Despite the fact that countries like the United States have legalized gay marriage, member of the LGBT community is still fighting for basic human rights and their lives in Jamaica. In 2007, badminton player and activist Gareth Henry was brutally beaten in front of 200 people by law enforcement officers. This incident that took place at a pharmacy in Kingston made international headlines and had people around the world asking how this could happen.
In 2008, Gareth Henry fled Jamaica to seen refuge in Canada after he continued to receive death threats. Thankfully, the J-Flag leader was granted asylum and able to keep himself safe. His experiences as a gay man in Jamaica have led him to take his fight for the rights of his community to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
13 of Gareth Henry’s friends were murdered while he was with the J-Flag organization for only 4 years. During this time, Gareth Henry was the one to identify the bodies of many of his fallen friends. In fact, he took on his position in the organization after his predecessor was murdered for his sexuality.
The incident at the pharmacy was not the only time that Gareth Henry had been physically attacked by the police. It happened 2 other times besides the attack that made international headlines. The police became abusive towards Gareth Henry as soon as they arrived despite being called to protect them. He stated that the officers used their guns to beat him.
To serve his community, he used to provide homeless gay men with a place to stay in his own home. He would frequently see officers threatening to kill him outside of his window. With everything that had happened to himself and his friends, he found himself wondering if he would survive the next time it happened.
Thankfully, Henry was able to escape from the country before being killed. The same cannot be said for the men who do not have the same opportunities and support system for Henry. He believes that the government of Jamaica should be accountable for the actions of the police.