In an interview with The Associated Press, Jaghai said he decided to pursue the challenge because “for us to challenge the anti-gay cultural order, it would be necessary for us to become visible and more vocal.” Most Jamaican homosexuals have been unwilling to be public figures because of fear.
Jaghai, who turns 24 this week and is a graduate of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, said his family has been threatened due to his public advocacy and he avoids going to his rural hometown for fear a visit would stir up homophobic aggression against his loved ones.
Despite the easygoing image propagated by tourist boards, Jamaica is the most hostile island toward homosexuals in the socially conservative Caribbean, gay activists say. They say gays, particularly those in poor communities, suffer frequent discrimination and abuse but have little recourse because of widespread anti-gay stigma and the sodomy law.
Many in the highly Christian country of roughly 2.7 million inhabitants consider homosexuality to be wrong, but insist violence against gays is blown out of proportion by homosexual activists. Some say Jamaica tolerates homosexuality as long as it is not in the open.
But as an outreach worker, Jaghai says he daily encounters poor gays whose lives are often extremely difficult.
“When their sexuality becomes known, the community sometimes turns on them. They must confront the reality each day that who they are could, without notice, spark a riot and they could be on the receiving end of ‘jungle justice,’” he said in his court filing.
Last year, the Jamaica gay rights group received 36 reports from adult gay males saying they were the victims of mob violence due to their sexual orientation. It says two homosexual men were murdered.