The Jamaican news reported that Gareth Henry and some gay men were beaten by the police in front of a mob in Monarch pharmacy. The officers used their guns to beat the men after questioning if they were batty boys. Gareth Henry was the leader of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-Flag).
He brought the complaints to the Jamaican ministry of justice, but they didn’t respond or help. Police officers would stand outside of his window and threaten to kill him. He was housing homeless gay men with no family support. Some were suffering with HIV/Aids. Even the sick were targeted, so Gareth Henry had to go into hiding. One officer threatened to kill him during a traffic stop, and he has never forgotten the traumatic experience. He contemplated whether he would be the next after seeing his friends die. He had to decide whether or not to stay and be killed or flee to another country.
He moved to Canada and was granted asylum after receiving death threats in 2008. He has co-petitioned against the laws of his homeland at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He took over J-Flag after Brian Williamson was killed for his sexuality in 2004. Since then, 13 of his friends have been killed. Many gay men in Jamaica are not able to leave the country. There are many poor and sick who are facing public humiliation and death. They just try to survive the day while worrying that they will be the next one killed. There is no safe haven for them in Jamaica and all attempts to negotiate with the police have been futile.
No one would choose to be homosexual in that type of environment. It’s obviously a human rights violation and radical change is desperately needed. Gareth Henry and his supporters are asking for the international community to help Kingston’s gay community.