Jamaica’s LGBT society live in fear due to lack of education, says Manchester leader

The secretary of Manchester’s Jamaica Society believes that a lack of education breeds intolerance towards the LGBT community in his home country.

A Human Rights Watch investigation released this week concluded that ‘LGBT Jamaicans are vulnerable to both physical and sexual violence and many live in constant fear.’

Washington Alcott, who moved from Jamaica to work as a teacher in Manchester some 15 years ago, admitted that the issue is not widely discussed within the Caribbean nation.

“There have been no attempts by individuals, the church or the government to do something to help education,” said the 51-year-old.

“Within the last 15 to 20 years the mass media exposure has highlighted the issue in Jamaica but it has still not been addressed and no concerted effort has been made to educate the population.

“It is a well-known fact that Jamaican society has high levels of intolerance and this has been going on for many years.”

The 86-page report documents 56 cases of violence in which victims reported they were targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual identity.

Police investigations are often inadequate or lacking altogether, in some cases due to homophobia within the police force, according to the study.

Graeme Reid, the LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch has condemned ‘buggery laws’ – which outlaw anal sex and all male homosexual conduct.

“The authorities from the Prime Minister on down need to call a halt to the violence and discrimination, prosecute anyone responsible, and get homophobic laws off the books,” said Reid.

“LGBT people in Jamaica face intolerable levels of violence and cannot rely on the police.”

The independent organisation aims to defend the rights of people worldwide and conducted five weeks of field research between April and June 2013.

Of the 56 cases of violence documented, only 19 victims reported the crimes to the police.

The authorities took formal statements in only eight cases and just four actually led to arrests or prosecutions.

When speaking to Human Rights Watch the victims highlighted a fear that the police would discriminate against them further or that no action would be taken regardless of their complaints.

Mr Alcott claimed that the problems tend to arise in urban centres and even within cities there tend to be certain areas in particular that have a reputation for conflict.

“It is primarily an urban problem – especially in Kingston [Jamaica’s capital city] whereas tourist hot spots tend to be more tolerant,” he added.

“But even in the last three months the wider church community has opposed movements to legalise gay marriage, insisting people should keep their lifestyles to themselves.

“The religious community are against anything that is considered un-Christian or un-Jamaican.”

Having lived three quarters of his life in Jamaica Mr Alcott says that J-Flag, the country’s LGBT community representatives, are gaining strength however.

He feels that very few organisations or bodies will oppose J-Flag but that Jamaican society remains, even if mostly privately, highly intolerant of the LGBT community.

For more information or to read the report in full, click here.

Image courtesy of First Cut, via YouTube, with thanks

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