Jamaica, known for its beautiful sandy beaches and reggae music, is also one of the country’s still criminalizing those in same sex relationships. Most people in the LGBT community there live in fear of hate crimes, violence, and even death.
Jamaican Forum of lesbian, All-Sexual’s and Gays (J-FLAG) is an advocacy group seeking equality in Jamaica. This groups aims to end the violence toward them and gain the freedom for the life they choose. As a result, they are often met with anger, violence, and hate.
Gareth Henry, a former leader of J-Flag, made headlines across the globe when he was brutally beaten by policemen in front of a group of 200 people. According to Gareth Henry, the police were called after him and other gay men were chased into a pharmacy by an angry mob.
After multiple attacks, Gareth Henry spoke to multiple political officials explaining how he feared for his life. When no one did anything to help him, the badminton player fled to Canada to seek asylum as a refugee. He believed this was the only way he would survive, because he had already seen multiple friends of his die at the hands of Jamaican hate crimes.
He may have left the country, but he still dedicates himself to the people by the way of the Rainbow Railroad. This non-profit organization helps to relocate LGBT people living in persecution around the country. He also works at the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation in Canada.
Gareth Henry believes that one day there will be change in Jamaica, but only when political figures and the country as a whole change their ways. Until then, he worries that the LGBT community will continue to live in fear of being cast out into homelessness, ravished by AIDS, or a homophobic persons next victim.