We Can’t Legislate Sexuality

by Garth Rattray

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to cut off financial aid to countries that fail to uphold human rights, including the oppression of homosexuals, had me taking another look at the relevant section within The Offences Against The Person Act.

Jamaica Gleaner Company

The section dealing with ‘Unnatural Offences’ (Section 76) reads: “Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding 10 years.”

Naturally, I have no problem with criminalising bestiality; after all, lower animals do not possess the capacity to consent to copulation with human beings. And, the very idea of trans-species intimacy is warped and absurd. However, I wonder, how it can be an offence against a person if the persons involved not only agree to but also desire intimacy from one another.

Does the act, therefore, speak to an offence against society, even though it is a totally private matter only between two consenting adults? And, regarding the word ‘buggery’, it is oftentimes used interchangeably with ‘sodomy’, and sodomy is defined as ‘anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite gender’.

I assume that, for whatever reason, the spirit of the law was intended to criminalise peno-anal acts between two males. However, technically, it could also end up criminalising any sexual act between a male and a female, other than peno-vaginal intercourse, because such acts are viewed by some as ‘unnatural’ or ‘abnormal’.

The issue of fairness

Furthermore, even if our laws label any benign and non-violent act that takes place between two consenting adults behind closed doors as a ‘crime against nature’, that will never alter anyone’s sexuality. And, to be perfectly fair, shouldn’t other ‘unnatural’ sexual acts like intimacy between two females, such as ménages à trois and orgies, be criminalised abominations also? They are not as uncommon as some would want to believe. Perhaps, therefore, the act is a relic that was formulated secularly but on religious grounds. Shades of Shari’a law?

I do not agree with Britain’s arm-twisting tactic; but, that aside, our anti-buggery law (as it relates to intimacy between two people) does seem a little strange to me. Whatever intimate acts mentally competent and consenting adults do with each other out of the public view is between them and their individual morals. I belabour the point because too much time and effort is dedicated to a small section of a law that can never regulate intimacy. It can only drive such issues underground.

Heterosexual abominations

There are innumerable heterosexual abominations being committed constantly, but people are rarely consternated by them. Many female spouses from every stratum of society submit to their male partners out of need and/or fear every day. They give in to ‘normal’ and ‘legal’ (peno-vaginal) intercourse out of financial need, under duress, coercion, threat of violence or fear of physical and/or psychological abuse – yet hardly anyone speaks to those common wrongs.

Many victims of peno-vaginal rape, under a variety of circumstances, are eternally devastated and scarred – yet the sentences remain out of keeping with that dastardly crime. Many men who father children simply walk away, leaving their progeny at high risk for a life of crime which severely impacts all spheres of society – yet, our legal system does not adequately address that injustice.

Politicians don’t really care what individuals do behind closed doors; the prevailing public sentiment and powerful religious groups dictate that they maintain an Old Testament-inspired law in a vain attempt at legislating sexuality (which dictates sexual practices). We should concern ourselves instead with educating everyone about the individual and community health risks of those and other sexual activities.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.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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