By Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez
Originally published on Advocate.com June 05 2014 6:43 PM ET
Human Rights First is embarking on a major endeavor in Jamaica, trying to make the Caribbean island a safer place for LGBT people. Last month, the organization announced a new campaign to combat homophobia and anti-LGBT discrimination in the island nation.
The new campaign comes just three months after a New Kingston judge ruled that homeless LGBT youth can remain living in the sewers of the capital city, heralded as a positive step for the embattled young people. Police officers attempted to remove the youths from the sewers after many were forced out of their homes and abandoned buildings in which they sought shelter.
Jamaica regularly sees violence and discrimination against members of the LGBT community members, as in the case of Dwayne Jones, a 17-year-old gay, gender-nonconforming person, who was attacked at a party last August for wearing women’s clothing. According to reports, Jones was recognized at the party, and when the crowd discovered Jones was born male, attacked and murdered the teen.
The last report released by the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays showed no change in the attitudes toward LGBT people since 2011. In each of those years, respondents said they still care if their friends are homosexual or not, and believe homosexual behavior should be against the law.
According to Human Rights First, Jamaica continues to enforce a British colonial law from 1864 that makes homosexual acts illegal. The 150-year-old law carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison if convicted.