Speaking on HOT102FM’s Morning Edition hosted by sometimes tolerant Lloyd D’Aguilar earlier Justice Minister Mark Golding stopped short of saying the law will change but was cautious on many fronts regarding the recently announced five year Sexual Offences Bill revision and that buggery maybe mentioned before the new joint select committee of parliament that has not been publicly named as yet. When last we saw this review in 2009 and in 2005 the definition of sex was an issue and religious groups then as I suspect they will do now seek to obfuscate the process with hysteria and misinformation out of fear of some gay marriage agenda and normalizing homosexuality as it were even though the constitution is quite clear on the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Mr Golding spoke to marital rape, age of consent, and section 10 which deals with teenage promiscuity and how the law deals with such issues as teens are prosecuted and maybe in the sex offenders registry, he had made the point in 2009 that they should not be criminalised for such early sex and there are diversionary processes in CISOCA and so on that may not need prosecution. He emphasised consent which makes the matter a whole lot differently than abuse once proven.
He raised reproductive education and the fears by some experts in disseminating such materials as they may be seen as aiding and abetting a crime such as the ministry of health or doctors who have to interface with teens and some adults and vulnerable groups.
In as far as anal intercourse and privacy is concerned he said: “I believe that there should be some reform that is personal view that doesn’t represent the government position at this time but my personal view is that should be some reform because and I tell you why presently there is an anomaly in the way in which anal intercourse is treated so; rape which is defined in the Sexual Offences Act as vaginal rape carries a minimum sentence of fifteen years up to life imprisonment for anal rape it is not an offense under the Sexual Offences Act it is only dealt with under the Buggery provisions; in the Offences Against The Persons Act doesn’t distinguish between forced or consensual anal intercourse the maximum term for imprisonment is ten years; so for example there was a recent high profile report in the papers last week about a man who was out jogging and was allegedly raped, gang raped by two men the maximum penalty for that is ten years, the trauma that that individual would have suffered if the allegations are true are drastic and I don’t think the way in which the law is designed right now picks that up ..... I must confess am also in favour of taking the law out of people’s bedrooms, I don’t believe it’s appropriate that the law should prescribe what consenting adults should do in private and so I personally feel the law should amended so that what consenting adults do in private is their own affair and is not subject to the criminal law that is my personal view.”
In as far as outdoor sex is concerned the law should criminalize that as it does heterosexual consensual sex he said.
In as far as the difference between repeal and decriminalization Mr Golding responded to Lloyd D’Aguilar
“Amended because forced anal intercourse anal rape must be a serious offence, any kind of anal intercourse with minors or persons under 18 should be a criminal matter I think any kind of public sexual act of that nature should be banned as well so I think it is a more nuanced thing than just repealing the buggery law .... in the media they like soundbites and slogans so they’ll talk about repealing my own position is it needs reform.”
“There are some I regard them as religious hardliners who believe it may end up if we have any reform in this area it is gonna end up legalizing gay marriage and so on even though our constitution specifically defines marriage as between a man and a woman so I don’t that’s a real risk but I do think the current law creates anomalies .....”
The Minister was careful to stress that the sexual offences act review is not to look at the buggery act with this joint select committee as it lies under a separate statute and that members on the committee will state their views which may reflect in recommendations in the final report. He also reminded persons on the conscience vote suggestion by his boss and so forth. The timing of that debate is a matter of importance he stressed which seems to be an expedient position more so than a principled one as votes matter for parties to remain in power.
As to the right time for the debate and religious fundamentalists carrying the day on the matter the Minister responded:
“When I said this is a controversial issue I don’t think I was putting principle behind expediency, I think that’s a fact, it is a controversial issue, a government has to be mindful of the views of the majority of the people, they are elected by the majority of the people in some instances straying too far ahead of where the populations as a whole see a particular moral issue is something that governments are reluctant to do, in terms of the timing of this ...um that’s really a matter for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to decide, I am not really in a position to indicate what that particular moment will be but I have spoken to the Prime Minister on the matter and she is still of the view that we should have this debate at the appropriate time.”
“I do anticipate that this joint select committee will have the opportunity to consider this matter I would be surprised if it didn’t raise it so that will be an opportunity for the matter to be ventilated in a relatively non partisan forum cause the joint select committee tends to operate ...... we all seat on the same side ..... we sit beside each other, we don’t typical take positions which are informed by party politics; I am not saying it is devoid of that but a less partisan environment .... it may provide an opportunity for public discussion and so on.
This is something that will happen at some point in time it’s just that I think the moment for the debate has been the subject of some discussion and we didn’t feel the timing was right ........... it is an issue which the population views are evolving.”
I am wondering where has such evolving occurred within the last few weeks since the Professor Bain issue broke and the subsequent standoff between fanatics and other civil society groups with even fly by night ones calling themselves Jamaica CAUSE organizing a June 29th Half Way Tree rally to supposedly stand up to the gay lobby and some other secularist agenda in Jamaica. One member of that overnight group when asked about dialogue was so hostile to the idea claiming difference of philosophical opinions would not allow. Strangely none of the Jamaica Council of Churches members from the traditional churches are part of this new hysteria movements as the members are made up of mostly Pentecostal churches. Sounds to me like some unknowns looking for something to latch on to so as to make a name for themselves.
So the PNP is not going to move the conscience vote anytime soon even as a hypocritical opposition JLP sides with the hysteria religious corner to demand a referendum on the matter knowing that that will only be politicised more so than getting an objective non emotional feel on the subject.
It was not lost to the minister though that the image of Jamaica has taken a battering for the perception of being a homophobic state (real or imagined my words) where he commented: “ Jamaica is paying a price for being perceived as being a hard .... hardcore homophobic society, it’s impacted how we are perceived in certain international fora, even in the tourist industry and so on Sandals had to ..... I saw an article in the Guardian newspaper that Sandals recently had to change their policy allowing same sex couples to come to their hotel which they had for many years not allowed they recently changed their policy on that ........ that was because of pressure being brought in the UK; so this is an issue which affects our economy when you look at the broader, that whole side of it plus the moral question and so on I think that there are good arguments for modifying the rules to take the law out of people’s bedrooms.”
Interesting times lay ahead folks. As talks of buggery continue in the real world this is what is happening to our brothers:
Peace and tolerance
Jamaica Observer deliberately aiding the further discrediting of the remaining LGBTQ credibility in public advocacy & gay baiting?