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Three in four LGBTI people want to flee Jamaica due to homophobia

Three in four LGBTI people want to flee Jamaica due to homophobia

71% of gay men in Jamaica experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the last 12 months.

Three out of four LGBTI Jamaicans want to flee their country to escape persecution, according to a recent study on the developmental cost of homophobia in the Caribbean island.

74.4% of LGBTI Jamaicans have considered migrating abroad, most likely gay men working in urban centers.

However, only 12% of the 316 LGBTI Jamaicans surveyed by the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays had relocated within the country.

Consensual sex between men is a crime in Jamaica punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and hard labour under a colonial-era law, which is supported by 77% of the population.

The majority respondents (75.9%) felt that discrimination against the LGBTI community was a ‘very serious’ problem in Jamaica – particularly against gay men.

71% of gay men experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the last 12 months, compared to 59% of lesbians, 35% of bisexuals and 29% of transgender people.

However, the majority of respondents (51.3%) did not report their last incidence of physical or sexual assault to the police.

41% did not report it because they did not think the police would do anything, while 30% thought the matter was too minor. One in four feared a homophobic reaction from the police, and one in five felt too embarrassed and did not want anyone to know.

‘The results of this study suggest that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Jamaica face violence, stigma, and discrimination, which hold those individuals back – and hold back Jamaica’s economy,’ wrote the study’s lead author, MV Lee Badgett of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

‘Fear of violence and discrimination are preventing LGBT people in Jamaica from full participation in society and the economy, and this fear encourages behaviors which are detrimental to the affected persons’ wellbeing.’