Last edited: December 12, 2004

Amnesty International Steps Into Jamaican Homophobia Row, November 29, 2004

LONDON, England—Amnesty 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.

[Home] [World] [Jamaica]