Jamaica: Accounts of Anti-gay Violence
Testimonial 1: Lesbian attacked at work
After a series of insults and name-calling, she retaliated by making a similar comment about his wife, which elicited another round of verbal attacks from the man followed by several punches to her face. As the assault progressed, he also hit the victim on the head and neck with a wooden vase and a metal two-hole paper punch. By now the commotion attracted the attention of the employer, who entered the room and stopped the attack. He asked the victim to explain what was going on, but she did not want to divulge any information for fear of what the attacker would say, so the employer dropped the issue and left. The victim subsequently contacted the police to inquire about the procedures for filing charges but did not pursue the matter because there were no apparent marks left from the attack and no witnesses.
Testimonial 2: Cops abuse safe-sex activists
The policemen began to ask us what we were doing with so many condoms. We said we were giving the condoms to our friends and that was why we had so many. The policemen then began to shout that they hoped it wasnt "batty business" [homosexuality] we were promoting. We started to explain we were promoting safer sex. The police asked what kind of people we were promoting safer sex to, and we responded "both males and females." The policemen began to tell us we were "battymen" and they were going to lock us up for promoting "batty business."
The policemen then told us to get into the police car. The policemen did not want to sit next to us and so they crowded us on one side of the back seat of the car. We were not allowed to let our bodies touch the policeman who was also sitting in the back of the vehicle. When we arrived at the police station we were told we were going to be charged with loitering. The policemen began to point us out to the other police officers and tell their colleagues we were "battymen." The other police officers told us we should be dead and that the policemen should have killed us instead of bringing us into the police station. The policemen continued to point us out and label us "battymen" to everyone who came into the station, including police officers, or others who came in to make a complaint. The newcomers then joined in the abuse. This went on for approximately three hours, while we were held in the reception area of the police station without charge. After this time, we were released.
Testimonial 3: Extortion
Testimonial 4: Manly middle-class queers not spared
My experience as a gay man living in Jamaica is one which is marked by periodic incidences of abuse, both verbal and physical. I have lost count of the times I have been verbally abused, called "battyman", "chi-chi", "sodomite", "dirty battybway" [all derogatory terms for homosexual men], in situations as diverse as walking down the street, browsing in a shop, at work, in my community, at the beach. These comments come mostly from people that do not know me, occasionally from those that do. Mostly they are just comments, but sometimes this verbal abuse actually takes the form of a threat. Whilst just words, these comments nevertheless undermine my confidence and on occasion, the thought of running into such abuse has actually deterred me from going about my business in certain places.
In the past two years, I have suffered actual violent, physical abuse because of my sexuality, on two occasions. On the first occasion, I was shopping with a friend in the Half Way Tree area (one of the main commercial districts in Kingston). At around 7 p.m., on leaving a supermarket, a man who had been waiting outside the door started shouting homophobic abuse at us, calling us "dirty battybway", etc. We ignored him and kept walking, but he followed us and continued to hurl abuse at us. My friend stopped walking and turned around to face him, so I stopped too. The man then approached my friend and was shouting in his face and started pushing him violently. When I tried to intervene, he then approached me shouting and proceeded to push and kick me. The gist of what he was saying was that "battymen" didn't have any right to be there and that we should leave the plaza, that he was going to run us from the plaza. Although there were several onlookers, nobody came to our assistance.
At this point, my friend and I decided to go back into the supermarket to seek refuge and also to call the police. The manager of the supermarket called the police and explained what was happening and she was told that they were on their way, but we waited for more than half an hour and still the police did not come (the police station is less than five minutes away). We eventually realized that the police were in fact not on their way, and decided to see if we could leave safely, which we did, as the man had left by this time. We were shaken by this incident, but doubly upset because the police had not responded to this homophobic attack. (I have had reason to call the police on another occasion, for a traffic accident in the same area, and they responded within five minutes).
The second incident occurred very recently, on 17th September, 2002. I had arranged to meet the same friend as above in New Kingston after work, outside one of the restaurants on Knutsford Boulevard (the main nightlife strip in the business district). I arrived to find my friend somewhat distressed because he had just received a barrage of homophobic verbal abuse from a young man on the street, and had also had some kind of projectile thrown at him by the same person. On my arrival the verbal abuse continued and in addition, he [the young man on the street] took up a bottle and threatened to smash it and come after us with it as a weapon.
We quickly entered a bar, but this incident had put a dampener on the whole evening, so we soon decided to leave and go home. On leaving the bar, we turned up the street, but in order to reach my car, we had to pass the same person who had abused us in the first place. As we approached, the verbal abuse started again and it continued as we passed. This time it was not just him, but two other men who were with him and joined in. When we were about 10 meters past them, a projectile hit the back of my leg and one skimmed past my friend - I think they were small rocks. We did not look back, but kept on walking until we reached the safety of my car. We did not report this incident to the police because my friend felt (based on past experience) that the police would be unsympathetic and possibly also abusive too.
Testimonial 5: More cop harassment
The men were all charged with loitering and were put on bail that very night. Some of the men made bail that night, and others did not. The case went to court several times and the charges were eventually dropped.
Testimonial 6: Hairdressers beaten
They gathered around him as he lay on the sidewalk and they beat him, punched him, kicked him, they dragged him down the road, they threw water from the gutter on him, they threw garbage on him, all the while shouting, "Battyman, battyman." They beat him and dragged him for half a kilometer. They shouted, "Battyman fi dead!" [Faggot should die!]
As I stood across the street I realised there was nothing I could do to help him. There were some mothers who were actually in tears at what they were witnessing, but there was nothing they could do either.
When the police came, they had to call for backup. About three police jeeps had to come. They fired shots in the air to clear the crowd. The crowd was saying "Give him to us! Let us kill him. Hes a battyman." Some women started intervening and said, "Dont kill him! Just because hes a battyman dont mean you should kill him, cause nuff a dem who a beat him a battyman too." The police picked him up and put him in the jeep and carried him to station. The crowd followed the jeeps shouting, "Battyman! Battyman!"
The crowd went to the station and surrounded the station shouting, "Kill battyman! Kill battyman!" The crowd dispersed slowly.
I saw him about two weeks later and he said the police had taken him to the hospital. He went to England and I hear he got asylum.
Testimonial 7: Murder
There was one young man, in particular, in the community who hated my friend, but could not win a fight with him. He decided to team up with a gunman from another community to shoot my friend. This gunman was from a family known for their violence, and they knew that since he had a reputation for being very dangerous, he could kill my friend in our community and no one would retaliate.
One morning, at about 2 a.m., my friend was at a dance in the community. He was enjoying himself and dancing and suddenly there was a gunshot and a bullet hit my friend in the back of his head. He turned around after realizing he was shot, and they shoot him in his face again three more times. He fell, and they continued to shoot him as he lay on the ground. They then announced that I was next and "Battyman fi dead." [Faggot should die!] Hearing that, I was forced to run from the community, and I have been moving from house to house trying to avoid homelessness and living a hand-to-mouth existence.
Testimonial 8: Impunity
Testimonial 9: Woman incites bashing
When the police realised it was a "batty judgment" they began to call us "battymen" and told us, "Battyman fi dead" [Faggots should die!] and shouted at us to leave the compound. We were terrified for our lives as the group of armed men were waiting for us across the street from the gate to the police station. While we stood there being verbally abused by both the police and the group of armed men, a group of dancers was walking by and one of them recognized me.
She decided to intervene and said the situation was wrong because I was a "good boy." She hailed a taxi for us and convinced him to take us out of the situation. He agreed but charged us 25 percent more for a trip so short most people would just have walked. He pulled up at the gate between the crowd and us, we got into the taxi, and he drove us away. If he had told us 10,000 percent more that the normal cost we would have paid it because we were all sure we were going to be killed that night.
Testimonial 10: Hospitals scorn bashing victims
When we got to the hospital, they dropped us off and drove away. They did not take any statements or make any reports. Some members of the group were effeminate and patients in the emergency room started verbally abusing us and calling us "battymen," while the porters, janitors and even some of the nurses laughed at us. They took a much longer time than usual to attend to us; in fact, we got to the hospital at about 10 p.m. and they did not attend to us until the next morning.
Testimonial 11: Cops fire at gay crowd
We scattered in all directions, jumping fences and dividing for cover. A group of three of my friends and I began to run. They could jump the fence, but I had difficulty, so they had to drag me over the fence with men chasing us and firing at us. This happened three times and each time I was dragged over the fence I fell on my head. Finally, we got to a residence and I hid behind a tree. My friend was not fast enough to find a hiding place and the two men who had been chasing us caught him and began to beat him with their fists and their weapons, kicked him as he lay on the ground, calling him a "battyman." They took him away.
I met up with some of the guys from the crowd on my way home, and found out that my friend had been taken to the police station, and that the men who had attacked us were plainclothes policemen. When I saw my friend later, he told me that they verbally abused him at the station and had told their co-workers that he was a "battyman" and they began to verbally abuse him as well. They held him overnight and released him. He was not charged with any offense.
Testimonial 12: HIV-phobia and a gay safe house destroyed
An outspoken member of the group explained that no one in the house had a gun or had committed any offense. Several of the police officers then began accusing us of being "battymen" and bringing "AIDS people" into the area. The same member of the group said yes he was gay, but we had no guns and had not done anything wrong. The police began to beat the young man, until others of us spoke out and said we were gay as well and we had done nothing wrong.
The police officers then turned on all of us and four of the officers began beating us about our heads and bodies while calling us "battymen" and warning us not to cry out. Those standing around and watching also hurled hateful epithets at us and told us we were lucky it was Meadowbrook or they would have just killed us and dumped the bodies. They told us we deserved to die because we were "battymen." This continued for approximately 15 minutes.
Then the officers demanded that we gather our belongings and leave the area. We were able to gather our clothes and shoes but were forced to leave other valuables such as furnishings behind.
Testimonial 13: Celebrating Jamaica's Independence Day
It was at the Independence Day celebrations in Kingston, at the new Emancipation Park, that this particular attack took place. I had gone to the park early, at about one oclock, before the celebrations were to begin. There were some girls who were supervising the use of the public restrooms. I used the bathroom and then left the park to pass some time until the celebrations began. I was knocking around waiting and had the urge to use the bathroom again. I went back to the park and the young women began asking why I was using the bathroom so frequently, that I must be a "battyman." I used the bathroom and left and drifted around some more.
I went to use the bathroom a third time and the women began to get really upset and said, "This battybwoy is up to something. If him try anything we going to kill him." I told them the bathroom was free to use as often as I wished and that was what the bathroom was there for. I used the bathroom and left again. Security told me to go take a break, drink a beer and come back to the park if I wished. I left as they suggested, staying clear of the women. It was about four oclock; the celebrations were to start at about 6 p.m. I met up with a friend and we had something to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken in New Kingston.
After eating we went to join the Independence Day celebrations at the park. I went to use the bathroom a fourth time (it was about 9 p.m.) and that was when the women came into the bathroom and pushed the door open as I was using the toilet. They told me I had to pay J$10 [about US$1.70] for a piece of toilet paper, and began to call other men and the security guards to attack me. They told the men I was there to molest a male child (there were no children in the bathroom at that time) and to have sex with men. Everybody starting hitting me, boxing me in my face, kicking mewomen, men and security guards. One man was trying to rescue me but they pushed him aside saying, "This boy a battyboy; him fi dead!" [This is a faggot! Kill him!]
I ran out of the bathroom and they began to run behind me. The senior security guard told the men to get a baton for him as the group chased me through the crowd. The men returned to join the chase with grey plastic pipes [PVC] and strips of board they used to beat me as they chased me out of the park. At the end of the park the security stopped and the civilians chased me up the street.
I fell when I got to the corner at the Hilton Kingston Hotel and they beat me and kicked me while I tried to run again. I ran towards the New Kingston police station for help. When I got there, the men stopped at the gate and I fell on the floor of the police station. I was feeling so sick and was so out of breath and in pain I couldnt speak. Finally I caught my breath and tried to tell the police my story, but they refused to help and called me a "battybway" and threatened to hand me over the civilian crowd.
The crowd was at the door telling the policemen I was in the Park kissing me and that they should hand me over to them and let them kill me. I was feeling sick to my stomach and wanted to vomitI needed to use the bathroom again or vomit all over the floor. I asked to use the bathroom and the policemen refused to let me use the bathroom. I begged one of them who seemed slightly more compassionate to let me defecate and he finally allowed me to use the bathroom where I threw up all that I had eaten that night.
The policemen let me wait for more than two hours in the police station until the crowd gave up and left. They did not take any statements and were not interested in making this a criminal case. I left and went over to a radio station nearby to find a place to sleep. I slept on the street that night.
Testimonial 14: Meeting machetes
I ran and he threw the chopper after me. I ran away to a nearby shop, where my friend's brother decided to accompany me past the men. However, they still came after me. I returned to my friends house and told him what happened and while I was there the men broke down the back door and came at me. There were several men waiting outside who hit me with sticks and machetes several times but I got away eventually.
When I knew I was at a safe distance I tried getting a taxi but was unable to, as I had blood all over me and my clothes were torn. I had to walk from Bounty Hall to Falmouth, which took about two hours. At Falmouth, I could not get any transport to get to Mobay. Even with the blood running down my neck, I had to walk further out of Falmouth. Eventually, a taxi man reluctantly took me to Montego Bay and I got to my home past midnight. At some minutes to 12:00 noon, I asked a friend for his assistance and consented for him to report the matter to J-FLAG [Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays].
Testimonial 15: More extortion
As his passenger approached his taxi from the house, the driver heard one of the two police officers in the police vehicle command, over their microphone, that the passenger go back into the house, and that he should not go near the taxi. The passenger retreated into the house. One of the policemen then told the taxi driver (who was still seated in his taxi) to get out of the taxi and approach them with his official papers.
The taxi driver complied with the policeman's requests. When he offered his papers to the questioning policeman (the officer seated in the passenger front seat of the police car), that same officer began to speak belligerently at him, saying things like (as quoted by the taxi driver), "Mi nah like oonu. Oonu dont know seh dis ya place is a dutty nasty place? Mi know seh onnu is one a dem, yu bloodclaat battybwoy." (Other curses followed from the officer, which the taxi driver, in recounting this incident, was reluctant to divulge.)
The driver protested the policemans belligerence, and asked what he meant: "Wha oonu mean fi seh, officer? Mi just come fi pick up de guy, mi nuh know nuttin bout de house."
After this brief exchange, the police officer handed back the driver his papers, and said, "Oonu go on where yu a go."
The taxi driver got back in his car and drove off toward Hope Road. Just before he reached nearby Sugar Daddy, he saw that a police car was behind him; the police in that car soon thereafter indicated that he should pull over to the left. He did so. They commanded him over their microphone to get his papers out and bring the papers to them. When the taxi driver did so, he saw immediately that these were the same two police officers as before.
The officer who had been abusive to the driver earlier began to harangue him, accusing him of having gone to 2 Cleveden Ave. to participate in "sex business." He brandished handcuffs, stating to the driver that if he didnt "come clean" about his "nasty business" that they would take him to the Half-Way-Tree police station to "mek dem bwoy [other officers, presumably] deh beat you." The officer said that the driver would be charged at Half-Way-Tree station with buggery. The officer then took his name and address, and asked if he were from Kingston. The driver believes, in trying to remember, that he told the officer that he was not from Kingston.
The driver remembers the officer continuing to harangue him and accuse him of having homosexual interests at 2 Cleveden Avenue. The taxi driver at that point in the exchange grew impatient, he admitted, and asked the officers, "What oonu up to? What oonu really want?"
In recounting this incident, the taxi driver said that, while he did defend himself against accusations of wrongdoing to the officer, he felt "so intimidated" in the moment of the exchange that he admitted to the officer that he was "like that" [gay/homosexual]. He still insisted that he had done nothing wrong, only gone to pick up a passenger. The officer then asked him, "What [sexual] role you play?" The driver didnt answer the question.
Both of the officers began to shout that they would fine the driver J$20,000. [US$340] in Half-Way-Tree station, and that the driver must "give" them "a someting." The driver said, "Officer, mi nah have money. Mi only have J$1,000." [US$17] The officer in the passenger seat of the police car commanded the driver to take the J$1,000 out of his pocket and drop it on the front passenger-side floor of the police car. The officer then gave the driver back his papers and said that he could go. The driver drove off. He did not get any kind of identifying number of the police car, nor any kind of badge number for either of them. He could not quite describe them after recounting this incident.
Testimonial 16: Bashing at KFC
Suddenly, I saw the men alight from the motor vehicle with batons in their hands. I panicked as I ran down Dominica Drive, while my friend ran the opposite direction. The men jumped in their car and started chasing me down. I got tired and breathless so I ran inside the KFC restaurant for refuge. The three men came inside and started beating me with the batons. I was beaten all over my body by the men, and they were calling me "battyman" [faggot], etc. The security guard who was on duty started beating me when he heard that I was gay.
While I was being beaten, the cashiers and servers were screaming and begging the men to stop, especially when they saw the blood. To avoid any more abuse, I had to jump over the counter and run upstairs to the employee restroom and lock myself away. When the police came and they heard that I was gay, they verbally abused me and didnt want to help me. I was eventually taken by a police officer to Kingston Public Hospital where I was treated for a broken nose, and had four stitches in my upper lip. The next day I went to the New Kingston police station and got the same reception as the night before verbal abuse, especially from the officer who was taking my report. So far, the police havent made any arrests or done anything to help me.
Testimonial 17: At risk at home
There were about six of them the parents who were in their 30's and the kids who were in their teens. They were calling us names and threatening us, so we ran. They chased one of us down, Lenni [not his real name], who has now moved to another country. When we met up with him later in the night, we saw that he was chopped on his face, neck, hand and back. He was bleeding bad, but just bandaged it up himself.
The next day, we all went back to our yard and the neighbors tried to attack us again. We called the police. When they arrived we told them how we had been attacked and chased, but the neighbors began telling the police that we were "battymen" and that we had to leave or they would kill us. When the police heard this, they took sides with the neighbors and began calling us names as well.
We began arguing with the neighbors who called dirty names. We all began cussing and thats when the police arrested us for indecent language. They hit us with their batons and guns like we were animals to get us in the police cars. Two of us got away but the others were taken to the Constant Spring Police Station. Once there, the police continued to threaten to beat us and call us names. We said we would get a lawyer if they tried anything.
They charged us all for indecent language, set bail at $J5,000 [more than US$100], and gave us a court date. We were released after about five hours on surety. We didnt go back to the house until a few days later to collect our things. When we went for our court date on September 3, 2003 our case was not listed so they stamped our papers and told us to go. We saw one of the officers who arrested us and asked him why our case was dropped. He said that the arresting officer was out of the country.