Friday, December 09, 2005

International Outrage at Murder of AIDS Activist in Jamaica Is Having Some Effect

Today's Jamaica Observer is reporting that, "in an apparent first for Jamaica, the police are to appoint an independent monitor of their investigation of the murder of AIDS and gay rights activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey, and could do the same in future investigations of gay men believed to have been killed because of their sexual preferences. This according to Mark Shields, Deputy Police Commissioner (pictured), who aknowledges that the move comes as a response "to claims by Jamaican and international gay rights activists that the police have not been aggressive enough, not only in this investigation, but those involving crimes against gay men generally."

Mr. Shield says: "I have received several calls from human rights groups internationally and I have expressed to them that I would keep them up-to-date and informed as to where the investigations are heading."

The article also gives additional details about the murder: "Harvey, who worked with the NGO, Jamaica AIDS Support, was killed a month ago in Kingston. Five men apparently intercepted him as he returned home from work one evening. The attackers are reported to have taken Harvey into the home where other persons who were there were tied up. Harvey, having been allegedly warned that he would be harmed because of his sexual preference, was driven away. His body was found the next day."

But it also says that some "Jamaican authorities" still argue that the high number of homophobic attacks are not necessarily due to an increased level of homophobia in Jamaica but rather to the fact that Jamaica has a generally higher crime rate accross the board.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Andrés,

I am a returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Jamaica. I worked with Jamaica AIDS Support and very closely with Steve Harvey.

Steve's death is an overwhelming loss for Jamaica and also a personal loss for me. I loved Steve dearly as so many others did inside and outside of JAS. His work and his talent for reaching out to others and making them listen to the plight of stigmatized persons marveled all of us. My only relief now is to know that his death and work is not going unnoticed.

Thank you for the attention that you are bringing to his story. I know that many people, especially within Jamaica, want to dismiss the possibility that his murder was a hate crime. After working for over a year with the GLBT community in Jamaica, I am quite certain that sexual orientation was at the heart of this crime.

Past commentators on your site have been correct. Steve was not openly gay outside of the Jamaica AIDS Support community; HOWEVER, the work that he did and that JASL continues to do is very controversial and it implicates everyone as supporters of the human rights struggle for gays. This association makes them a target in some respects regardless of whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. I would also say that in Jamaica if you are a man and you do HIV/AIDS work or assist the gay community then it is assumed that you must be "batty".

Steve knew the danger of his work. He approached it without fear and with a clear vision of what Jamaica could be without the stigma and hatred that presently exists for both homosexuals and Persons Living with HIV/AIDS. He adopted this cause as his life's mission. In the end, I believe Steve died for this cause. I know him to have been an extremely honest person and unlikely to deny his identity as a homosexual even at the cost of his own life. He believed very strongly in his right and the right of others to live freely as they are.