Fighting for LGBT Rights with the Phenomenal Gareth Henry

Fighting for LGBT Rights with the Phenomenal Gareth Henry

Gareth Henry is the former leader of Jamaica’s gay and lesbian outfit Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays or simply J-Flag. In 2008, Gareth made international headlines after an unfortunate incidence where the Jamaican police brutally beat him in front of a crowd. His only crime was supporting and advocating for the rights of the gay and lesbian community in this island nation. After this violent act, Gareth fled to Canada to protect his life and perhaps find a more accommodating venue to advocate for J-Flag back home.

Upon landing in Canada, Gareth Henry sought legal recourse for the inhumane actions he and members of J-Flag battle with everyday. To this end, he presented his case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and cited details such as the brutal killing of thirteen J-Flag members. More so, the intolerant attitudes towards gays and lesbians in Jamaica claimed the life of Brian Williamson (in 2004) who was the founding leader of J-Flagg.

Before seeking asylum in Canada, Gareth Henry had become a target for law enforcement who made him anxious about his safety. He approached the justice system and government officials, but nobody came to his rescue. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the constant threatening of HIV/AIDs men whom he was offering housing after their families turned their backs from them. Gareth recalls one harrowing incidence when a policeman stopped him in traffic and declared that they knew of his whereabouts and were planning to kill him. Such brazen threats by the people who are supposed to keep citizens safe made him utterly nervous.

Homophobia is a scourge in Jamaica and in another seventy-six countries that criminalize any gay and lesbian acts. Now a refugee residing in Toronto, Gareth says that as long as violence against gays remains normalized in Jamaica, victims will continue to suffer in silence. He now runs Toronto People With AIDS Foundation and volunteers with Rainbow Railroad, a nonprofit that helps LGBT people facing persecution to relocate. Gareth Henry has a big heart and will keep fighting until the LGBT community the world over is free and has equal rights as everyone else.

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