Americas

Jamaican court to hear Bain case on HIV, anti-gay laws

Dr. Brendan Bain, professor of community health at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, (Photo courtesy of EverydayLeadership.org)

Brendan Bain (Photo courtesy of EverydayLeadership.org)

The case for wrongful dismissal filed by Prof. Brendan Bain against the University of the West Indies (UWI) will be heard tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 12. The UWI fired Bain as the head of a US-funded anti-HIV programme after Bain, a fundamentalist Christian, gave expert testimony on behalf of a coalition of churches in the Belize case challenging that country’s anti-sodomy law.

Prof. Bain claimed that the law was necessary to prevent HIV. This contradicts all the reputable data, as well as the university’s own declared position and therefore several anti-HIV groups in the region wrote to the university and indicated that they could no longer work with Bain because of this breach of trust.

The issue was a clear conflict of interest, however the courts seem to support Bain’s position and ordered his reinstatement pending the outcome of the trial. Ironically, the US funding for the programme Bain led was terminated, so the UWI filed an unsuccessful application to throw out the case as being moot.

Anti-gay protest in Jamaica (Photo courtesy of RJR News)

Anti-gay protest in Jamaica in June 2014. (Photo courtesy of RJR News)

Bain’s case has been used by religious fundamentalists on the island to whip up homophobic hysteria, claiming that, among other things, gays are threatening freedom of religion and free speech. One outcome of this latest moral panic has been massive anti-gay demonstrations islandwide, including an event that drew approximately 25,000 people (the largest homophobic protest in Jamaica’s history), which took place on June 29, 2014, the same day as the World Pride parade in Toronto.

This case coincides with the Parliamentary review of the country’s Sexual Offences Act. That Act retains the provisions of the 1864 British colonially imposed anti-sodomy law and criminalizes any form of private consensual intimacy between men. The law has also been identified by UNAIDS and Jamaica’s Ministry of Health officials as contributing to the island having the highest HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the western hemisphere (33%).

Several groups have made submissions to Parliament calling for the repeal of the law, which drives MSM underground, away from effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions. However, the fundamentalist religious groups see the law as essential to prevent the acceptance of human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and intersex (LGBTI) Jamaicans.

Bain’s case is very significant in the liberation struggle for gay Jamaicans, especially after a challenge to the island’s anti-sodomy law was terminated in 2014 because the claimant feared for his life, and the lives of his family members.

The outcome of this case will be closely watched by many LGBTI and HIV groups locally, regionally, and internationally.

One thought on “Jamaican court to hear Bain case on HIV, anti-gay laws

  1. Pingback: Anti-AIDS leader loses job for supporting anti-gay laws | 76 CRIMES

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