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Death threats force leading Jamaican gay rights activist to flee country

Maurice Tomlinson’s safety cannot be guaranteed following escalation of death threats – will receive award in London this week.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

27th January 2012 10:53

Alessia Valenza

Maurice Tomlinson, one of the most outspoken advocates for gay rights in Jamaica, has been forced to flee his home and country of birth, Jamaica, after an escalation in death threats against him.
Last August Maurice married his Canadian partner at a ceremony in Toronto but the news was deliberately kept quiet out of safety concerns.  However, recent media reports in Jamaica about this event meant that Maurice’s life could not be guaranteed and police warned him they could not offer him any security from vigilantes if he remained in Jamaica. 
Jamaica is a country where homophobia is rife and where tacit support for violence against gay people is widespread in both the government and police.  Often regarded as the most homophobic country in the world, vigilante ‘justice’ has resulted in at least 35 Jamaicans being murdered because of their sexuality since 1997.  Last year 2 people were hacked to death for being gay.  The new Jamaican Prime Minister has expressed a willingness to support gay rights through a Parliamentary conscience vote on the country’s 1864 anti-sodomy law.
In December Maurice Tomlinson who is Legal Advisor, Marginalized Groups for international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World, was announced as the inaugural recipient of the David Kato Vision & Voice Award to be held on 29 January 2012 at a ceremony in London (  Maurice will be in London this week to receive the award. 
The award is inspired by the life of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was murdered for his sexuality one year ago on 26 January, and recognizesthe leadership of individuals who strive to uphold the human rights and human dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world. 
Frank Mugisha, chair person of the David Kato Vision & Voice Award Steering Committee, and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) said: "The spirit of the work that David fought and died for is perfectly captured by the very essence of Maurice’s tireless efforts in Jamaica and the region. In a highly competitive process Maurice is a worthy recipient of the very first David Kato Vision & Voice Award."
The culmination of Maurice’s ongoing work is the unprecedented legal challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law that Maurice’s organization AIDS-Free World initiated at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Maurice is leading the legal team to file the first-ever such challenge at the regional level. If successful, it could be the beginning of the end of legalized homophobia in Jamaica, and undoubtedly will have a multiplier effect throughout the Caribbean.
Kevin Osborne, Senior Adviser on HIV at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: "Despite advances in many countries the fight for the sexual rights of LGBTI people is far from over. The overwhelming response to the David Kato Vision & Voice Award has highlighted that across the world – in far flung places and regions LGBTI people are using our voices and vision to achieve human rights for all. It’s a battle that must be won."
George Ayala, Executive Officer, The Global Forum on MSM & HIV, said: “Maurice’s courage and unapologetic determination to raise awareness and to bring people together in support of gay men and their families in the Caribbean embodies the spirit of the David Kato Vision & Voice Award.  Maurice’s work is absolutely critical to the fight against HIV.”
The David Kato Vision & Voice Award supports David’s legacy – continuing to promote human rights, particularly for LGBTI people – and recognizes the incredible and often dangerous work of individuals like David around the world. It will be awarded annually, to an individual who demonstrates courage and outstanding leadership in advocating for the sexual rights of LGBTI people, particularly in environments where these individuals face continued rejection, marginalization, isolation and persecution. The award will be accompanied by a grant of US$10,000.
For more information please contact Alastair Hudson on or +44 (0) 20 7939 8322.