Amnesty International Steps Into Jamaican Homophobia Row
November 29, 2004
International has become the latest international rights organization to step
into the fray over homophobia in Jamaica.
The group on Friday called on the Jamaican police to
explicitly reaffirm their commitment to providing equal protection to all
sections of society regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor.
Their comment comes in response to a letter published in
the Jamaica Observer on Nov. 25, by Sergeant David White, the Police
Federation’s Public Relations Officer.
In it, White allegedly accuses international and domestic
human rights groups of harassing the state and spreading “… lies and
deliberately malign and slander the police force and the government” and
apparently adds: “the Government and the police cannot be held responsible
for.... the cultural responses of the population towards gay.”
But AI officials say, “Not only do such comments
constitute an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression—a cornerstone of
human rights protection—but they may also encourage and even incite acts of
violence or intimidation against human rights defenders.”
And they added, “It is deeply concerning that these
comments could be interpreted as condoning acts of violence or threats against
gay men and women, and may constitute a veiled threat by the police to with
hold protection to the gay community.”
The AI criticism comes on the heels of a report by Human
Rights Watch, who called for an end to the ban on buggery in Jamaica while
claiming that widespread violence and discrimination against gay men and
people living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica is undermining government measures to
combat the country’s fast-growing epidemic.
The report begins with a focus on the murder of Brian
Williamson, who was reportedly the island’s leading gay rights activist and
notes that on June 9, 2004, an hour after his body was discovered mutilated by
multiple knife wounds, a happy crowd gathered outside his place.
“A smiling man called out, ‘Battyman [homosexual] he
get killed!’ Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and
calling out, ‘let’s get them one at a time,’ ‘that’s what you get
for sin,’ ‘let’s kill all of them.’ Some sang ‘boom bye bye,’ a
line from a popular Jamaican song about killing and burning gay men,” the
HRW report states.
The report came following months of campaigning by gay
rights group, Outrage, on the issue of discrimination against gays on the
island, by not only nationals, but at least six dancehall singers, whom they
say promote murder against gays with their lyrics.
The Jamaican government has said it will not give in to
international pressure to change its laws while the island’s tourism
minister has called has called on anyone who claims there is a systematic
campaign in Jamaica “to seek out homosexuals to destroy them” to prove it.
“I will say, bring me the proof of this,” the
minister told journalists in London recently.
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