Jamaica gets ‘nudge’ toward repeal of anti-LGBT laws

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of Care2.com)

Time magazine has given a “nudge” to LGBT rights in Jamaica.  That’s the interpretation that the Care2.com activist website gives to the magazine’s selection of Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

“The real reason she was included was because of what Time called her brave stance on supporting LGBT civil rights,” Care2 stated.  It added:

Jamaica does have a reputation as a very homophobic country — Time magazine itself asked the question in 2006 if it is ‘The most homophobic place on earth?‘ …

It was before her election at the end of last year that Simpson Miller said during a TV debate that no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and that, if elected Prime Minister, she would review the anti-gay buggery law. …

Activists praised her comments as ‘historic’ and they have also welcomed her inclusion in Time’s list. They regarded it as ‘incentivizing’ her to follow up on a commitment, a better way of ‘nudging’ her and Jamaica as a whole rather than tactics like boycotts, which have been threatened in the past with the consequence of a nasty backlash against gay people in Jamaica.

The country has seen slow but steady progress. ‘Murder music’ is declining as well as being increasingly seen as unwelcome in the culture. Polls show majorities, but decreasing ones, expressing anti-gay views. And the country has had a LGBT national organization, J-FLAG, now for 13 years, chipping away slowly and changing hearts and minds. More national figures than ever before are speaking out for LGBT people, though no one yet who is in the parliament.”

Simpson-Miller’s government has not said when it will ask parliament — dominated by traditionally anti-LGBT members — to change the buggery law.

In addition to the prime minister’s stance, a petition filed last year before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR seeks the repeal of Jamaica’s anti-LGBT laws.

Those laws currently call for prison sentences of up to 10 years for male homosexual activity. Because gay men are categorized as criminals, they often get left out of AIDS prevention programs.

Last year, Care2.com reported, “The national prevalence of HIV is more than 30 percent among men who have sex with men, compared to a rate of 1.6 percent in the general population. The IACHR petition establishes clear ties between the country’s active promotion of discrimination and its AIDS epidemic.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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