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Cross-dressing teenager murdered in Jamaica

Jamaican police should conduct a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the murder of Dwayne Jones at the hands of a mob in Montego Bay, sometime between July 21 and 22, says Human Rights Watch.

Jones, 16, was found dead on July 22 after being attacked at a party he attended dressed in women's clothing. According to news reports, when someone at the party identified Jones as male, a crowd chased him as he fled. Police found his body on the road, with multiple stab wounds and a gun wound.

“Jamaican authorities need to send an unequivocal message that there will be zero tolerance for violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT Rights Program director at Human Rights Watch. “The Jamaican government should be protecting everyone's rights and safety, and that includes people who do not conform to society's expectations of how each gender should behave.”

The government of Jamaica should take urgent and effective measures to stop violence against LGBT people, as Jones' killing is not an isolated incident.

If someone does not conform to gender expectations in Jamaica, they face widespread verbal and physical abuse that can range from beatings to armed attacks to murder, Human Rights Watch said. They are often driven from their homes and communities. The Jamaican government has a poor record of investigating and holding to account those who commit violence because of the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some individuals have sought to justify Jones' killing with comments in mainstream or social media that he provoked the attack by “bringing his behavior into the public.” But on July 29, the justice minister, Senator Mark Golding, made a statement condemning Jones's brutal murder and called on the police to “spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Leading human rights groups in Jamaica – including the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), and Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ) – have also called on the government to condemn the killing and investigate the crime.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, other government officials, religious leaders, and other prominent community leaders should join Senator Golding in condemning the killing and work together to create an environment that protects the rights of all Jamaicans, including people who do not conform to gender stereotypes, Human Rights Watch said.

During her election campaign, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller said that “no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.”

“Unfortunately, LGBT people in Jamaica are still waiting for the prime minister's statement of principle against discrimination because of sexual orientation to translate into change on the ground,” Reid said. “Prompt action to investigate Jones' murder and, more broadly, to promote respect for LGBT people, is critical if all Jamaicans are to enjoy equality under the law, as well as lives free from violence and discrimination.”

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