Prime Minister Bruce Golding seems determined to lead by following. In particular, he seems in tune with public sentiment that favours discrimination based on private acts between consenting adults. Golding has said in Parliament that Jamaica will retain the buggery law, even though there will be no peeping into bedrooms – the prime way of determining whether buggery is taking place.
On the other hand, US President Barack Obama seems determined to lead by leading. Obama’s administration is about to endorse a UN declaration that calls for worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Corrupt police are the main ones to benefit from a buggery law that cannot be enforced. Here is a scenario based on a recent incident. Two men are travelling on a very quiet road when they have a flat tyre. The tyre is fixed, and the driver and passenger are inside the car while the driver completes a call on his cellphone.
A police car stops, and two policemen get out with guns pointed at the men in the car. The men protest when the police accuse them of being homosexuals, and the police say they are charging them with using “threatening, abusive, and calumnious language”. As the exchange becomes heated, the charges escalate to include “obstructing an officer in the pursuit of his duty” as well as buggery. One man tries to remain calm, but the other panics.
Neither is gay, but their careers, reputations, and family lives could be wrecked if they are brought to court on buggery charges.
Then the tone of the policemen changes with the question, “So what you can do for yourselves?” The two men have just $700 between them. The policemen then instruct them to hand over their cellphones for “safekeeping” while they drive in front of the police car to an ATM. Each man hands over $5,000 and the deal is sealed.
Members of the gay community in Jamaica report numerous incidents like this one. The buggery law enables corrupt policemen to engage in extortion and robbery. Worse still, it causes some fathers to avoid the company of their grown sons, just in case corrupt police or a hate brigade make an issue of their being together in a car, on the beach, on the street, or in a bus.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding might want to think again about his position on buggery as a constitutional issue. He might consider adopting the direction in which President Barack Obama is evidently leading Americans, even the conservative right and the fundamentalist Christians. Golding might find that a buggery law has no place in a world that increasingly considers all – irrespective of sexual orientation – as having rights and freedoms that the state is obliged to protect.
Yvonne McCalla Sobers