Gay-rights lobby urges vigilance as dating app issues Jamaica safety alert
Glenroy Murray, executive director of Equality for All Foundation Jamaica, is urging members of the island’s LGBTQ community to be vigilant when using online dating platforms. His warning follows a safety alert sent by Grindr, a popular LGBTQ+...
Glenroy Murray, executive director of Equality for All Foundation Jamaica, is urging members of the island’s LGBTQ community to be vigilant when using online dating platforms.
His warning follows a safety alert sent by Grindr, a popular LGBTQ+ online dating app, warning users of an increase in violence against members of the LGBTQ community in the island.
While contending that the safety alert is “not shocking” because “unscrupulous persons can use it to do harm to any person who uses it, including members of the community”, Murray expressed concern that a number of heterosexual men are using the platform to target gay men.
“The presumption, based on the information we have from the community, is that some of these men are straight. While I can’t speak conclusively as to the sexuality of the perpetrators, it is likely that quite a number of the perpetrators are heterosexual men and are using it to physically harm, including kill, gay men when they finally get to meet them face to face,” he told The Gleaner.
Murray asserts that over the last few months, there has been an uptick in the number of cases of LGBTQ people being harmed after using the app.
“We’ve even gone as far as having community talks about the situation and doing an online campaign to give them tips on how to be more safe in how to use the app,” he said.
While acknowledging that online dating possesses its own risks, regardless of sexual orientation, Murray is calling for more attention to be paid to this issue locally, adding that his organisation is hoping to engage stakeholders soon to see how the matter can be addressed.
“We are very concerned and will make the experience safer to the extent that we can. We can keep the authorities appraised so when these incidents happen, they are thoroughly investigated and brought to justice,” he said.
Last March, while presiding over a case in which a tourist was allegedly robbed in his hotel room after connecting with persons on the app, Senior Parish Judge Lori-Ann Cole-Montague noted that Grindr crimes in hotels appeared to be a trend.
“I’ve been hearing about it a lot recently, lots of matters before the court,” the judge said. “Things are happening in these Corporate Area hotels, you know. I don’t want to stigmatise the hotels, but last week I had two such matters.”
However, Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Corporate Communications Unit, told The Gleaner that the police have not seen a recent increase in the number of reported cases of violence against members of the LGBTQ community.
“In the past, most of the violence against people of that community is usually from people within that community,” she said.
In October 2021, a St James man was abducted, robbed, had his penis partially severed, and then set on fire after he went to meet a man he met on a gay dating website. At the time, the police said the crime was reminiscent of a scheme they dismantled years ago in which men went on popular gay sites pretending to be seeking sexual partners.
But Murray stressed that apps like these are important to the members of the community.
“The reality is in our society, especially if you’re not connected to the community in a certain way, you’re not readily available to find somebody to build friendships and romantic relationships, and so that app does provide an avenue for people to be able to connect,” he said.
Responding to a Gleaner query, Grindr said the safety and privacy of its users are paramount.
It added that it works with local LGBTQ organisations around the world to give users the best information to help them stay safe. However, when local groups indicate that a safety message would be helpful to LGBTQ people in their area, it often works with that group to send out safety messages.
The social networking company said that it has no intention of blocking access to the app in Jamaica.
“We believe there is huge good that comes from the LGBTQ community being able to connect with one another, and we work hard to help them connect safely. We will continue to help LGBTQ citizens of Jamaica to connect with one another,” it said.