Why Some LGBT Youths In Jamaica Are Forced To Call A Sewer Home

Published: December 18, 2013

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Around 11 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1, police officers led by Cmdr. Christopher Murdock lowered a ladder into an open sewer in New Kingston, the Jamaican capital’s financial district. The sewer, damp and strewn with trash, flowed out of the business district housing several banks, large hotels, and shopping arcades. And it was home to a group of youths Murdock wanted gone.

Their alleged crime: stealing. Murdock said he had received more than 30 reports of theft and robbery since the group, ranging in age from teens to early twenties, had moved into the sewer several months before, and he was becoming concerned that the stretch of Trafalgar Road that runs over their makeshift home was becoming unsafe for people to walk.
But Murdock’s televised remarks following the Sunday raid left the impression the kids were unwanted for an entirely different reason: “The aim of this operation was to remove men of diverse sexual orientation who continue to plague the New Kingston area.”
Jamaica has long been one of the most hostile countries in the Americas for LGBT people. But in recent months, the murders of LGBT people and mob attacks — including fire bombings — on the houses where they live have made headlines with increasing frequency. Activists are not entirely sure what’s caused the surge in violence, though it may be due in part to the debate over possibly repealing the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, an idea that Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller floated during her 2011 campaign. Her government has not yet taken any action on the proposal, but pro-family groups have mounted a campaign to ensure it never does.

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