Jamaica: Legal challenge to anti-gay law under way

Dane Lewis, head of the Jamaican LGBT rights group J-FLAG, reports on proceedings in the Jamaican Supreme Court, where Javed Jaghai, the group’s education and outreach officer, is challenging the constitutionality of the Jamaican “buggery law”:

Dane Lewis, president of J-FLAG, on YouTube video in the "We Are Jamaicans" campaign.
Dane Lewis, leader of J-FLAG

As Executive Director, I accompanied Javed to court on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in order to get a first-hand account of the proceedings and also to explore the possibility for J-FLAG to formally join the proceedings in this landmark constitutional challenge. We will soon update you on the progress of this endeavour.

We were advised by our legal representative that the Chambers of Justice Carol Edwards would be too small to accommodate all interested parties and their lawyers, and as such we should try to limit the numbers of our supporters. This turned out to be true, and we had to move to a court room in order to accommodate the almost two dozen lawyers, including three Queens Counsels, and their clients.

The outside of the Supreme Court was full of media personnel who were eager for coverage of Javed and his team as they entered and exited the court. There was also a small but vocal group of women who expressed their opposition to any changes being made to the buggery law.

Javed Jagahi
Javed Jagahi

At last count there are eleven (11) interested parties opposing the claim who will be joining the Attorney General who represents the Government of Jamaica in constitutional matters such as this.

To this date they are:

  1.     Lawyers Christian Fellowship (LCF)
  2.     Hear the Children’s Cry (Betty-Ann Blaine)
  3.     Citizens for Truth and Justice (Catholics)
  4.     Love March Movement
  5.     Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS)
  6.     Jamaica Association of Evangelicals
  7.     Ethiopian Orthodox Church
  8.     Independent Churches (Bishop Adegold)
  9.     Holiness Christian Church
  10.   Christian Brethren Assemblies of Jamaica
  11.   Church of God in Jamaica.

Note: The Marcus Garvey Movement has applied to be joined as well but that application has not yet been served.

Lead Attorney for the claimant, Maurice Tomlinson, agreed that the groups should be allowed to join in the matter since the case is of national importance and therefore all views should contend.

Essentially, Justice Edwards collapsed a number of the groups into one and called them ‘The Church’. Only LCF, JCHS and Hear the Children’s Cry will be heard separately.

The content of Javed’s affidavit was brought into question as aspects were said to be hearsay and were therefore deemed offensive to the rules of evidence. The judge requested that the affidavit be amended to remove the offending parts and re-submitted to the court by Friday July 5, 2013. Another 3-hour case management session has been set for Friday October 4, 2013, to address the substantive administrative matters regarding the proceedings.

This is an exciting time for J-FLAG and the Jamaican Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) community in general as this case seeks to determine that the retention of the anti-buggery law in its current form is a contravention of our constitutional rights to privacy and equality before the law. The buggery law criminalizes certain sexual acts of consenting adults in private and this is something that J-FLAG and many of its partners in civil society finds to be an injustice and offensive to the concept of social equality.

We look forward to the resumption of this case and by our participation we expect to make an important contribution to the improvement of the quality of citizenship and life of LGBT Jamaicans.

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 [email protected]

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  1. I applaud you in your fight for LGBT rights in Jamaica. LGBT rights is a human right. The Jamaican government should not allow the Churches there in Jamaica, or abroad, to dictate to them how any individual, whether they identify as LGBT or not, should live their lives. The Jamaican government NEED to show leadership and integrity, and not feel cowered by those “religious” groups who oppose LGBT individuals. True religious individuals, especially Christians, have and show compassion for each and every individual no matter their sexual orientation. These homophobic individuals are basing their beliefs on ignorance. They have displayed no regard for human life. The true Christian community and other religious communities in Jamaica need to speak out against the murder and mutilation of Jamaicans who just want to live their lives peaceably in Jamaica, loving other adults of the same sex. Why is that a death sentence. Why are the “Churches” encouraging that. What happen to “THOU SHALT NOT KILL”. LGBT individuals are your sisters, brothers, fathers, cousins, Uncles, Aunts, friends, clergy; they’re your doctors, lawyers, judges, they’re your police officers, your soldiers, your bankers; they’re the people who design and build the homes you live in, they are the infrastructure of Jamaica. Being LGBT should not be a death sentence in Jamaica. Being transgendered, or transsexual should not be a death sentence in Jamaica. LGBT youth, and adults alike are being murdered and mutilated for what reason. Who criminalized loving someone of the same sex? or living the way one’s dominant male/female hormone expresses itself. Has the Jamaican government, arrested the murderers of all the innocent lives that were taken or mutilated by the criminals. The Gleaner and other newspapers there in Jamaica, clearly show pictures of mobs who are attacking or have attacked LGBT individuals…have these criminals been arrested? What kind of Christians are they who encourage and applaud violence against our people? STOP THE KILLING OF LGBT PEOPLES. YOU ARE NOT GOD. I think what needs to happen is the arrest of the Christian leaders who encourage those Jamaicans to injure or kill LGBTQ individuals. I agree with the boycott of Jamaica sadly, because as a Jamaican, I love Jamaica and Jamaica will always be my home; however there is too much bloodshed and for what. Jamaica has become too violent for the International community to ignore. I think the International community should boycott Jamaica.
    The true Jamaican people that I know are warm, gentle, friendly, God loving, and compassionate. Those who commit murder, mayhem, and mutilation, against LGBT individuals, their families, and loved ones; those who have laughed, cheered, and danced while the victims were being murdered and mutilated, are so terribly mistaken. They have been so misguided and corrupted. They are not “true” Christians and they need to be prosecuted for their crimes. They, those individuals who commit those murderous crimes against innocent men, women, boys, and girls, are a blight and a scourge on Jamaica. PLEASE let’s all work together to pass stringent laws in JAMAICA, to protect LGBT peoples, and to apprehend and punish those who violate their basic human rights. If the Jamaican government will not protect its people…the very same people who elected/voted them to parliament/office then the crimes against LGBT people, their family and friends need to be taken to the International community, The World Court if need be.

    Thank you,

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