The police have been called to act, following an attack by a homophobic mob in Jamaica that left one man severely injured and another missing and feared dead.
The incident is the latest in a string of homophobic mob violence over the last year, including an attack on mourners in a church.
“Roving mobs attacking innocent people and staining the streets with blood should shame the nation’s leaders,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“Gays and lesbians in Jamaica face violence at home, in public, even in a house of worship, and official silence encourages the spread of hate.”
The latest attack took place on the evening of January 29 in the central Jamaican town of Mandeville when a group of men approached a house where four men lived. They demanded that the men leave the community because they were gay, according to 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. Approximately half an hour later, 15-20 men broke down the door and began beating and slashing the inhabitants.
The police arrived half an 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.
The attack on these men echoes another incident in the same town on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007. Approximately 100 men gathered outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man.
After half an hour, three police officers arrived, but instead of protecting the mourners, police reportedly socialised with the mob, laughing along at the situation. The 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.
“While Jamaican police have begun to reach out to gay and lesbian communities, this change hasn’t reached many police stations where protection remains an illusion,” said Rebecca Schleifer, advocate on HIV/AIDS and human rights at Human Rights Watch.
Two other mob attacks last year reinforced the fears of gay and lesbian Jamaicans. On April 2, 2007, a crowd in Montego Bay attacked three men alleged to be gay who were attending a carnival. One man was slashed with knives and beaten with a manhole cover. According to local press reports, at least 30 or 40 people beat another man as he sought refuge in a bar.
On February 14, 2007, a mob in Kingston attacked four men, including the co-chair of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG).
When officers arrived, instead of protecting them, they verbally abused the victims, calling them “nasty battymen,” and struck one in the face, head, and stomach. They took the men to Halfway Tree Police Station in Kingston, but refused to take their complaints and ordered them never to return to the station.