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.

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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