Rev Amos Campbell, a pastor whose church was attacked by an angry mob on Easter Sunday because of the presence at a funeral service of gays told the Jamaica Observer the violence reflected the dangerously high level of intolerance in Jamaican society.
The 3:00 pm funeral service was for 30 year-old businessman Kirk Wayne Lester who was found dead with multiple stab wounds on March 18. Campbell said the church service took place despite the "disturbance on the outside" and interment took place later as planned at Oak Lawn in Manchester.
Sunday's incident came only three days after the beating of three alleged homosexuals along the popular Gloucester Avenue Hip Strip in Montego Bay, further underlining Jamaica's reputation as being among the globe's most homophobic societies.
International human rights organisations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world. Homophobic violence is widespread on the island; fuelled by the anti-gay hatred that is daily spewed from church pulpits, newspaper columns, dancehall music and radio stations.
And it ain't just gay men who are the targets of hate.
According to a 2004 report from the London-based charity Asylum Aid, one woman who appeared on a television show to speak (from behind a screen) about the persecution she had endured because of her sexuality was verbally abused and assaulted. “The following day, a co-worker who had recognised her voice went as far as beating her up,” states the report. “Other women suspected of being lesbians have been raped and chased out of their homes and communities.”
And it ain't just Jamaica.
Jamaica may be the worst offender, but much of the rest of the Caribbean, reported Time magazine last year, also has a long history of intense homophobia. Islands like Barbados still criminalize homosexuality, and some seem to be following Jamaica's more violent example.
On the tiny islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, French territories in the eastern Caribbean, rampant homophobia goes unchecked. Guadeloupean pop singer Admiral T and his musical confrère from Martinique, Lieutenant, have made big names for themselves regionally by peddling vicious, anti-gay "entertainment."
Meanwhile, Christian groups on the Caribbean island of Tobago are calling for Elton John to be nixed from an upcoming concert because of his sexual oreintation.
All this homophobia has also, of course, impacted the spread of HIV disease. The Carribean Islands have the second highest rate of infection after sub-Saharan Africa.
Discrimination by employers and others is so pervasive that infected people often delay seeking treatment for the virus, still largely perceived as a "gay disease" by many in the region, said officials at a recent one-day Caribbean Summit on HIV-AIDS in St. Croix.
"It's going to be a political challenge because, unfortunately, we live in a society that is very homophobic," said Douglas Slater, health minister for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. "It's something we are going to have to overcome."
The following is from Pink News.
Homophobic violence at Jamaica funeral
A funeral service in the Carribean island of Jamaica has been disrupted by a mob attempting to attack a group of mourners.
The Easter Sunday funeral of Kirk Wayne Lester, a Jamaican businessman, was attended by "gay cross-dressers," reports Real Jamaica Radio.
A mob surrounded the church and attacked people thought to be gay with knives, stones and bottles.
Missiles where thrown through the windows.
The island's gay rights movement, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-Flag), is forced to operate underground and anonymously.
It called on police to find the people who attacked the church in Mandeville.
Pressure group Jamaicans for Justice agreed that a urgent police investigation is needed.
JFJ said it is deeply disturbed by yet another incident involving mob violence against gay people latest incident is particularly daring because it occurred during a church service.
In February three gay men were stoned by a huge mob in a homophobic attack in Jamaica.
Police came to rescue the men from a pharmacy in Saint Andrew Parish, where they had been hiding for almost an hour.
An angry crowd had gathered outside the pharmacy, hurling insults and threatening to kill the men.
When the police arrived, the mob demanded the men be handed over to them.
The police tried to escort the men to their car, but the crowd began to throw stones at the objects of their hate, hitting one of them on the head.
Finally, officers were forced to disperse the crowd with tear gas. According to the Jamaica Observer, as many as 2000 people were involved in the attack.
International human rights organisations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world.
Gay and lesbian relationships are largely conducted in secret.
Sex between men in Jamaica is illegal, and punishable with up to ten years in jail, usually with hard labour.
In December 2003, a World Policy Institute survey on sexual orientation and human rights in the Americas said that:
"In the Caribbean, Jamaica is by far the most dangerous place for sexual minorities, with frequent and often fatal attacks against gay men fostered by a popular culture that idolises reggae and dancehall singers whose lyrics call for burning and killing gay men.
"Draconian laws against sexual activity between members of the same sex continue to be in force not only in Jamaica, but in most of the English-speaking Caribbean."
According to Amnesty International, the gay and lesbian community in Jamaica faces "extreme prejudice" and are ‘routinely victims of ill-treatment and harassment by the police, and occasionally of torture."
Amnesty has highlighted the growing problem of vigilante action against gays and lesbians – Wednesday was just one example of this.
In 2004, the organisation revealed that "gay men and lesbian women have been beaten, cut, burned, raped and shot on account of their sexuality," and that they are one of the "most marginalised and persecuted communities in Jamaica."
Political parties have ignored the issue of gay rights. Indeed, homophobia is flourishing amongst politicians and the police.
For example, opposition leader Bruce Golding vowed last year that "homosexuals would find no solace in any cabinet formed by him."