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OAS group to Jamaica: Find out if homophobia led to murders

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – An independent human rights arm of the Organization of American States (OAS) has condemned the murder of two men in Kingston, Jamaica, who media and civil society organizations say were gay.

In a July 9 statement, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reports that the two bodies, found last month among some blood-stained rocks in New Kingston, appeared to have been mutilated. The IACHR cites a local queer organization as saying that the discovery of the bodies has occurred "in a context of severe violence . . . where eight gay men have been murdered in the last three months."

The Commission is calling on the Jamaican state to "investigate such acts on its own initiative," taking into account whether the murders were committed because of the victims' gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

"The Commission continues to receive information on killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and other forms of violence and exclusion against lesbians, gays, trans, bisexual and intersex persons in the continent," it says. "The ineffectiveness of the state response fosters high rates of impunity, which in turn leads to the chronic repetition of such crimes, leaving the victims and their families defenseless," the Commission added.

In March, Xtra interviewed gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson, who spoke about the gradually evolving landscape for gay people in Jamaica, the heavy lifting that still needs to be done to make rabid homophobia a thing of the past, and the outspokenness of Jamaica’s prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, in favour of queer rights.

Landing image: Courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson

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