Suriname Police commitment to gay rights amazes Jamaican activist

de Ware Tijd, 13/8/2012

by Ewout Lamé

Paramaribo – Surinamese gay rights foundation LGBT Platform Suriname starts a project to systematically map violations of gay rights. Jamaica has had a similar project running for a few years already. Jamaican lawyer Maurice Tomlinson visited Suriname to share the Jamaican experience. Not just with gay rights activists; the Surinamese police attended his training as well.

Tomlinson calls the participation of the police “amazing”. “Twenty-two police men participated in last Wednesday’s training and three even returned in their spare time on Saturday”, Tomlinson says. A huge contrast with the situation in his own country, where homosexuality is still officially illegal. The police barely respond to violence against gays.

Police inspector Dennis Kolf explains that violent hate crimes against gays similar to those in Jamaica do not occur here. “We mostly get to deal with domestic violence involving gays and bisexual people”, Kolf says.  The training confirms Kolf in his conviction “that gays desire to be treated like normal people”, he says.

The Jamaican project documents cases of violence or abuse by interviewing the victims. Tomlinson explained that it is very important to calm victims and not to create false hope. The questionnaire used must reveal what kind of violence was used and why.

Interestingly the document requires a detailed description of the individual’s sexual identification. Tomlinson explains that it sometimes happens that men, who have a family, are blackmailed because they have sex with other men. The respondents’ racial background is also important. Tomlinson does not have exact figures, but he claims that in Jamaica most violence happens within the family, especially among the Afro-Jamaican community.

Tieneke Sumter, front woman of LGBT Platform Suriname, thinks that Suriname has a similar problem. ‘A survey among 120 lesbian and bisexual women revealed that women suffer most discrimination within the family.’ Sumter calls the police commitment to gay rights ‘unique’. Sumter: ‘It could be a sign for gay police officers to come out.’-.

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