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Jamaica hints a law banning gay discrimination may be passed

Jamaican Minister of Justice hints a law banning anti-gay discrimination may be introduced due to pressures to accept ‘Western’ human rights
Mark Golding, Jamaican Minister of Justice, said a law banning discrimination of LGBT people maybe introduce to accommodate to  'Western' 'notions' of human rights

In response to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) criticizing Jamaica for its abuse of its LGBT citizens, the country's Minister of Justice hinted that an anti-discrimination legislation, inclusive of sexual orientation, maybe introduced.

IACHR latest report on the human rights situation in Jamaica, released on 3 January, was scathing of the country’s treatment of its LGBT population citing rampant abuse of gays and lesbian Jamaican by state and non-state sectors.

It called for measures to combat anti-gay hate, for Jamaica to implement obligations under its voluntarily signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights and to decriminalize gay sex.

In response, the Jamaican government initially claimed that there was no discrimination against gay Jamaicans.

However, during a radio interview yesterday (5 January), the Jamaican Minister of Justice, Mark Goldin, admitted that anti-discrimination legislation was necessary to address violations against certain groups in the society.

Golding stated that although the Jamaican Charter of Rights gives constitutional protection to individuals, laws need target more people who suffer discrimination.

He said: ‘It was designed in such a way that it has put some limits on the ability of those minority groups to use the Constitution as a tool for challenging laws that they consider to be not in their interest. I don’t think the courts under the present configuration are the not mechanism by which persons will be vindicated. I think it will require some legislative intervention’.

He added that lawmakers should be ‘braver’ to pass these laws, while bearing in mind the context of the dominant views of the Jamaican society.

Although he failed to specifically mention gays and lesbians by name.

As part of a comment article on the issue, Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican lawyer and LGBT rights advocate said that Golding’s ‘reference to the lack of access some groups have to the courts … was an obvious reference to the anti-gay provisions entrenched by the Charter revisions as well as the exclusion of sexual orientation as a ground for non-discrimination’.

He also stated that ‘The Civil Service Staff Orders of 2004 (which have the force of law) already protects Jamaican civil servants from discimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

‘A general anti-discrimiantion legislation would simply extend this protection to all Jamaicans.

‘However, there will likely be strong opposition from the powerful and influential religious fundamentalists who effectively blocked broad anti-discrimination language from being included in the 2011 revision to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms’.

Last month Golding stated that Jamaica might be forced to adapt its laws to a ‘Western’ ‘notions’ of human rights, which include sexuality, otherwise financial aid might be cut to the country.

To learn more about the issues raised here, read Tomlinson’s extensive comment article here.

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