Jamaica’s LGBT community is facing an ‘unprecedented’ level of mob attack and is appealing to the world to come to their rescue.
Jamaican LGBT advocate Maurice Tomlinson told Gay Star News he believes the violence is being stirred up by anti-gay pastors who are angry at moves to rid the island of its sodomy law.
The last month has seen attacks on people in their own homes, in private cars, and even an assault on a police officer suspected of being gay who had to be saved by fellow cops using teargas.
Meanwhile the murder of 17-year-old cross-dresser Dwayne Long Jones on 22 July made headlines around the world.
The violence has spiraled after the Love March Movement organized protest parades against gay rights around the island on 23 June.
That was two days before the domestic legal challenge to the island’s sodomy law started in court on 25 June.
Tomlinson highlights the following incidents:
On the same day, two gay men in the town of Old Harbour were in a car crash. But when onlookers realized they were gay they had to flee and seek shelter in a police station.
Tomlinson said: ‘The public reporting of attacks is completely unprecedented. We would normally expect to hear about an incident a month. It is not just the level of the attacks, but also the severity.’
Now another hate-fuelled Love March is planned for 14 September, with organizers promising it will be even bigger, further heightening tensions.
Tomlinson compares it with a similar march in Haiti which led to spiraling violence with 47 gays beaten with machetes, sticks and cement blocks in one week.
Tomlinson, who is legal advisor for minority groups at AIDS Free World, said: ‘One pastor went on a public platform and said there are religious leaders who are willing to die for this issue.
‘So if they are saying this in public, you can just imagine what they are saying in their churches.’
Tomlinson said people were even scared in their own homes and driving private cars after the thug attacks.
He added: ‘There is a general tension in the [LGBT] community.
‘There are some who are more strident now about demanding their rights because they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
‘Others are more nervous. They are talking about being careful, watching who you go out with and going out in groups.’
He reports the police have improved their response to homophobic incidents, having been instructed by their commissioner that discrimination would not be tolerated.
But he says the government must now act.
Tomlinson told us: ‘The government said they would be calling a parliamentary conscience vote on the sodomy law before the end of the year. But that was three months ago and we have not heard anything since.
‘We are not sure if they will act now or wait until the legal challenge progresses.
‘It is now in the hands of the government to see these attacks stop happening because even a police officer was mobbed in the middle of the city because he was suspected of being gay. Nobody is safe.
‘The longer the sodomy law stays on the books, the longer we will have these attacks and the religious groups will continue to use it as rallying cry.
‘But it is not sufficient to just remove the law. We need the government to make definitive statements to promote the rights of LGBT people.’
Tomlinson says Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has remained silent on the matter, and he wants people to contact her to show ‘the world is watching’.
If you wish to support Tomlinson by contacting the Jamaican government, their contact details are here: