Buggery law facilitates corruption in JCF – Observer Letter 25.03.09

Dear Editor,
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

House committee seeks advice from solicitor general – Concerns raised over sex definition

A PARLIAMENTARY committee, examining the green paper on national workplace policy on HIV/AIDS, is seeking guidance from the solicitor general on a controversial definition of sexual intercourse, as set out in the document.

The joint select committee reviewing the draft policy agreed that it would also seek advice on the possible implications of the definition of discrimination on the “ground of sexual orientation”.

At the committee’s final meeting for the legislative year on Wednesday, government Senator Hyacinth Bennett described the issues as potentially explosive.

Change normal meaning

The proposed policy described sexual intercourse as sexual activity that involves vaginal, anal or oral penetration. However, the Lawyers Christian Fellowship group had raised concern about this definition, arguing that it would change the normal meaning of sexual intercourse. The group, in its earlier submission, had suggested that sexual activity and not “sexual intercourse” should be defined in the document.

Commenting on the Lawyers Christian Fellowship’s recommendation, Senator Bennett said the group wanted to ensure that the concept of sexual intercourse was not degraded.

Opposition Senator Sandrea Falconer suggested that advice be sought from the Government’s chief legal counsel on what were the implications of the broad definition of sexual intercourse in the document.

Charles’ take on policy

Committee chairman Pearnel Charles made it clear that he wanted a policy framed in such a way that no group could argue that certain “types of sex” had been legalised.

He said the final policy should not leave a loophole for exploitation by any group.

The definition of sexual intercourse in the green paper was inconsistent with what was set out in the Offences Against the Person Act and Incest Punishment Act.

Another government senator, Dennis Meadows, said he did not have a problem with the definition. “We must become progressive in our thinking,” he asserted.

Continuing, Meadows argued that the controversial definition of sexual intercourse was accepted by the United Nations. “Therefore if we are a part of the global community, our policy must reflect that of the global community, we are not an isolated country in the world,” Meadows insisted.

Disagreeing with her colleague’s liberal views, Senator Bennett indicated that the country should not be influenced by UN-based values or dictates.

Discrimination debate

The issue of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation also stirred lively debate among committee members.

It was highlighted that the Charter of Rights bill now before Parliament, did not include discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation since it could be interpreted to permit same-sex marriage.

Charles concluded that it should not form part of the HIV/AIDS workplace policy document.

The green paper was developed out of growing concern about the stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS faced at the workplace.