Open Letter to Jamaica’s minister of justice, The Honourable Mark Golding regarding the delayed review of the country’s anti-buggery law.
Dear Honourable Minister Golding,
I read with dismay, but not surprise, that the government of Jamaica has put the issue of the promised review of the anti-sodomy law on hold, perhaps indefinitely.
Permit me to say, Honourable Minister, that the reasons given for this deferral present a false choice between reading down the anti-buggery law to decriminalize the private consensual acts of adults, and addressing the economic and criminal realities facing the country.
The existence of the anti-buggery law and the homophobia it supports has caused Jamaica to miss out on the lucrative gay tourism market estimated at US$188 Billion annually.
There is also a steady hemorrhaging of talented gay Jamaicans who could contribute to nation’s economic development.
The law also contributes to our HIV epidemic which some persons estimate will cost the country US$540million per annum.
Surely a responsible government would consider these economic realities reason enough to review a 148 year old British colonially imposed law, which, by the way, is virtually unenforceable because of the much stricter privacy provisions in our new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
Additionally, the anti-buggery law adds to our crime rate by criminalizing what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms!
Furthermore, it gives license to ordinary Jamaicans to engage in barbaric homophobic attacks including the 9 reported murders of gay Jamaicans this year, the brutal slaying of a straight man in the parish of Trelawny for “harbouring” his gay stepson, and the savage beating of a young gay man by security guards at UTech on November 1.
The argument that the government’s legislative drafters are too overwhelmed to deal with this law is simply untenable.
You recently brought legislation to Parliament to repeal whipping prisoners with the cat-of-nine-tails, something the courts have effectively banned since 1997 and which has not been nearly as contentious as the reprehensible and invasive anti-sodomy law that impacts free Jamaicans. Furthermore, legislative drafting can be outsourced to other attorneys as is done elsewhere.
If the government asked J-FLAG, I am sure they could find a few gay lawyers who would happily draft this repeal legislation for free.
There are several precedent worldwide where Parliaments have jetisoned these colonial relics. I am happy to assist with this venture, if you wish.
I urge you, Honourable Minister, to end Jamaica’s shame. As the results of the recent US elections shows, we are increasingly on the wrong side of history with regard to recognizing the human rights of LGBT individuals.
Let us have legislation to read down the anti-sodomy law so that what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms will no longer be the law’s affair.
Legal Advisor, Marginalized Groups