The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?
Crimes against gays are mounting in Jamaica and across the Caribbean
By TIM PADGETT/KINGSTON
Brian wears sunglasses to hide his gray and lifeless left eye—damaged, he says, by kicks and blows with a board from Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton. Brian, 44, is gay, and Banton, 32, is an avowed homophobe whose song Boom Bye-Bye
decrees that gays "haffi dead" ("have to die"). In June 2004, Brian claims, Banton and some toughs burst into his house near Banton's Kingston recording studio and viciously beat him and five other men. After complaints from international human-rights groups, Banton was finally charged last fall, but in January a judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence. It was a bitter decision for Brian, who lost his landscaping business after the attack and is fearful of giving his last name. "I still go to church," he says as he sips a Red Stripe beer. "Every Sunday I ask why this happened to me."
Though familiar to Americans primarily as a laid-back beach destination, Jamaica is hardly idyllic. The country has the world's highest murder rate. And its rampant violence against gays and lesbians has prompted human-rights groups to confer another ugly distinction: the most homophobic place on earth.
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Here are some lyrics:
Banton's lyrics are hardly unique among reggae artists today. Another popular artist, Elephant Man (O'Neil Bryant, 29) declares in one song, "When you hear a lesbian getting raped/ It's not our fault ... Two women in bed/ That's two Sodomites who should be dead."
Another, Bounty Killer (Rodney Price, 33), urges listeners to burn "Mister Fagoty" and make him "wince in agony."