Friday, December 02, 2005

Jamaican AIDS Activist Murdered on Eve of World AIDS Day

This is simply attrocious: Christian Aid, a n Irish/UK religious organization that provides aid to improvrished communities throughout the world, is reporting on their website that a leading Jamaican AIDS activist who was gay and coordinated one of their programs in Jamaica targetting gay men and sex workers, was abducted at gunpoint from his home by three men on Wednesday, November 30th, and found shot to death less than two hours later.

Jamaican police say that Lenford "Steve" Harvey (pictured, on the left) was forced to carry valuables from his house to the robbers' parked car. A housemate who survived said that one of the men said "We hear you are gay" and asked Steve and his two housemates if this was true. The two housemates denied it but Steve did not. The two housemates were left alive and tied to chairs inside the house, Steve was taken in the car and killed moments later.

Last year Human Rights Watch published a damning report about murderous levels of homophobia in Jamaica which was widely criticized by Jamaican press and political institutions as the work of wealthier nations to impose their 'morals' on Jamaican culture. Some even defended the right to rile against gays claiming that homosexuality was not part of Jamaica's culture (the kicker is that Jamaica's anti-sodomy statutes, which still stand as law, are actually the legacy of laws established under colonial occupation by those same countries they now accuse of violating Jamaican culture). Yesterday, Human Rights Watch posted this comment on the tragic murder of Mr. Harvey.

Earlier this year, I participated in a rally outside the Jamaican embassy organized by Amnesty International demanding that the Jamaican government address the entrenched societal homophobia that exists in the country and repeal its sodomy statute. Jamaica's ambassador had promised to meet with activists in the afternoon but the embassy's doors remained closed and we were told that the staff had left for the day.

Late to the game, but welcome nevertheless, on the same day that Steve was killed, the New York Times published an editoral titled "AIDS, and Homophobia, in Jamaica" which addressed the stark situation in Jamaica though aknowledging some advances since the release of the Human Rights Watch report. Earlier, on November 17th, the Los Angeles Times also ran an in-depth article titled "In Jamaica, gay Rights Now an Issue Worth Debating" (both the NY Times editorial and the LA Times article mention Jamaica's Deputy Education Minister Donald Rhodd's recent call to repeal the sodomy statute and mentioned that he was ridiculed by conservative leaders for the call but they do not mention that media's first reaction was to question Rhodd's sexuality as in this Jamaica Observer piece)

Unfortunately, anything Jamaica does now will never bring Mr. Harvey back to life. The very least the government can do in his name is to aknowledge that there is a problem and that it lies at their doorstep so that things can truly change for the better for Jamaica's LGBT communities.



Anonymous said...

This is sad and infuriating. This madness must end.

Anonymous said...

In Jamaica, we don,t like gay people, even so, A life is still a life force and that shoudnot be take away just because you don,t like how some one lives, people need to respect life,
Gay or straight, people are people.