Jamaica: ‘Human rights … should never be put to a vote’

The Rev. Sean Major-Campbell (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Gleaner)
The Rev. Sean Major-Campbell (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Gleaner)

The Rev. Sean Major-Campbell, rector of Christ Church in Vineyard Town, Jamaica, has spoken out against a proposal by newly elected Prime Minister Andrew Holness to hold a referendum on the nation’s anti-gay buggery law, which is a remnant of British rule.

Excerpts from Major-Campbell’s commentary in the Jamaica Gleaner:

“It does sound good to say that we are putting it to the people. Unfortunately, too many would be voting without any reasonable understanding of the facts!

“The time-wasting subject of the ubiquitous buggery matter might also be reconsidered. Does this really need a referendum? Should we put it to the people so they may decide on keeping certain statutes that are currently not being policed? Really? What is the prevailing evidence in terms of statistics regarding arrest and successful prosecution? …

“What do we suppose would have happened if the right to interracial marriage was put to a referendum in the United States of America years ago? What would have happened if apartheid were the subject of a referendum? Just imagine slavery being put before the slave owners for a referendum. …

“On a matter of principle, human rights are not privileges, and as such should never be put to a vote. Always remember that human rights are indivisible. …

“May we not use referenda to play with so weighty a matter as justice.”

For more information, read the full commentary “Referenda a crutch for weak leadership” in the Jamaica Gleaner. In addition to Major-Campbell’s opposition to the buggery-law proposal, his commentary also explains his opposition to a second proposed referendum, on whether Jamaica should replace the United Kingdom-based Privy Council with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country’s final court of appeals.

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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