Athlete Archive

Gareth Henry Wants Jamaica to Change Its Homophobic Laws

Gareth Henry is a Jamaican-born badminton star, who helped lead a prominent group of Jamaican gay rights activists called the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, commonly referred to as J-Flag. Jamaica is infamously known as one of the harshest places to live for the gay community. The country still has laws that prohibit gays to make public displays of affection, and many nearby Caribbean island nations have also banned all acts of homosexuality altogether. Nearly all of Jamaica’s gays have been living homeless after being ostracised from their own families, or living with HIV or AIDS without a rock to lean on.

Gareth Henry, born on Oct. 20, 1977, in Kingston, Jamaica, has vowed to make positive changes and hopes his nation’s government will finally step up. He has been a victim of police brutality and harassment after coming out as gay, and had seen many of his gay friends killed because of their sexual preference. Gareth Henry had to move to Toronto, Canada as a result of extreme harassment from the Kingston police. He recalled that one officer had said to him, “We are going to kill you,” after being stopped in traffic. He believes that no one should have to cower in terror because of their harmless preferences, and desires for immediate action against this ongoing human rights violation. To know more about him click here.

On Jun. 9, 2004, the co-founder and former leader of J-Flag, Brain Williamson, was murdered during a homophobic attack by Dwight Hayden. Gareth Henry has already made welcoming progress as the new head of J-Flag. He and another Jamaican LGBT activist had launched a legal action that challenges the nation’s outdated colonial-era laws. The legal challenge was sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, although the ruling wasn’t binding because Jamaica was not a full member. The IACHR is a system that works to examine all allegations of human rights violations across the Americas. While residing in Canada, Gareth Henry has expressed his gratitude for being able to live freely. In 2010, he married for the first time and is still overjoyed that same-sex marriage is permitted.

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