Living in the sewers (Photo: Michael Forbes / 76crimes.com)

Living in the sewers (Photo: Michael Forbes / 76crimes.com)

The Jamaican media has reported the arrest of eight men, described as gay, for robbery in Kingston, but activists say that the men have been victims of homophobia.

According to a Jamaica Observer article headlined “Gay robbery suspects arrested in New Kgn raid”, police found the men with stolen property and are searching for another five suspects.

The men are all homeless and have been forced to live in the sewers where they were arrested during a one hour operation on Sunday.

The Observer wrote: “Inside the gully, curtains served as a temporary wall on one side. As eyes adjusted to the dark, men clad in women’s clothing, blonde wigs, eyelids heavy with false lashes, acrylic fingernails and ‘bleached’ faces could be seen sprawled, fast asleep.”

It added that “The raids were met with howls of approval from passing motorists and pedestrians, who said that the men had been a nuisance and should have been long been removed.”

Activists have pointed out that the men were likely unable to find accommodation or employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some may have been thrown out of their homes as youngsters.

They slammed the media for sensationalistic reporting and inflammatory language which only serves to further stigmatise LGBT people in Jamaica, regarded as one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

“Are we going to start seeing headlines ‘heterosexual man murders his girlfriend?’ Or ‘straight pastor rapes female congregant?'” an unnamed activist was quoted as asking by Erasing 76 Crimes.

“Some Jamaican gays were kicked out of their homes as young as 12 years old because of the country’s crushing homophobia. Some of them now engage in anti-social behaviour to survive. Should we as a society be surprised that some of these youngsters choose to steal from a society that so blatantly rejected them?”

The blog earlier reported that efforts were underway to raise funds to house the men in a shelter.

The project is called “Dwayne’s House,” in memory of 16-year-old Dwayne Jones, who was attacked by revelers at a party after they“discovered” that she was not biologically female. She was stabbed, shot and chopped to death by the mob.

Same-sex sex is illegal in Jamaica and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

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