Jamaican gays heartened by resolution before UN

THE United Nations last week heard a proposed resolution for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality, prompting optimism among the local gay community at the prospect of having buggery struck from the law books.
“Such a move is welcomed as many nation states, including Jamaica, criminalise homosexual activity between consenting adults. The criminal provisions against consenting same-sex practices are a legal absurdity as these so-called crimes have no victims,” said the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), in a statement prepared in response to Observer queries.

But it is anyone’s guess whether Jamaica will support the proposal, once it gets to the stage where it is to be voted on.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding was unavailable for comment on the issue last week, while Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Ken Baugh could not be reached for a response yesterday.

Golding, ahead of the general elections last year, came out strongly against homosexuality in an interview with this newspaper’s flagship publication, the Sunday Observer. “Let us be very clear.
There are some countries that are prepared to overturn tradition and culture in the interest of what they regard as individual freedoms and to do so at the instance of the homosexual fraternity, which comprises a minority in the population. You will find this pretty prevalent in Europe. We (the JLP) are not prepared to go in that direction,” he said then. “We intend to uphold the laws of the country.”

In a May 20 interview with the BBC’s talk show HARDtalk this year, Golding said he would not allow homosexuals in his Cabinet.In the meantime, sociologist Dr Orville Taylor said it was time for Jamaica to decriminalise homosexuality. The existing law, he said, was biased against male homosexuals since there was no provision for the punishment of females caught having sex with other females. In addition, he said the law was not being effectively policed anyway, as evidenced by the few men who have been charged for buggery in recent years.
“Ask the question how many adult men in recent times have been caught having homosexual sex at home. It means that it (buggery) has been de-facto legalised for a long time. If government was really serious about enforcing the buggery law, they would raid the homes of their friends who they know are gay,” Taylor said.

He added: “Governments really don’t want to enforce the law because too much money and power and influence is involved. It is nothing about Christianity.”
But he said that the decriminalisation of buggery would not equate to support for same-sex relationships.
“.I don’t think you are compromising your morals because we are not saying we approve of it, it is just that it is not one of the things that people should go to jail for,” Taylor told the Observer. “There is a hell of a difference between saying you are advocating a certain lifestyle and saying ‘low them mek dem live how dem waan live’.”At the same time, the sociologist said it would be useful to consider the economic implications if Jamaica refused to decriminalise buggery. Already, he said, Jamaica’s relations with the European Union has been affected by the death penalty vote.
Said Taylor: “There are trade and aid issues (that will arise). We don’t live in a world by ourselves and in this economic crisis you want to have as few economic enemies as possible. The question we must ask ourselves is: What do we lose as a society if we legally allow these people to (live the way they choose)?” asked Taylor.

France, which put forward the initiative for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality on Human Rights Day last Wednesday, is to submit a draft of the proposal at the UN General Assembly this week.
“Opposition to universal decriminalisation is strong and led by an alliance of the Vatican and Islamic governments. It will undoubtedly take several years to achieve support from a majority of the United Nations,” said a December 11 editorial in Gay City News, which is reputed to be the United States’ largest circulation lesbian and gay newspaper. “But next (this) week’s unveiling of declaration with such widespread international support is a giant first step toward the day when the world community will finally declare that sexual minorities should be free to live as they wish without threat of imprisonment or death,” said the newspaper.

BY PETRE WILLIAMS – Environment editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

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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