Jamaican activist sues to overturn ‘buggery law’

Maurice Tomlinson displays the Jamaican flag. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson via Facebook)
Maurice Tomlinson displays the Jamaican flag. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson via Facebook)

Maurice Tomlinson of Jamaica and Canada — a Caribbean LGBTI rights activist and a writer for this blog — is challenging the Jamaican “buggery law” in court. BuzzFeed reported today:

A new challenge to Jamaica’s law criminalizing homosexuality was filed with the country’s Supreme Court on November 27, more than a year after a man challenging the law withdrew his case citing threats against himself and his family.

The new suit is being brought by Maurice Tomlinson, a gay Jamaican attorney who received death threats after a local newspaper published a photograph of his marriage to his Canadian partner in 2011. The country’s attorney general, who is named as the plaintiff, was served with notice of the suit [today].

It will be formally announced at a press conference to be held in Kingston on Thursday, according to a media advisory published on the website of AIDS-Free World, a Canadian NGO that is supporting the challenge in cooperation with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

“The laws of Jamaica that criminalize consensual sexual intimacy between men essentially render me an un-apprehended criminal,” Tomlinson states in the court filings, which were shared with BuzzFeed News by a source familiar with the litigation. Criminalizing homosexuality “amounts to a direct and blatant denial of equality before the law for [Tomlinson] and other gay men in Jamaica.”

Tomlinson was the lawyer for the claimant in the challenge to the provision known colloquially as the “buggery law” — put into place when the island was under British colonial rule — that was withdrawn last year. …

Tomlinson now splits his time between the home he shares with his husband in Toronto and Jamaica, he said in an interview with BuzzFeed News, though he says he follows a “security protocol” and restricts his activities when he is in the country because he is still receiving death threats. He agreed to be the claimant in this new suit after difficulty recruiting someone to replace Javed Jaghai, the man who withdrew his challenge to the buggery law last year because of safety concerns.

For more information, read the full BuzzFeed article, “This Man Is Challenging Jamaica’s Ban On Homosexuality.”

Maurice Tomlinson and Tom Decker presented the training session about LGBTI people to Barbados police and others. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)
Maurice Tomlinson and Tom Decker pose with training materials for their workshop about LGBTI people that they presented to Barbados police and others in May 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Tomlinson and Decker have been busy in recent months leading educational workshops about LGBTI people for police forces and other public servants in Caribbean nations, including Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados.

Tomlinson has sued the governments of Belize and Trinidad / Tobago to overturn their laws that, on paper, bar entry by homosexuals seeking to visit those nations. He also sued Jamaican television stations that refused to broadcast a public-service announcement promoting tolerance of sexual minorities.

He helped sponsor the first Montego Bay Pride, which was held on Oct. 25, and has promoted Barbados Pride, scheduled for May 2016.

Tomlinson has also supported so-far-unsuccessful efforts to establish a home for homeless LGBTI youths in Kingston, Jamaica, who have been repeated ousted by police from whatever location they find to live, including an abandoned house, a drainage gully and a cemetery.


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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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