Jamaican police are not doing enough to protect gay and transgender people who “live in constant fear,” as incidents of extreme violence and even murder go unchecked, according to a report Tuesday.
At least two gay men have been killed in recent years, the US-based rights watchdog said, and incidents of mob violence, shooting, stabbing and beatings are “part of the lived reality” of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Jamaica.
In July 2013, 16-year-old Dwayne Johnson was stabbed, shot and run over with a car after attending a party dressed as a woman. His killers dumped his body in a bush after the murder outside a nightclub.
A gay man, Steve Lindo, was stabbed to death with scissors in 2010 after his alleged killer said he made advances at him, according to the 86-page report, based on interviews with 71 LGBT people over five weeks last year.
Other abuses “included rape; being chopped with a machete; being choked; being stabbed with a knife; being shot with a gun; being hit with boards, pipes, sticks, chairs, or brooms; being attacked by groups ranging from 5 to 40 individuals; and being slapped in the face with hands or with guns,” the report added.
One man who used a pseudonym, Devon O, said he was severely beaten by a crowd of 30 people who insulted his sexual orientation and attacked him with knives, machetes and sticks.
Police removed him after 20 minutes and then handcuffed and beat him themselves, he reported.
Many people are too scared to report abuses to authorities, and even when they do, cases are not always pursued, according to HRW.
Among 56 incidents of violence, only 19 were reported. Out of those, authorities took formal statements in only eight cases and made arrests or pursued prosecution only four times.
“Police protection remains inadequate,” even though laws have been introduced to protect LGBT communities, the report said.
“There have been steps taken… but the main problem, a lack of effective follow up by the police, has not been addressed,” Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at HRW, told AFP.
The poorest were the least likely to report incidents of violence.
“LGBT Jamaicans, especially those who are poor and unable to live in safer, more affluent areas, are particularly vulnerable,” HRW said.
It called on the government to repeal “antiquated” anti-gay laws, which ban 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.
Social discrimination also remains a serious threat, and many LBGT people are denied housing, health care or employment because of their sexual orientation.
“They are taunted, threatened, fired from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, or worse: beaten, stoned, raped, or killed,” the report said.