Jamaican LGBT rights advocates have expressed outrage over the reported murder of a cross-dressing teenager near the resort city of Montego Bay.
The radio station Irie FM reported the 17-year-old was dancing with a man at a party on July 21 while dressed as a woman when someone realized the teen was cross-dressing. A second man reportedly discovered the teenager was actually male.
Irie FM said a group of party-goers stabbed the 17-year-old to death either late on July 21 or early Monday morning before dumping the teen’s body in bushes on the side of a road.
The Jamaica-Gleaner reported earlier today that police officers found the teen, whom they identified as Dwayne Jones, with what it described as “multiple stab wounds and a gunshot wound.”
“We send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the teenager who was slain,” the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG,) a Jamaican LGBT rights group, said in a statement it issued on Tuesday. “We call for a thorough investigation into the murder of the teenager in Montego Bay and hope that the family and loved ones of the slained teen will find the justice they deserve.”
Jones’ murder comes against the backdrop of pervasive anti-LGBT violence in the Caribbean nation.
A J-FLAG report said the organization knows of at least 30 gay men who have been murdered in Jamaica between 1997 and 2004.
A man stabbed J-FLAG co-founder Brian Williamson to death inside his home in Kingston, the country’s capital in 2004. Former J-FLAG executive director Gareth Henry sought asylum in Canada in 2008 after he received death threats.
Authorities found honorary British consul John Terry strangled to death inside his home near Montego Bay in 2009. They found a note left next to his body that referred to him as “batty boy,” a derogatory term used against gay men in Jamaica.
Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican lawyer with the group AIDS-Free World who fled his homeland in 2012 after he received death threats after local media reported he had married a Canadian man, told the Washington Blade from his home in upstate New York that there have been nine reported anti-gay murders on the island so far this year. He added there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of reported attacks against LGBT Jamaicans since 2009.
Tomlinson said this spike in the number of reported incidents could be the result of the work advocates have done to document human rights abuses against LGBT Jamaicans.
The Jamaica Supreme Court last month heard a lawsuit that challenges the island’s anti-sodomy law under which those who are convicted face up to 10 years in prison with hard labor.
“The rhetoric is getting much more toxic,” Tomlinson said, noting brutal attacks against gay Jamaicans has become more common. He said they are no longer confined to just Kingston and a handful of other areas. “We’re not sure if the increase in attacks is a function of that or the reporting.”
The State Department, Amnesty International and other groups have criticized the Jamaican government for not doing enough to curb anti-LGBT violence in the country.
AIDS-Free world has challenged Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in D.C. It has also asked the group that is housed within the Organization for American States to formally respond to the ongoing persecution that homeless men who have sex with men and other vulnerable groups of gay Jamaicans face.
Tomlinson’s group also plans to ask the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to formally condemn discrimination and violence against LGBT Jamaicans.
The Organization of American States, of which Jamaica is a member, last month adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression during its annual meeting that took place in Guatemala. Jamaica declined to accept the protocol’s LGBT-specific recommendations.
Tomlinson, who appeared on the National Public Radio program “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin on Monday to discuss the documentary “The Abominable Crime” that examines anti-LGBT violence in Jamaica, told the Blade the government has been “absolutely silent” on the issue.
Former J-FLAG staffer Nico Tyndale’s cousin was murdered in Jamaica earlier this year because his assailants thought he was gay.
Tyndale told the Blade earlier on Tuesday that many people continue argue the country is not homophobic – and gay Jamaicans are actually “the ones killing ourselves.”
“We can’t even be who we are,” Tyndale said. “Being who we are only leads to a mob and a slaughter.”