Jamaica’s top daily endorses suit against ‘buggery law’

Jamaica’s premier newspaper supports my challenge to the anti-sodomy law!

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Editorial: Good luck to Maurice Tomlinson

Friday | December 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM | Jamaica Gleaner

Activist/attorney Maurice Tomlinson at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)
Activist/attorney Maurice Tomlinson at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, on Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Hopefully, Maurice Tomlinson has greater insulation than was available to Javed Jaghai, so as to allow him to sustain, to the final tier of the court system, if necessary, his constitutional challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy, or buggery, laws.

For we, like Mr Tomlinson and many other rational Jamaicans, know instinctively that not only are those laws offensive to the universal principles of individual rights and freedoms, but they are probably contrary to guarantees afforded by Jamaica’s Constitution.

Under Jamaica’s anachronistic sections of the Offences Against the Person Act, anal penetration, even between consulting adults, including husband and wife, and conducted in utmost privacy, is illegal, for which people can be sent to jail. But this criminalisation of anal sex is a cudgel used primarily against males in a still largely homophobic society, despite the pockets of increasing tolerance for male homosexuality.

These old attitudes, underpinned by the law, have consequences, some, while perhaps unintended, painfully severe. Not least of these being the assault on the dignity and emotional well-being of that significant proportion of the Jamaican society, male and female, that is homosexual. They are denied the right to openly display affection, or, in privacy, engage in acts of physical intimacy with persons they love or with whom they wish to have sexual relations.

If the State doesn’t get you, the vigilantes might.

In this atmosphere of intimidation, it is not unexpected that homosexual males, but for those pushed to psychological disturbance or exhibitionism, are driven underground, fearful of accessing services such as health care, lest they have to reveal their status. Little wonder that Jamaica has among the hemisphere’s highest rates of HIV-AIDS among men who have sex with men. So, there is a public-health problem that is exacerbated by this silly old law.

Further, as we often argue, this newspaper sees no logic to the Jamaican State setting itself up as a kind of voyeuristic commissar of sexual practices. It certainly has no right in people’s bedrooms to determine the acts in which they engage, whatever the gender or status of the participants.

For more information, read the Jamaica Gleaner editorial in full.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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