Challenging Jamaica’s bedrock of sexual ignorance

Lloyd D’Aguilar (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Lloyd D’Aguilar (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Commentary by Jamaican social activist and journalist Lloyd D’Aguilar:

I was in court recently [April 26] to support Maurice Tomlinson’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Jamaican anti-sodomy law.  This law is a relic of colonialism, and it continues today to serve as the bedrock of Jamaica’s prejudice and ignorance about human sexuality.

Maurice Tomlinson is challenging  the law on the grounds that amendments to our constitution mean that the law must be done away with so that persons who are no longer owned by anyone (such as by a slave master) have a right to pursue their sexual desires, which concern no one but their consensual partners.

While sitting in the court I saw a slew of attorneys (some of whom I know from the past and some of whom pretend to be human rights activists) trying to justify from the point of our so-called “Judeo-Christian” heritage why the law must be maintained. Well, I am an atheist so you can understand why I throw my lot in with the LGBT community: we are a condemned minority. I wonder if these Christian lawyers would have me been burned at the stake if they could in order to protect the sanctity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to keep the Devil at bay?

The judge seemed to believe that some of the arguments of our Judeo-Christian lawyers and moralists were a bit of stretch. The buggery law must be maintained, they claimed, so that children won’t be molested. I wonder if we shouldn’t also criminalize heterosexual sex – because the last tabloid I read had lurid stories about lascivious men preying on young under aged girls?

I heard something said about same-sex marriage. But what does that have to do with the right to control one’s body? – especially when it is subject to dispute as to whether God had a role in creating life. Period. Or whether God is interested in meddling in the political and social affairs of us human beings.

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 his husband, 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)

Another stretch was about health – changing the law would mean more anal sex and so a greater spread of HIV. Hey, all I can say is use your condom. It is that simple. This is no reason to come storming into my bedroom to catch me having anal sex with my wife or lover. And if the constitution guarantees personal privacy, why should my right to sexual privacy be exempted?

The Judeo-Christian moralists don’t have a legal leg to stand on. I agree with Maurice Tomlinson that their application to have standing — so that they can try to confuse the issue and the judge — should be denied.  As I understood it, the Attorney General is contesting Maurice’s challenge on narrow legal grounds rather than the amorphous, tenuous arguments of the Judeo-Christian moralists. I support the approach of the Attorney General – not the Judeo-Christian moralists.

From where I sat and what I observed, does Maurice’s challenge stand a chance?  On legal, logical, intellectual self-respecting grounds, it is a no-brainer; Maurice is on the right side of history.  But based on how the legal and political system intertwine and work in Jamaica (a recent newspaper headline used the word “dysfunctional”), logic is of little value. Political expediency is the name of the game.

If the judge decides to saddle the claimant Maurice with unnecessary expenses to respond to foolish Judeo-Christian arguments, that will be a sign that the judge is intimidated.  It will be a sign that our Lords of the Jamaica Manor would rather that our real Lords in Mother England make the decision for them. Cowards.

That is how dysfunctional and colonially trapped is our legal system.  We have barely advanced beyond the plantation in terms of what it means to respect the human rights of citizens in a supposedly independent country.

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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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