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