Jamaican lesbian, facing homophobia, will not be deported

By 365gay Newscenter Staff
08.08.2008 3:00pm EDT
(Miami, Fla.) In what is regarded as a landmark ruling, an immigration judge has stayed a deportation order that would have sent a lesbian back to Jamaica because of homophobic violence in the Caribbean country.

The general atmosphere in Jamaica is a feeling of no tolerance towards homosexuals in general, and as such. . . the respondent’s life is definitely at risk,” Immigration Judge Irma Lopez-Defillo said, according to court documents obtained by the Miami Herald.

The 29-year old, identified by the paper only as “Nicole,” originally had been ordered deported by Lopez-Defillo, but stayed the order based on the climate toward gays in Jamaica.

She was ordered to check in regularly with immigration officials in Miami. The woman is staying with family in South Florida.

Although a number of people facing deportation have claimed they would be subjected to homophobic abuse if returned to their homelands, the argument is seldom accepted. In several cases, immigration judges have ruled the person could avoid trouble in their countries if they remained closeted.

Even though though “Nicole” has avoided deportation for now, she could still be removed from the country by the Department of Homeland Security, leaving her status in the U.S. in limbo.

Sodomy is illegal in Jamaica, with a sentence of 10-years in prison on conviction.

The country has been described by human rights groups as having the worst record of any country in the New World in its treatment of gays and lesbians.

Homophobic attacks are seldom pursued by police and even when charges are laid there are few convictions.

One of the most recent attacks occurred on January 29, when a group of men approached a house where four males lived in the central Jamaican town of Mandeville. They demanded that the residents leave the community because they were gay, according to Jamaican human rights activists who spoke with the victims.

Later that evening, a mob returned and surrounded the house. The four men inside called the police when they saw the crowd gathering. The mob started to attack the house, shouting and throwing bottles.

Those in the house called police again and were told that the police were on the way. Approximately half an hour later, 15 to 20 men broke down the door and began beating and slashing the inhabitants.

Human Rights Watch, quoting local activists, said that police did not arrive until a half hour after the mob had broken into the house – 90 minutes after the men first called for help.

One of the victims managed to flee with the mob pursuing. A Jamaican newspaper reported that blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting he had fallen inside or may have been killed nearby.

The police escorted the three other victims away from the scene; two of them were taken to the hospital. One of the men had his left ear severed, his arm broken in two places, and his spine reportedly damaged.

There have been no arrests.

The attack echoes another incident in the same town on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007, when approximately 100 men gathered outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man.

According to mourners, the crowd broke the windows with bottles and shouted, “We want no battyman [gay] funeral here. Leave or else we’re going to kill you. We don’t want no battyman buried here in Mandeville.”

Several mourners inside the church called the police to request protection. After half an hour, three police officers arrived.

Human Rights Watch said that instead of protecting the mourners, police socialized with the mob, laughing along at the situation.

A highway patrol car subsequently arrived, and one of the highway patrol officers reportedly told the churchgoers, “It’s full time this needs to happen. Enough of you guys.”

The highway patrol officers then drove off. The remaining officers at the scene refused to intervene when the mob threatened the mourners with sticks, stones, and batons as they tried to leave the service. Only when several gay men among the mourners took knives from their cars for self-defense did police reportedly take action by firing their guns into the air. Officers stopped gay men from leaving and searched their vehicles, but did not restrain or detain members of the mob, Human Rights Watch said.

More than 30 gay men are believed to have been murdered since 1997 J-FLAG says. In most of the cases the killers have never been brought to trial.

Arrests, however, have been made in several cases which received international attention.

In 2004, Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading LGBT civil rights advocate, was brutally murdered. He had been stabbed at least 70 times in the neck. A 25-year-old man is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.

In December 2005, Lenford “Steve” Harvey, who ran Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, was killed.

Harvey was shot to death on the eve of World AIDS Day. His organization provided support to gay men and sex workers. Four men were arrested almost a year later.

In 2006, the bodies of two women believed to have been in a lesbian relationship were found dumped in a septic pit behind a home they shared. The killers of Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie have not been caught.

Students at University of the West Indies in Kingston rioted last year as police attempted to protect a gay student and escort him from the campus. The incident began when the student was chased across the campus by another student who claimed the gay man had attempted to proposition him in a washroom.

The same year, a young man plunged to his death off a pier in Kingston after reportedly being chased through the streets by a mob yelling homophobic epithets.

In February 2007, three men in “tight jeans” and wearing what some witnesses described as makeup were cornered by a mob of 2000 in a drugstore. There were yells of “kill them” along with gay slurs and demands the three be sent out “to face justice.” Police had to fire tear gas into the crowd to rescue the three.

Reggae, or Jamaican dancehall music, is blamed for fueling homophobia in that country. Reggae star BujuBanton’s hit song Boom Boom Bye Bye which threatens gay men with a “gunshot in ah head.”

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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