Two homosexual Jamaicans have mounted a legal challenge against the laws of the island, which in effect criminalizes the act of homosexuality, on the basis that they are unconstitutional and promotes homophobia throughout the Caribbean.
According to the article published on www.guardian.co.uk last week, this landmark action, which is being supported by the United Kingdom-based Human Dignity Trust, is aimed at removing three clauses of the island's Offences Against the Persons Act of 1864, commonly referred to as the buggery laws.
In Clause 76 of the act, while not formally banning homosexuality, provides for up to 10 years' imprisonment, with or without hard labour for anyone convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery committed either with mankind or any animal". Two further clauses outlaw the attempted buggery and gross indecency between two men.
culture of hatred
The mounting battle over the legislation is being blamed by critics for perpetuating a popular culture of hatred against homosexuals as is evidenced by the derision of these men in dancehall music, the article notes.
It continues that the legal challenge is being taken to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is modelled on the European Court of Human Rights to which Jamaica is not a full member. However, any ruling being made by the court would only be advisory and would nevertheless send out a strong message of international disapproval.
The article quotes the executive director of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-Flag) as saying, "This year there has been nine murders. The violence in Jamaica is having a spillover effect on other parts of the Caribbean: St Lucia now has a murder every year or so," he said.
An executive chief of the Human Dignity Trust and a London barrister was also quoted as saying, "We want to ensure that Jamaica satisfies its international human rights treaty obligations. We are supporting J-Flag in this case," said the
One body arguing to preserve the Offences Against the Persons Act is the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship of Jamaica. The Office of the Prime Minister in Jamaica did not respond to enquiries made by The Guardian, the article concluded.
In the meantime, other legal challenges have been mounting in recent weeks, as an attorney has taken the decision to bring two of Jamaica's major free-to-air television stations to court claiming a breach of his human rights for failure to air an advertisement.
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