"It is very hard for us. Right now some persons have to be sleeping on the road, some people go mad because they take it to heart as they cannot go back to their families and home. I know two persons at Bellevue right now. They couldn’t take the abuse anymore and just cracked. These are persons who can contribute to society," John Green, a middle-class MSM told The Sunday Gleaner. Mr. Green who fears for his life would only speak on condition of anonymity. According to estimates provided by the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG), more than 30 persons now call the streets home as they have become persona non grata in their communities. Many of these men now seeking accommodation were violently chased from their own.
Dr. Robert Carr of the University of the West Indies, who has done research on MSMs explained to The Sunday Gleaner that "a great deal of violence comes against people who are socially vulnerable, you find that the community gets tense and they manage the situation by not going home. Many of them become squatters, they have nowhere to go, they are homeless." He also spoke of the unwritten and unspoken condemnation of ‘b’judgement’, where the edict is "b bwoy fi dead".
‘B judgement’ is said to be most critical in inner-city communities which are highly intolerant of the sexual orientation. The Sunday Gleaner spoke with MSMs from communities such as Rema and Arnett Gardens, who claim they have to pay dues to get into the communities once they come out. In addition, they are harassed and abused, with some persons even going as far as throwing sewage on them. "I can say that there are a number of things that have been happening to me and to a number of friends,even persons who are associated with me. I can remember living in an inner-city area. I was forced out, not because I was going around and telling people I was gay, but because persons assumed I was, as I was not living with a woman," Bobby Taylor explained.
He said he came home from work one evening and saw men sitting at his gate. They told him he should leave the area as they did not want people like him there. "I decided to report it to the police station in the area. I believed the police station was a safe place for citizens in Jamaica, but when I told them about the problem, they asked me if I was gay and I told them yes. The police blatantly told me he has no time for this, I must go out and look woman to live with and my life would be better in the community.I went back to the inspector and after telling him my situation he said ‘bwoy move from ya so, before yu come tell mi about gunman and where mi can find gun’." Mr. Taylor said he had to leave his house and is now paying rent for another in a safer community in Upper St. Andrew.
The same sort of discrimination occurs in middle class communities, Mr. Green explained. "I remember we were living in (a middle-class community) – about eight of us – and somebody told the police that we were selling coke and had guns. The police raid us one morning about two o’clock. They surrounded the place and there were floodlights all over the place; they searched and searched and couldn’t find anything. Afterwards they asked us what so many men were doing there. They asked us if we were ‘b men’ and we told them yes we were. One of them said we had to leave the area and he should not come back at 6:00 p.m. and find us there. At 6:00 p.m. the police came back and asked us what we were still doing there. They went to the owner of the house and told him that he can’t rent us the place as we were ‘b men’ and dirtying the neighbourhood. The owner of the house gave us 12 hours to move, we were unable to do so and our things were put on the side walk. We knew we could have reported the matter, but we just felt it would not have made any difference. We decided to compromise our rights and leave it at that," Mr. Green said.
Similar stories were gathered from a file on discrimination at JFLAG. One youth noted that he and his partner were constantly abused in the community they grew up in. "One morning, at about two o’clock my friend was at a dance in the community. He was enjoying himself and dancing when suddenly there was a gunshot and a bullet hit my friend in the back of his head. He turned around and they shoot him in his face three more times. He fell and they shoot him as he lay on the ground. They then announced that I was next. Hearing that, I run from the community and have been moving from house to house trying to avoid homelessness."
In addition to being chased from their homes, according to an affidavit from a case filed in the United Kingdom and obtained by The Sunday Gleaner, MSMs face discrimination in employment, housing and access to public facilities and services. "A lot of persons do not want to touch the issue. We spoke to Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and they told us blatantly they were not defending any homosexuals, they are not around for that," Mr. Green stated. Susan Goffe of JFJ, however, says otherwise. "We have been firm and clear that where persons are beaten, ill-treated and killed based on their sexuality, it is an abuse of their human rights. We have heard of police victimisation and that is completely wrong. There is no support for that, it is a criminal act and needs to be dealt with," she said.
However, as an organisation, she made it clear that there is no position on the legislative aspect of homosexuality. She says the organisation takes a similar stance on the death penalty. Public Defender, Howard Hamilton noted that he will be contacting a constitutional lawyer to examine whether there are constitutional violations taking place against MSMs. "The office has been established to protect the interests of the weak, dispossessed and marginalised of our society and we will never close our doors to anyone who falls into this category and is suffering hardship or discrimination," Mr. Hamilton said, explaining that "like those persons infected with HIV and discriminated against, I would welcome the opportunity to make a test claim, if persons are willing to come forward."
He stated that he is currently preparing a case file on behalf of an HIV positive person. A relative of the now deceased individual is bringing the case. "The same may be possible for homosexuals, where somebody may be able to bring the case on their behalf," Mr. Hamilton explained.