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Protesters call on Jamaica to improve record on gay rights

STANDING UP: Protesters call on the Jamaican PM to address gay rights

WITH JAMAICAN police yet to make any arrest over the brutal murder of a 16-year-old transgender teenager, gay rights groups in Britain have taken to the streets in protest.

Dwayne Jones was beaten, stabbed, shot and deliberately run over by a car on July 22 after attending a party dressed as a woman. He was set upon by a mob.

A month later, on August 27, openly-gay tourism worker Dean Moriah, 41, was allegedly tortured to death and robbed at his home.

Neither crime has resulted in any arrest, sparking worldwide condemnation.

Campaigners are calling on Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to take action by addressing anti-gay laws and increasing protection for the Caribbean island’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

A vigil and protest organised by Out & Proud African LGBTI, and Justice for Dwayne Jones with the support of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, was held outside the Jamaica High Commission in London on August 28, attended by up to 30 demonstrators.

Edwin Sesange, co-founder and director of Out & Proud African LGBTI said: “The Jamaican authorities need to send an unequivocal message that there will be zero tolerance for violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

"Additionally, the police should thoroughly investigate the murders and witnesses should be offered anonymity and police protection.”

Vernal Scott, former head of equality at Islington Council, said Simpson-Miller had a responsibility to protect all Jamaican citizens.

DISAPPOINTMENT

The 50-year-old from north London said: “My disappointment with Portia and the Jamaican leadership is that these murders are happening without any sort of speeches or any kind of actions on her part. Part of the problem is Jamaica’s 150-year-old anti-sodomy law.”

The law – introduced under British colonialists in 1864 – effectively bans sex between men and carries a 10-year prison sentence. It is currently the subject of a legal challenge brought by gay activist Javed Jaghai. Though rarely enforced, it has contributed to Jamaica’s reputation as one of the worst places in the world to be gay.

Scott, of Jamaican heritage, said Dwayne’s murder had hit close to home.

“I’ve been there – I could have easily been in Dwayne’s shoes,” he said. “By the time I reached my mid-teens, I knew I was gay. I tried to hide it and even thought about suicide because of the levels of homophobia.

"Part of it comes from church and what we believe the bible says about homosexuality, but a lot of it comes from ignorance. My point is no one would chose to be gay. You are born that way.”

He added: “When I was younger I was teased for being queer, and called a ‘batty man’ because I was very effeminate… When my father found out I was gay he sent me a message telling me change my name or leave the country.”

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