By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com October 15 2002 12:00 AM ET
Two gay Jamaican men have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom on the grounds that their lives are in danger because of "severe homophobia" in their home country, according to The [London] Sunday Telegraph.
At least seven other men from the Caribbean island are claiming asylum because of their sexual orientation, while a 10th man has obtained exceptional leave to stay. The cases are among the first successful asylum claims since a House of Lords ruling in 1999 that stated that "particular social groups," including gay people, can qualify for refugee status. The applications were supported by evidence of machete attacks, murders, and threats against gay people in Jamaica and reinforced by concern about the lyrics of some of the country's leading reggae music stars. One recent hit record in Jamaica advocated "burning queers," while others have called for the shooting and battering to death of lesbians and gay men.
Barry O'Leary, a solicitor with a law firm representing 26 gay asylum seekers, said gay Jamaican men often face severe persecution because of their sexuality. "We have Jamaican people seeking asylum whose gay compatriots have been chopped to death with machetes, and the applicants themselves have been the victims of repeated homophobic attacks," he said. "I am representing one client who has lost his last two partners to fatal homophobic attacks, one of which took place in church."
A spokesman for the Jamaican High Commission denied that homophobic assaults are a serious problem. "I'm not aware that this is a widespread problem or a major issue in Jamaica, and I'm not aware of any upsurge in attacks on people of a different sexual orientation," he said.