Senior staff reporter
PAST President of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship Shirley Richards has urged both major political parties to commit to making changes to the just passed Charter of Rights, if in the future a court ruling goes against the intent of the provision in matters relating to marriage and sexuality, by virtue of the current wording.
Speaking at Wednesday's luncheon meeting of the Lion's Club of Kingston at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Richards, who had represented the group and made several notable interventions before the Joint Select Committee of Parliament during discussions on the Charter, commended the courage on the part of the committee to have included clauses in the current Charter which has saved laws relating to sexual offences, the life of the unborn, obscene publications, preserved religious liberty and defined marriage
"It remains to be seen how the court will deal with these laws which have been retained," she said further.
Following the intervention of the group, marriage had been defined by the committee. As a result, Section 18 (2) of that document reads in part "no form of marriage other than the voluntary union of one man and one woman may be contracted or legally recognised in Jamaica".
Yesterday, Richards said that with the new Charter, civic organisations such as the Lions Club can now intervene on behalf of individuals whose rights are being contravened or are likely to be contravened.
In responding to the charge from several quarters that the Charter ignores the rights of homosexuals, Richards asked: "Where do rights originate?"
She argued that there was no truth to the argument that repealing the buggery law would assist in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, while pointing to the findings of a reputable medical journal, which in 2010 reported that despite an overall decline in HIV incidents in France, "transmission seems to be out of control among men who have sex with men". Importantly, buggery was decriminalised in France at the time of the French Revolution in 1791.
"If the buggery law is repealed what will prevent our children being taught in school that the homosexual lifestyle is a good and acceptable one?" she queried.
Richards also noted that in Britain, persons who were not willing to endorse homosexuality are not allowed to become foster parents as it is held that objection to homosexuality is not in the interest of the welfare of children.
"Put the other way, if you do not agree with homosexual conduct, you cannot foster children in the UK," she said, while urging that Jamaicans maintain their moral stance as far as this issue is concerned.
As a consequence of the Charter passed by both Houses of Parliament recently after some 17 years of intense and sporadic debate, citizens have rights against the Government and also against each other.
New rights include the rights of children to publicly funded tuition at the pre-primary and primary level, the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment, the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of gender and also on the grounds of social class. Privacy rights have also been expanded. The previous document dealt with privacy in terms of protection from search of person or property. Under the new Charter, in addition to protection from search, there is a provision for respect for privacy of the home and family life and for privacy of property and communication.