The last several days have seen a flood of headlines about Russia’s anti-gay law, the potential consequences for Olympic athletes, and report of horrific anti-gay violence, torture, and possibly murder of gay men by right-wing Russian groups. Videos posted online attest to the reports of gay men being abducted, humiliated, and tortured by skinheads and right-wing groups.
But two recent stories remind us that LGBT people across the globe are threatened with violence, rape, and murder.
A British man and his Haitian partner were attacked by dozens of locals who threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at the couple’s private engagement ceremony, police said.
Several people were injured, two cars were set ablaze and windows were smashed at the residence where the ceremony took place in Port-au-Prince late Saturday.
Police arrived just in time to prevent people being killed, inspector Patrick Rosarion told AFP.
The attack on the British man, identified only as a member of the Red Cross named Max, and his Haitian partner, was a clear example of homophobia, a rights advocate said.
Dwayne Jones was relentlessly teased in high school for being effeminate until he dropped out. His father not only kicked him out of the house at the age of 14 but also helped jeering neighbors push the youngster from the rough Jamaican slum where he grew up.
By age 16, the teenager was dead — beaten, stabbed, shot and run over by a car when he showed up at a street party dressed as a woman. His mistake: confiding to a friend that he was attending a “straight” party as a girl for the first time in his life.
“When I saw Dwayne’s body, I started shaking and crying,” said Khloe, one of three transgender friends who shared a derelict house with the teenager in the hills above the north coast city of Montego Bay. Like many transgender and gay people in Jamaica, Khloe wouldn’t give a full name out of fear.
“It was horrible. It was so, so painful to see him like that.”
International advocacy groups often portray this Caribbean island as the most hostile country in the Western Hemisphere for gay and transgender people. After two prominent gay rights activists were murdered, a researcher with the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch in 2006 called the environment in Jamaica for such groups “the worst any of us has ever seen.”
Khloe says she tried to steer him away from the crowd, whispering in Dwayne’s ear: “Walk with me, walk with me.” But Dwayne pulled away, loudly insisting to partygoers that he was a girl. When someone behind him snapped his bra strap, the teen panicked and raced down the street.
But he couldn’t run fast enough to escape the mob.
The teenager was viciously assaulted and apparently half-conscious for some two hours before another sustained attack finished him off, according to Khloe, who was also beaten and nearly raped. She hid in a nearby church and then the surrounding woods, unable to call for help because she didn’t have her cellphone.
The family wouldn’t even claim the body, and refused to talk about their child’s life or death. No surprise, since not only did the father kick his own child out of his home, but according to some reports even joined neighbors in running his own child out of the neighborhood.
What could be worse than seeing one’s own side with the mob against you?
Indeed, the attack in Jamaica is among the worst I’ve heard or read of. It brings to mind another gay bashing in Jamaica, that I wrote about more than six years ago. Video from that incident can still be seen online. (BE FOREWARNED. THE VIDEO FOOTAGE IS VERY DISTURBING IN NATURE.)
The individual in that incident was doing nothing more than sitting and waiting for a bus. Someone in the busy square shouted that the person was transgender, word spread from house to house, and the attack ensued. As I wrote then, people actually had to stop what they were doing, sound the alarm, and then leave their homes to attack someone who happened to be sitting, waiting for a bus.
When the police arrived and removed the individual to safety, the mob protested and rushed the car, demanding the victim’s release. There was a mob assembled outside the hospital where the individual’s wounds were treated, waiting to inflict more pain and punishment.
In 2004, Jamaican gay rights activist Brian Williamson was murdered. The founder of the JFLAG gay rights group was found lying in a pool of blood by a neighbor. He had been savaged with a machete. According to a Human Rights Watch report, a crowd gathered outside Williamson’s home. One smiling mad called out “Battyman he get killed!” Others in the crowd celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out things like “let’s get them one at a time,” “let’s kill all of them,” and “that’s what you get for your sin.” Others sang “Boom Bye Bye,” a popular dancehall song celebrating the killing of gay men. At the time of Williamson’s murder, at least 30 gay men had been murdered in Jamaica since 1994.
The same year, a father who was concerned that his son might be gay, went to his sons school and encouraged the other students to attack his son. According to teachers, the father found pictures of naked men in his son’s school bag. He turned up at the school with the pictures, and encouraged students to attack his son. The students were joined in the attack by people from outside the school. Teachers called police, but students hurled stones at police. Officers were ultimately able to rescue the boy and get him off campus. The extent of his injuries was known. As the students began to maul their classmate, the boys father got into his car and drove off.
In Valentine’s Day incident in Kingston in 2007, three gay men were chased and assaulted by a mob shouting anti-gay slogans and threatening to kill them. The men took shelter in a pharmacy in Half Way Tree, as a crowd of some 200 people gathered outside, shouting epithets like “kill the battymen” and demanding the men “come out and face our justice.” The men called the police out of fear for their safety. In the pharmacy, making purchases, was AIDS activist and gay rights advocate Gareth Williams, who succeeded the late Brian Williamson to lead J-FLAG. Williams recognized the men, and spoke to them in an attempt to call them. William’s actions made him a target for the mob as well. By the time the police arrived, the mob was ready and waiting, and attacked by throwing stones. The men were threatened and assaulted by the police officers who arrived.
In 2009, British Consul John Terry was found murdered at his home. Terry’s nude body was discovered by his gardener, outside the home, and wrapped in a sheet. According to reports after the crime, Terry had a been throttled with a piece of cloth, and beaten in the head with a blunt instrument. Accompanying the body was a note that referred to Terry as a “batty man,” and foreshadowed “This is what will happen to ALL gays.”
In 2011, Jamaican police raided gay bars in Kingston and Montego Bay. About 20 heavily armed officers kicked in doors, and began beating and pistol-whipping patrons indiscriminately. At least 10 patrons were treated for their injuries at hospitals, while others opted to nurse their wounds at home. Police did not disclose the purpose of the raids.
Once again, in what seems to be a new standard practice among violent homophobes, the violence was recorded on video.
Put together with a host of others, these incidents would seem to qualify Jamaica as the the most homophobic place on earth. But Jamaica, Haiti, and Russia are hardly the only places LGBT people love under the constant threats of violence and death.
Across the globe, many LGBT people are living in a world of hurt.
- Lebanese Internal Security Forces threaten, ill-treat, and torture drug users, sex workers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in their custody.
- In Cameroon, journalist and LGTB rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was tortured and murdered. Friends found his body in his home. Burns from irons pressed into his legs suggested Lembembe was tortured. His death followed a month of anti-gay violence and death threats against activists.
- Also in Cameroon, John-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to three years in prison for texting to another man, “I am very much in love with you.”
- In Myanmar, gay men and transgender women are falsely arrested, violently abused and humiliated. They are dragged, kicked, handcuffed, forced to strip naked, photographed, and threatened with a barbwire stick or a gun.
- In the Ukraine, weeks before Kiev’s first Pride march, various groups threatened violence against participants.
- In Tanzania, gay men reported being arrested, held for several days, beaten by police, raped by other detainees, and only released after bribing officers with a huge ransom
- In Chile, a gay teen was in danger of losing his leg after a hate crime attack.
- In Zimbabwe, Lionel Girezha was attacked, arrested, and dragged into court for having consensual sex with a man he met at party. Girezha says he and his partner were brought before a “kangaroo court,” convened by his partner’s brothers, who interrogated them and the turned them over to the police, who incarcerated them for several days. The men were released on bail, and ordered to report to police once a week. As a result of the arrest, Girheza – a graphic designer – was unable to get work, and was forced to move in with relatives, to a neighborhood where he was not recognized, and spend most of his time locked indoors for his safety.
- In Peru, a father allegedly set fire to his son, after learning the 22-year-old was gay and HIV positive. According to reports, the father doused his son with gasoline and set him on fire, after tiring of neighbors’ jokes about his son’s sexuality.
- Wilfred de Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home in Paris. DeBruijn’s boyfriend, who was also attacked, said said he heard three or four men shouting “Hey look, they’re gays,” just before the men were attacked. De Bruijn’s battered face was became a symbol for what activists said was a rising tide of anti-gay violence.
- Eighteen-year-old Briton Steven Simpson – who was gay and autistic – was set on fire at his 18th birthday party and died as a result of his injuries. Simpson, who had recently moved home to escape being bullied for his autism, was bullied at his party and doused with tanning oil before he was set alight. Jordan Sheard, 20, was arrested for setting fire to Simpson’s groin after he was sprayed with tanning oil.
- In Iraq, gays have suffered atrocities at the hands of militias for years – inlcuding torture and death – since the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. A BBC investigation revealed that law enforcement agencies in Iraq were involved in systematic persecuting of gay Iraqis, targeting and executing hundreds gay men and “emos”.
- Sierra Leone gay rights activist FannyAnn Eddy was murdered on September 29, 2004, by four men who broke into the office of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in central Freetown. The men gang-raped, stabbed and eventually killed Eddy by breaking her neck.
- Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato was murdered in 2011, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine that had published his name and photograph, indentifying him as gay,and calling for him to be executed.
- In 2009, two men were arrested in Malawi and charged with “unnatural offenses” and “indecent practices between males,” and potentially faced 14 to 15 years in prison. The men were denied bail, and were subjected against their will to medical examinations to confirm sodomy charges.
Much of the attention around Russia’s ant-gay laws has understandably focused on the Olympics and the safety of visiting athletes. There’s even more justification for concern now that the International Olympics Committee has forbidden athletes to speak out against Russian anti-gay laws, or to even do anything remotely gay during the Winter Olympics. But it’s also important to ask whether gays in Russia will be any safer or better off, because they will still be in Russia, and still have to live under the country’s anti-gay laws long after the Olympics have come and gone.
In light of what’s happening in Russia, some people have suggested – or even demanded – that the Winter Olympics be moved elsewhere. But where? That 76 countries have anti-gay laws on the books means that the same problem could crop up in another country. That should at the very least remind us of the plight of LGBT people in those countries as well.