Judge rules for LGBT youths living in Jamaican sewers

Dwayne's House logo
Dwayne’s House logo

A New Kingston court ruling is the latest news for LGBT youths in Jamaica, who have been thrown out of their homes by their families, chased out of abandoned houses by police, and arrested when they found shelter in sewers and gullies. This account is from activist  Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, who is chair of Dwayne’s House, the initiative seeking to provide a home for the LGBT youths.

 

Jamaican judge tells police: Sewers are public spaces

LGBT youths living in drainage sewer system in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Click image for video.)
LGBT youths living in drainage sewer system in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Click image for video.)

Jamaican police tried again last week to evict homeless LGBT youth from the sewers in New Kingston where they have been forced to take refuge.

The police have previously tried to burn the youth out of the gullies on the pretext that they attract criminals.

Police raid on LGBT youth in sewer. (Click image for video.)
Police raid on LGBT youth in sewer. (Click image for video.)

The latest incident took the form of a day-time raid on March 5, Ash Wednesday (ironically, a religious holiday marking the beginning of the Christian sacrificial season of Lent). Officers from the New Kingston police post swooped down on the gutters running beneath the commercial district and demanded that the several youth who lived there had to leave immediately. The youngsters were understandably upset and some put up quite a struggle as they literally have nowhere else to go.

Police demolish house where LGBT youths lived. (Click image for video.)
Police demolish house where LGBT youths lived. (Click image for video.)

Police had already chased them from every abandoned building they previously occupied and the buildings were then torn down.

The kids are afraid of going to the few government shelters because of the abuse they experience there.

Some of the youth were arrested for resisting their forcible eviction. They were also charged with using swear words (which is still an offense under Jamaican law).

When the youngsters were brought before the court on Friday, March 7, the judge fined them for their so-called “calumnious language” but also advised the police that the sewers are a public space. Hence the youngsters have every right to be there. With no other options, the kids have simply returned to living in the sewers.

Dwayne’s House, a Jamaican organization established to feed and clothe the youngsters living in the sewers, paid the small fines for some of the arrested youth. See the Web page of Dwayne’s House for more information or to contribute (in the United States or in Canada).

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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