turning a blind eye to “state-sponsored homophobia and discrimination” which, Human Rights Watch said, represents breaches of international conventions against discrimination, which Jamaica has been a signatory to.


“Abuses against men who have sex with men take place in a climate of impunity fostered by Jamaica’s sodomy laws and are promoted at the highest level of government,” the report alleged.

It charged that political leaders, among them Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and Health Minister John Junor, have repeatedly refused to endorse repealing what it termed “discriminatory legislation.”

Entitled ‘Hated to death: Homophobia, Violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic’, the report which includes interviews with 75 Jamaicans, also accused the police of dereliction of duty, charging that they oftentimes encourage the beating of gay men while turning a blind eye to documented cases of physical and verbal abuse of HIV positive persons.

“Police extort money and sex from gay men as well as sex workers, sometimes using the mere possession of condoms ­ a key tool in HIV prevention ­ as an excuse to harass or arrest both them and AIDS educators who work with them,” Human Rights Watch outlined in the report.

It said government should take steps to end arrests and prosecutions based on adult consensual homosexual conduct; ensure protection of HIV/AIDS outreach workers and protect people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs) against discrimination.

The report is also calling for government to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “sex” in the anti-discrimination clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as amendments to the Jamaican Constitution.

No Systematic Campaign

Public officials, including Tourism Minister Aloun N’Dombet Assamba, have denied that there is a systematic campaign in Jamaica against homosexuals. Ms. Assamba said in London recently that the Jamaican Government did not condone violence against any individual or group and asked for proof.

However, Rebecca Schleifer, the report’s author and a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS programme, said she begged to differ, claiming that the report was proof of systematic abuse.

Ms. Schleifer said discrimination was also rampant in health facilities, in homes, and in the church.

Hated to Death: Homophobia, Violence, and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

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