Death threats force Jamaican gay activist to flee

Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson faced escalation of death threats. He is now in London to receive first David Kato LGBTI award

Death threats force Jamaican gay activist to flee
27 January 2012

One of the leading advocates for gay rights in Jamaica, Maurice Tomlinson, has been forced to flee his home after an escalation of death threats against him.

Tomlinson married his Canadian partner at a ceremony in Toronto in August 2011 but the news was deliberately kept quiet out of safety concerns.

However, recent media reports in Jamaica about this event meant that Maurice’s life could not be guaranteed and police warned him they could not offer him any security from vigilantes if he remained in Jamaica.

Homophobia is rife in Jamaica tacit support for violence against gay people is widespread in both the government and police. Vigilante ‘justice’ has resulted in at least 35 Jamaicans being murdered because of their sexuality since 1997. Last year two people were hacked to death for being gay.

As Gay Star News has previously reported, the new Jamaican Prime Minister has expressed a willingness to support gay rights through a parliamentary conscience vote on the country’s 1864 anti-sodomy law.

In December Maurice Tomlinson who is legal advisor for Marginalized Groups for international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World, was announced as the inaugural recipient of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award.

He has now arrived in London and will receive the award at a ceremony in Kensington on Sunday (29 January).

The award is inspired by the life of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was murdered for his sexuality one year ago on 26 January. It recognizes the leadership of individuals who work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people around the world, often in very dangerous situations.

It will be awarded annually, to an individual who demonstrates courage and outstanding leadership in advocating for the sexual rights of LGBTI people, particularly in environments where these individuals face continued rejection, marginalization, isolation and persecution. It comes with a grant of $10,000 (€7,600).

Frank Mugisha, chairperson of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award steering committee, and executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) said: ‘The spirit of the work that David fought and died for is perfectly captured by the very essence of Maurice's tireless efforts in Jamaica and the region.

‘In a highly competitive process Maurice is a worthy recipient of the very first David Kato Vision and Voice Award.’

The culmination of Maurice’s ongoing work is the unprecedented legal challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law that Maurice’s organization AIDS-Free World initiated at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Maurice is leading the legal team to file the first-ever such challenge at the regional level. If successful, it could be the beginning of the end of legalized homophobia in Jamaica, and undoubtedly will have a multiplier effect throughout the Caribbean.

Kevin Osborne, senior adviser on HIV at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: ‘Despite advances in many countries the fight for the sexual rights of LGBTI people is far from over. The overwhelming response to the David Kato Vision and Voice Award has highlighted that across the world – in far flung places and regions LGBTI people are using our voices and vision to achieve human rights for all. It’s a battle that must be won.’

George Ayala, executive officer of The Global Forum on MSM & HIV, said: ‘Maurice’s courage and unapologetic determination to raise awareness and to bring people together in support of gay men and their families in the Caribbean embodies the spirit of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award. Maurice’s work is absolutely critical to the fight against HIV.’

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