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Jamaican police: No evidence LGBT people face more violence than general population

Devon Watkis doesn't dispute intolerance but says gays must take some responsibility for safety

A slogan for our times. Credit: Taylor J Mace/Daily Xtra

There is no evidence that LGBT people in Jamaica face more violence than the general population, assistant commissioner of police Devon Watkis told Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner  Aug 2. Watkis was reacting to a rash of attacks, including the killing of gender-nonconforming teenager Dwayne Jones in July. Jones, 17, who was dressed in women's clothing, was beaten, stabbed, shot and left on a roadway after being chased from a Montego Bay party.

"Our numbers generally show that we have had some violence committed against the citizens of Jamaica, inclusive of all groups," Watkis said. "I have no specific evidence outside of those isolated ones that this group is a target group as opposed to the ordinary citizen.”

According to a US State Department human rights report, there were 53 cases of assault motivated by sexual orientation in 2012, including two killings. In a recent case, five gay men were trapped in their home by an angry mob who believed they were trying to turn local children gay.  

Watkis, however, says that gay people must take some responsibility for their own safety. "I won't dispute that there has been some cultural intolerance manifested in the public,” he said. “But I have known individuals who have chosen that lifestyle, but they have practised their choices with responsibility, and as a result they have not been subjected to any major taboo from the citizens of Jamaica.”