JFLAG Page – Know Your Rights

The first defense against persecution from the police or any individual is to know exactly what your rights are and what rights the police do and don’t have. We have tried to outline below some of the laws as they relate to homosexuality. If you know your rights, you can better defend yourself if you are subjected to abuse or discrimination of any kind.

What Jamaican Law says about Homosexuality:
Contrary to popular belief, it is not actually illegal to be homosexual in Jamaica. Being a homosexual does not contravene any of the existing laws; however, the law makes certain ‘homosexual acts’ illegal, and these laws are used to persecute gay men. They state that “acts of gross indecency” and buggery [anal sex] are illegal. Although buggery refers to anal sex between a man and another man, a woman or an animal, in practice the law is predominately enforced against two men. Lesbians are also discriminated against in the wider society, however no laws target lesbians or lesbian conduct.

Offences Against the Person Act
This act prohibits “acts of gross indecency” between men, in public or in private. (This is a very general term which can be interpreted to mean any kind of physical intimacy)
Article 76 (Unnatural Crime)”Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery [anal intercourse] committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years.”

Article 77 (Attempt)”Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour.”

Article 78 (Proof of Carnal Knowledge)”Whenever upon the trial of any offence punishable under this Act, it may be necessary to prove carnal knowledge, it shall not be necessary to prove the actual emission of seed in order to constitute a carnal knowledge, but the carnal knowledge shall be deemed complete upon proof of penetration only.”

Article 79 (Outrages on Decency)”Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 2 years, with or without hard labour.”

YOUR Rights, Duties and Responsibilities as a Jamaican Citizen:
As a Jamaican citizen you also have, through the Constitution, the right:
To have your privacy respected within your home and family.
As a citizen, you have a DUTY to assist the police in the apprehension of an accused or wanted person.
If through your own actions, conduct or behaviour, you do not show RESPECT for other citizens, the security forces and the laws governing the country – whether within or outside your community – some of these rights may be taken away from you, by law. This means that you may be liable to prosecution and conviction leading to imprisonment or you may be sued.

POLICE Rights, Duties and Responsibilities:
In pursuing their duties as members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, police officers have the right:
To search the body of any person if they have reason to believe that an illegally-held item, relating to your search, is being concealed;
To search premises, once they have a search warrant, duly signed by the appropriate authority*;
To remove property which justifies their search, as evidence.
If through their actions, conduct and behaviour they do not show RESPECT for citizens, or they abuse those citizens’ rights or property, they can be removed from their professional responsibilities, by law. They may also be liable to prosecution and conviction leading to imprisonment or they may be sued.
*(Judge or Justice of the Peace. In the case of dangerous drugs, Sergeant of Police or higher officer.)

If you want to know what protections are available under the national constitution for you as a citizen of Jamaica, and what JFLAG is doing to have those protections widened to include protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, see our Parliamentary Submission.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also available online at: http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/index.htm

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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