Why Gareth Henry Had To Flee Jamaica

In 2008 the story of Jamaica’s Gareth Henry hit the international news. At the time he was the leader of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-Flag). Because he is gay he was cornered by the police while he was shopping at a Kingston pharmacy and they beat him while a mob of 200 people cheered the police on. A year later, after the police issued death threats, he escaped to Canada where he was granted asylum.

He says that he led J-Flag for four years during which time he had thirteen of his friends murdered. Gareth Henry says that he was needed to identify some of their bodies. He had taken over leadership of J-Flag after the prior leader had been murdered during a homophobic attack. Gareth Henry was viciously attacked three times by police officers including the time it happened at the pharmacy.

After this last attack, Gareth Henry filed a complaint with the Ministry of Justice and also met government officials. He explained that the police were targeting him and that his life was in danger. Not only did the government officials not respond but the harassment he was getting from police officers increased. He even had police standing outside his window telling him that sooner or later they would kill him.

Now living in Toronto, he says that he wants to hold the government of Jamaica responsible and he filed a legal challenge at the United Nation’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Gareth Henry says that that large portion of the LGBTQ community in Jamaica are homeless because their families have cast them out. HIV is also rampant there so many gay people are living without hope.

He fled to Canada in January 2008. Before long his mother, sister, and some of his nieces also emigrated to asylum as they were being threatened because they are related to him. He now works for the People With AIDS Foundation where he is a service access manager. He also spends time at Rainbow Road where he volunteers his time helping LGBTQ people escape countries where they are threatened.