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Judge Rules Homeless Jamaican LGBT Youth Can Keep Living in Sewers

Judge Rules Homeless Jamaican LGBT Youth Can Keep Living in Sewers


It's a modicum of progress in a nation marred by violent homophobia.

A judge in New Kingston, Jamaica ruled this week that homeless young people -- many of whom have been kicked out of their homes for being LGBT -- can continue living in the capital city's sewers, where they've taken up residence after being forced to leave abandoned buildings in which they sought shelter.

Police attempted to chase the young people out of the gullies where they had built makeshift rooms and beds March 5, but several of the youths resisted, allegedly swearing at the officers and telling them they had nowhere else to go, according to the LGBT blog 76 Crimes.

Officers claimed the encampments were attracting crime, an oft-repeated excuse used to target LGBT people in the island nation that still maintains a colonial-era ban on same-sex sexual acts.

The New Kingston judge did fine several of the young people for swearing -- which is also illegal under local laws banning profanity -- but declared that the sewers are public spaces, and therefore the youth cannot be forcibly removed. Dwayne's House, an organization providing support for Jamaica's LGBT youth reportedly paid the fines for those found guilty.

Earlier this year, some LGBT Jamaicans were ordered to leave an abandoned house in which they had taken up residence, after police claimed they were attracting criminals. Just one day after the squatters were removed, the building was torn down, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

LGBT people are routinely harassed and beaten, and sometimes killed in Jamaica, while those who survive are often forced to turn to sex work, according to Dwayne's House. The support organization is named after a transgender 16-year-old who was brutally murdered by a mob in Montego Bay last year -- her final words were "I am a girl!"

Watch a video exploring the sewers that Jamaican LGBT youth call home below, from Jamaican activist and attorney Maurice Tomlinson.

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