“The Abominable Crime” follows a lesbian living in homophobic Jamaica

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Jamaica: Home of Bob Marley and brutal homophobia. The Abominable Crime, a scathing expose of anti-gay violence in Jamaica, aired Monday as the seventh season finale of AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. The WORLD Channel documentary series encompassing contemporary African Diaspora revealed Jamaica’s horrifyingly homophobic abuse of the LGBT community. Named after the Jamaican law that criminalizes homosexual acts, The Abominable Crime provides intimate insight into life as a gay woman (or man) in the country Time magazine once dubbed “the most homophobic place on Earth.”  

Homophobic violence isn’t just sanctioned by the Jamaican government; it’s supported by an overwhelming majority. In a 2014 poll by Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, 91% of responders supported Jamaica’s harsh homophobic laws. “Whoever so shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery shall be liable to be imprisoned and put to hard labor for a term not exceeding 10 years.” Yes, buggery. Jamaica, birthplace of Rastafarians and a popular spring break destination, is still referring to gay sex as “buggery.” Presumably because they saw bugs mating once and thought “Gross! Hey, you know what else is gross? HOMOS. Let’s get ‘em!” Or perhaps Jamaican politicians stumbled upon The Buggery Act of 1533 and reasoned “Hey that Henry VIII really knew how to run a country.”

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 The Abominable Crime follows two gay Jamaicans struggling to survive in the face vicious persecution. Simone, a single lesbian mother, reels after being shot for her sexuality. She faces an impossible choice: remain with her daughter to live closeted and terrified, or abandoning her child to flee Jamaica in search of asylum. Maurice, a brave gay activist, is barraged with death threats after daring to challenge Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws. “My hope is that The Abominable Crime will help shatter stereotypes about gays and lesbians,” said director Micah Fink. “We encourage viewers to take a deeper look at homophobia, including some of the long-term impacts of it on individuals and on the Jamaican society at large.”

Simone’s story begins shortly after hurricane Gustav ripped through Jamaica. Gunmen ambushed Simone, shooting her twice through the gut before leaving “the lesbian” for dead. Simone’s attackers aimed to put a bullet through her vagina, saying that Simone had no use for one if she wasn’t sleeping with a man. They missed, instead destroying one of Simone’s kidneys and part of her liver. In a devastating sequence, a seemingly defeated Simone describes the bloody ordeal into the camera while her beautiful daughter Khalya fidgets and shyly asks her mom to smile.

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Simone seeks asylum through J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBT organization fighting for human rights. Karlene, a kindly human rights worker, walks Simone through a visa application for asylum in the USA. “You can’t be soft spoken,” Karlene urges Simone. “You have to speak with confidence and conviction. This is who you are.” Simone diligently studies her application from dusk till dawn. “When I go home at night, I don’t sleep,” she says, “I think, why can’t gay people just live their lives without anyone thinking they’ve got to kill us?”’

The next day, Simone joins fray of hopeful Jamaicans crowding the American embassy. “I’m nervous, but not nervous enough to back down.” Her hopes are crushed when the embassy denies Simone’s application after asking only two questions. Two fanatical leaders of Jamaica’s anti-gay opposition appear on camera to explain their hate through frothing mouths and beady eyes. One is Herro Blair, dubbed “most admired clergyman’”by leading Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner. He says “I don’t believe anyone is born gay, just like I don’t believe anyone is born a thief… I hate the act of homosexuality because it has within it to cause the human race to become extinct.”  Simone’s brother, Carl, is also gay and a victim of hate crimes. After the shooting, Carl and Simone were separated, and Carl had no where to go but the streets.

Two years after the shooting: Simone found asylum near Amsterdam in Refugee Camp Cailo, a purgatory for immigrants waiting on official permission to live in Holland. She is finally safe, but it’s a bitter victory with a terrible price. Simone’s daughter remains in Jamaica, waiting to be reunited in peace with her pining mother.

“I don’t want to run from them, I’m running for my life,” Simone cries. “They don’t know what they’ve done to my life. They can never understand what they did to my life. They are not God. God knows who I am. No man can judge me. No man at all. They shoot me. Yeah, they shoot me. But I’m alive.” Empty picture frames line the walls of Simone’s new home. Without Khalya, she can’t bring herself to fill them.

Three years after the shooting: Simone nervously waits at the airport for Khalya to finally arrive. She sobs and hugs her child tight for a long time before Khalya breaks the embrace, pulls a handkerchief from her pink backpack, and hands it to Simone. “Don’t cry.”

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Four years after the shooting: Simone, Khalya, and Carl are together and free at last. All of Simone’s picture frames are filled.

Visit abominablecrimefilm.com and follow The Abominable Crime on Twitter to find out when it’s playing again near you.

Find Chloe on Twitter and Tumblr.

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