We understand why the various commissions, committees and legislators who drafted the charter failed to expressly declare people's rights to freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
It has do with the receding, but still-entrenched homophobia in Jamaica that caused Mr Golding to declare, more than three years ago, that gays would not be welcome in his Cabinet. Politicians fear that any perception that they embrace or are soft on homosexuality will cost them votes and open them to discrimination and stigma.
The attitude, we insist, is cowardly, retrogressive, socially dangerous and offensive to human rights.
Serious concerns for all
To be clear, our position is neither an endorsement nor rejection of homosexuality. Frankly, we do not care. How consenting adults choose to live their lives is none of our business. There are, however, a couple of things that concern us and which we believe should be the concern of all Jamaicans.
First, while we note and commend the advances in individuals' rights contained in the charter, we are aware that the possibility of discrimination against any group is a toehold for the erosion of the rights of others, notwithstanding the cover of constitutional protection.
Moreover, the fear of stigma, discrimination and violence pushes many people into the closet. Their talents are often underutilised, to the detriment of the society and economy. There is evidence, too, of the health problems faced by gays, many of whom prefer to live without treatment for their illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, for fear of discrimination. The public-health risks are obvious.
It is nearly 50 years since the promulgation of the Constitution; waiting a few more months to get a better charter won't hurt.
Improving the charter will require that it lie in the legislature for months in accordance with the time stipulation for amending the Constitution. In the meantime, legislators should expunge the buggery law, the main bit of existing legislation that makes homosexuality illegal.
To some the above sentiment of the editorial is progressive, politically correct and defensible. To me it is dangerous and disingenuous. I say the editorial’s posture is disingenuous because it seems to reflect a neutral position about homosexuality but this veneer of neutrality is blown to pieces by the realization that the position of the editorial is not neutrality but indictable moral ambivalence/indifference about homosexuality summed up in the words “…we do not care.” How can a responsible and prestigious media organization (which influences public opinion) claim it is none of its business “how consenting adults choose to live their lives…”?
The editorial’s posture is societally dangerous in that how people live their lives sexually is critical to the society’s health concerns and even continued existence. Mathew Staver is correct when he says “It is a truism frequently forgotten by large complex societies: only societies that reproduce survive.” (Same-Sex Marriage, 2004, p.8) Ponder the societal consequence of universalizing homosexuality as the sexual norm!
Can one be really socially responsible but ambivalent about consensual homosexual sex, consensual adultery, consensual incest, consensual sadomasochistic sex given the relational implications of such acts beyond even the health costs of dealing with AIDS and other STIs? Has the editor given thought to the social cost of pregnancies deemed ‘unwanted’ by putative parents and especially the impact of absentee father figures on the lives of our young men?
Let us get it clear in our minds, consensuality even along with privacy and age-maturity does not constitute adequate moral justification for sexual behavior, without more, as the lawyers would say. If we hold the view that a certain sexual behavior is morally defensible let’s have the moral courage to be upfront and say so and not hide behind a thin veneer of neutrality. Homosexuality may indeed need to be decriminalized and the buggery law expunged but the reasons for doing so must be more convincing than simply moral ambivalence or apathy about what consenting adults do sexually.