The Abominable Crime

by Karin McKie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday November 4, 2013


Four years ago, Simone Edwards and her brother survived attempted murder in their Jamaican hometown, both for being "battyman," or gay. Simone was shot twice: once in her gut, requiring her kidney and a part of her liver to be removed, and once near her vagina since the attackers said she "wasn't using it."

Jamaica is one of 78 countries that criminalize homosexuality and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG) reports that anti-gay attacks on the Caribbean island have increased 400% since 2009.

Award-winning filmmaker Micah Fink's disturbing and urgent 70-minute documentary "The Abominable Crime" chronicles Simone's search for asylum abroad after the attack (hauntingly recounted in the prologue with an animation by Molly Schwartz). She knows she has to leave her homeland, as well as her young daughter for several years, because she feels like "the walking dead."

Jamaica is one of 78 countries that criminalize homosexuality and anti-gay attacks on the Caribbean island have increased 400% since 2009.

Two other gay activists are profiled as well: JFLAG's Karlene Williams-Clarke, who fled to Toronto after receiving death threats; and activist/lawyer/teacher Maurice Tomlinson, who also received death threats after being outed by a Kingston newspaper when he married his partner. In 2012, Tomlinson received the first Vision and Voice Award, named for murdered Ugandan activist David Kato, for his courage and leadership in the LGBT community (he still periodically returns to Jamaica to teach anti-discrimination law and continue his activism).

Other interviewees include intolerant Jamaican politicians and preachers, who cite Jamaica's fervent Christian beliefs eschewing homosexuality as the reason that police have been unwilling to protect LGBT people, and in keeping the "abominable crime of buggery" on the law books. Another lawyer notes that this anti-sodomy law, which Tomlinson has challenged in a lawsuit, actually generates this ongoing hate.

Some also blame the increase on the infiltration of American televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and their malicious anti-gay messages, as well as popular local dance hall "murder music" which encourages the killing of homosexuals. One pastor says that homosexuality is abhorrent because it "causes the human race to become extinct." Over 82% of the country thinks homosexuality is "morally wrong."

To see such government and culturally-sanctioned hatred and violence, in 2013, in a "one love, one heart" vacation paradise, is shocking, and deserves attention. Seek out this Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting-funded film, which contains subtitles for the patois, and find a screening at Williams-Clarke says the fight to free Jamaica from brutal intolerance is like a relay race, and people need to pass the baton.

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at