The Jamaican Government schizophrenic on human rights ?

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Here is an excerpt of what our government refused to support: (CLICK IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF)

Sixty-seventh session
Third Committee
Agenda item 69 (b) – Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island: draft resolution Extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions

The General Assembly, Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

1 which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of person, the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

2 and other relevant human rights conventions, Reaffirming the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, as set out in Council resolution 17/5 of 16 June 2011,

3 Welcoming the universal ratification of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August  1949,

4 which alongside human rights law provide an important framework of accountability in relation to extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during armed conflict, Mindful of all its resolutions on the subject of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights and of the Human Rights Council on the subject,

__________________
1 Resolution 217 A (III).
2 See resolution 2200 A (XXI), annex.
3 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-sixth Session, Supplement No. 53 (A/66/53),
chap. III, sect. A.
4 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 75, Nos. 970-973.

The recent surprise discovery by some human rights groups and activists that the Jamaica government via its foreign affairs ministry voted yes to change a specific resolution that offered protection from discrimination and state sanctioned killings based on said sexual orientation is now gaining some traction and has evoked mostly negative responses depending on how one looks at how the discussions have been framed. This is the same country that led the struggle along with others under the leadership of Prime Minister Hugh Shearer Internationally on Human Rights and we have subsequently ratified treatises, voted positively on other matters including very public international affairs.

The widely held believe of the “promise” for some persons or the proposal made by Prime Minister Simpson Miller to review the buggery law with a conscience vote the mechanism however has not been outlines fully, this garnered international recognition from other leaders and which ultimately led to the Time Magazine awarding her one of the most 100 influential persons in the world award thus making us look progressive but now?

CLICK FOR HOMEPAGE

One of her ministers has a set of questions to answer such as why was the vote done so as to avoid offering specific protection from discrimination due to sexual orientation? that Ministry has been mum since the news broke and the Ministry’s representatives declined a radio interview on the matter. They need to be reminded that they are servants of the people, this reminds me so much of the gymnastics during the Sexual Offences Bill debate and the Charter of Rights over its ten plus year period it stayed on the parliament agenda with the subsequent repeated interference by religious right groups such as the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship who used legal manoeuvrings to move words such as “sex” suggesting it would have opened doors for homosexual rights agenda and gay marriage agitation by the gay lobby. We see them now acting up aided and abetted by foreign zealots and well funded too spending thousands on ads and other activity when the poor need help.

reminder of the PNP when A. J Nicholson was the opposition spokesman on justice: Opposition sides with Govt on No to same sex marriage 

The bigger picture is the protection of the least amongst us and ALL persons should have protection under the state, the Jamaica government denied offering protection to such a group being us homosexuals all because the language is specific to the type of discrimination. Isn’t it A. J. Nicholson the Minister now of Foreign Affairs, the same A. J. who was very vocal in the aforementioned Sexual Offences Bill/Charter of Rights slammed the suggested and attempted repeal of buggery, parliamentary submission by JFLAG everytime there was a hint in the language that seems in the eyes of some to offer a perceived loophole to other “rights” that we do not deserve they act most times covertly to trash the clauses or sentences revealing such.

We have a culture we know of extreme homophobia and homo-negativity we also have a culture that would extract a significant political rice were any government were to be seen voting to protect supposed “deviants”  it is either we agree as a nation via our governments that human rights are inalienable to all persons of the citizenry including those who visit on our shores or we say no are not going to extend human rights because of some political issue. To be denied the protection simply because of behaviour patterns while ignoring consent and privacy is just plain wrong, a wrong that has been carried on for generations but the emotions run high and cloud the level headed discourse that is required on this issue for us to get to a pluralistic society. We are the same society that has no problem suggesting taking matters to the international commission on human rights for example or the Privy Council or the suggested Caribbean Court of Justice that of the face of it is about to be foisted on us whether we like it or not. Strange when the death penalty was prescribed by local courts and upheld via the PC our government cries fowl and hold prisoners for over five years on death row all because it wants to look good internationally then the PC rules that those accused cannot be hanged who are held over the five year period (after exhausting the necessary appeals)  the complain that we are being dictated to when it was OUR OWN Jamaican law that are used by the PC to adjudicate matters presented to it by Jamaicans litigants who use that avenue.

We cannot have it both ways, either we are for rights or against, when the political pundits sought the job of leadership is was to do just that, LEAD, it’s not going to be easy and there are some unpopular decisions that maybe taken for the greater good of society, leaders must rise to the occasion  that is their mettle and when it is tested it must be found to have been vigilant, strong and forthright in defending human rights.

Beyond the Headlines host Dionne Jackson Miller had Arlene Harrison Henry of The Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights on Human Rights Day discussing the the removal of language in the form of sexual orientation on the Summary Executions UN Resolution – On November 21, 2012, Jamaica voted against resolution A/C.3/67/L.36 at the United Nations condemning extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions which urges States “to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including… all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation.” Additionally, recent incidents of vigilante attacks on perceived gay persons continue to undermine the achievements and call into question the national commitment to equality for persons of diverse sexual orientation listen:

What we have here now is that we have failed that test for some of the vulnerable amongst us, myself included as a gay man and others in the society where we have copped out in the matter of sexual orientation. The government  is weak on the things that matter and the things that will last defining how the least amongst us will live onwards with protection specifically set out. Instead some persons want the language to say “any other reasons or groups therein”

When certain key words appear they run and scream that someone is imposing homosexuality or conditioning children as in the HFLE matter or when it comes to tolerance persons like Dr Wayne West equate it to supporting fisting and felching practices that are in the extreme and done overseas but unethical pinned on us to bolster his anti gay agenda.

Here are some more reactions from the talk show circuit giving us some insight as to how the public is seeing this and believe me the views are so skewed out there.:

Nationwide’s Ron Mason with caller on Buggery & the UN sexual orientation res

Nationwide’s Ron Mason – caller suggests clinic for gays

Nationwide Radio’s Ron Mason w/caller on Gay parenting/UN Yes vote ..

Much to ponder on as a nation

Peace and tolerance

H

UNAIDS Director says the PNP offers hope for the repealing of the buggery law …… but some concerns exist

UNAIDS Regional Director of the support team in the Caribbean Dr Ernest Massiah says the return of the Peoples National Party PNP in Jamaica offers hope that the tide will turn where the repealing of the Buggery Law is concerned this he interprets as a pre-election commitment by the then opposition leader now ruling Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to review the legislation which I still see as a suggestion by her in answering the question posed by Dionne Jackson Miller in the leadership debate in 2011 in the run up to the general election in December last. He spoke at one of the sessions at the AIDS 2012 conference in the US.

He also said the organization had received encouraging feedback from three unnamed Caribbean Prime Ministers in private discussions and that when the time is right Mrs Simpson may be named as one of the three then.

I and some others in the community are unclear as to Mrs Simpson Miller’s answer and her real position (see audio below) as at the leadership debate and subsequent followup comments by her along with press releases from the PNP itself denying it promised to repeal any buggery laws. Have I missed something?

also see my post on December 30, 2011:
PNP Wins …………….Hope for LGBT People ???

here is one of the press releases hinted to above where the PNP had denied allegations from the ruling party then turned opposition now the Jamaica Labour Party JLP as they lost the election:

NO REPEAL OF BUGGERY ACT, SAYS PNP

December 27, 2011: The People’s National Party (PNP) has labeled as deliberate mischief making by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), suggestions that it supports a repealing of the Buggery Act. The PNP says that is not its position.
The PNP says the JLP has been circulating the false assertion about the Party’s position on the matter in a desperate bid to make the matter an issue of contention to gain political advantage.

PNP Campaign Director, Dr. Peter Phillips said at a press conference to wrap up the party’s campaign today that the PNP has no position to repeal the Buggery Act, and that the issue arose out of a question posed to party leader Portia Simpson Miller during the recent national debate with prime minister and JLP leader, Andrew Holness.

“This arose out of a question and there is no position taken by us of a repeal. We recognize that there are some persons, who for their own partisan political reasons, would wish to distort the Party’s position as it relates to the Buggery Act,” Dr. Phillips said.
He adds that the Party Leader has proposed a review of the Act, and not a repeal of it.
“During the review, every Member of Parliament will be required to bring to bear on the discussions, the views and the opinion of his or her constituents. At the end of the review, if a vote is to be taken, the vote will be a conscience vote, which means each Member of Parliament will vote according to the directive of his/ her constituents,” Dr. Phillips says.

This is in keeping with the position taken by the PNP President, who indicated at the national debate that the people of Jamaica should let their voices be heard on the matter through consultations spearheaded by Members of Parliament, so that a Parliamentary debate and vote on the issue would not be confined to the views of Parliamentarians alone, but rather, would be reflective of the views and will of the people in constituencies across the country.
Responding to questions posed by journalists about accusations leveled on the campaign trail by Daryl Vaz that the PNP had received funding from overseas-based gay rights groups, Phillips said such accusations were not true and a “total fabrication” as the party had in no way supported “any gay agenda”.

“This is a total fabrication of Mr. Vaz and his very active imagination and speaks to the desperation in that (the JLP’s) campaign,” said Phillips.
The PNP will end its election campaign today with a tour of western parishes and culminate with a meeting in the South West St. Andrew constituency of Party Leader, Portia Simpson Miller, followed by a gospel concert at the party’s 89 Old Hope Road headquarters.

Executive Director of JFLAG Dane Lewis at the time had said that the Prime Minister missed an opportunity to make a bold declaration on securing rights for all Jamaicans, he continued on a telephone interview that “We’re very encouraged by the bold statement from a Jamaican politician the opposition leader Miss Portia Simpson Miller, I am very disappointed that the Prime Minister with an opportunity to make as bold a statement chose the lower road. It is going to take a conscience vote it’s gonna take the leaders of this country to make some bold steps to recognise the rights of all Jamaicans.” He also said he trusts the sincerity of the opposition leader, he doesn’t think it’s a ploy to win the votes of the gay community days before an election.  He said too that it was not about threats on withholding aid by UK and US governments who have now tied aid to LGBT rights.

Here is the other press release that came on December 21st from the PNP denying they made any promises to repeal Buggery.

PNP HAS GIVEN NO COMMITMENT TO REPEALING THE BUGGERY ACT

Kingston, December 22, 2011: The People’s National Party notes that following Tuesday’s leadership debate, some persons have been suggesting that PNP President Portia Simpson Miller, has given a commitment to “repealing” the Buggery Act. The PNP uses this opportunity to state clearly that Mrs. Simpson Miller gave no such commitment.
The PNP President said it was time that the Act be “reviewed” and all members of the House of Representatives provided with an opportunity to vote on the matter based on their conscience.
It would be expected that in such a vote, Members of Parliament on both sides of the House, would take into consideration the views of their constituents.The PNP President remains committed to her pledge to make appointments to a Cabinet led by her on the basis of competence.

here is New Nation Coalition Founder Betty Ann Blaine questioning the PM’s on buggery earlier this year among other audio including my response as well:

Bear this in mind as well, after digging my archives I found the presentation by Mrs Simpson Miller in 2009 (poor audio though) where she sided wholeheartedly with the then Prime Minster Bruce Golding (his speech linked) on the banning of gay marriage, gay marriage rights by the way was never asked for by the LGBT advocacy structure at that time but it was dishonestly pushed on the agenda during the Charter of Rights debate then as a smoke screen to deny us recognition in the Charter. The clause that had discrimination as an infraction then was also removed from the draft prior to this speech after successful lobbying by none other than the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship with support from none other than reverend Al Miller.

She said on October 20th 2009 – Mr Speaker when we accepted the final report from the joint select committee that were looking at the bill we were completely satisfied with their recommendation of a provision to restrict marriage and like relationships to one man and one woman within Jamaica and that the provision should be specifically spelt out so that there could be no ambiguity ………. yes one man one woman (laughter in the house) and if you are Jamaican and go overseas the same applies ………..

Has Prime Minister Simpson Miller changed her mind or is evolving as President Obama did and is moving towards having the review done and will she get the need support as per conscience vote to make the repeal possible or at best decriminalization from her 59 members of parliament especially folks such as A.J. Nicholson and first time MP Lambert Brown who opposed condoms in prisons saying it was homosexuality being snuck through the back door? Mr. Brown said. “Those who are promoting condoms in prison are using the back door to promote homosexuality which is illegal.”

also see these two posts I had done where another first time MP poured cold water on the buggery review suggestion: PNP’s Damion Crawford on Homosexuality’s legality ………. and
PNP’s Damion Crawford says it’s highly unlikely buggery review will happen …….. it’s not important now he concludes

for your review here is the actual debate video below and her answer to Dionne Jackson Miller also click here to see her blog: http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/jamaica-and-gays-are-we-homophobic-or-not

here is a follow up video from TVJ where Mrs Miller defended her answer in the debate and the JLP’s accusation of the PNP repealing buggery originally aired December 24, 2011:

Who will assist with any backlash that may occur (if any) especially on the ground in terms of violence and frontline activists not to mention persons perceived to be gay who may be targeted?  we must expect anything I say as previous experience has taught us such as the Canadian group EGALE tourism boycott suggestion which led to some resistance and incidents towards LGBT citizens and a spike in the numbers of homo negative episodes, I am not comforted by the revelation by UNAIDS this should have been kept close to their chests and proceed with the talks.

Time Magazine while naming her as one of the 100 most influential for 2011/2 said on their site: “………Portia is promoting full civil rights for gays and lesbians, a courageous move in a country with a violent history of homophobia”

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Just come clean and done nuh and mek we know what is what Portia. I do not see it as a commitment or a promise as others do but instead just her opinion at the time of being questioned and a good political tool at the time to win the election given the lethargy to politics after the drawn out JLP run with the Manatt Dudus commission of enquiry in particular.

Peace and tolerance

H

Church angry, gays happy PNP on collision course with Christians ………………. but some of us are not impressed

THE perennially controversial issue of homosexuality appears to have set the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) on collision course with some sections of the Christian Church.

PNP Leader Portia Simpson Miller shocked the television audience watching her debate with Prime Minister Andrew Holness Tuesday night, with her suggestion that the buggery law should be reviewed and that she was not opposed to having gays in a Cabinet led by her.

“That is very concerning for me [reviewing the buggery law] and I am disappointed that we are still insisting to go back in that direction, because the matter was dealt with in the amended Bill of Rights earlier this year,” said Rev Al Miller, pastor of the Fellowship Tabernacle in Kingston.

Miller said he was equally disappointed with the Opposition Leader’s stance that she had no problem admitting anyone to her Cabinet once they were qualified to carry out their duties.

“I am seriously concerned about that, because it is saying that moral values becomes secondary to ability to perform,” the pastor said, adding: “That kind of approach would be difficult for Christians to support because character and integrity takes precedence over ability.”

Associate pastor of the Tower Hill Missionary Church, Rev Mark Dawes also took offence at Simpson Miller’s stance: “If we remove the buggery law, then we might be opening the floodgate for sexual anarchy,” he cautioned.

He said, however, that he understood her belief that no one should be prevented from being apart of a Cabinet once they were qualified to do so, even if they subscribed to the gay lifestyle.

“If the person is not promoting that lifestyle, then I could grow to be comfortable with them in the Cabinet, but if it is somebody who is championing the lifestyle and advocating for it, then I’ll have a problem,” Dawes said.

In the debate, Simpson Miller said: “We should have a look at the buggery law,” distancing herself from Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding who told a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interviewer he would not allow a homosexual in his Cabinet.

The Seventh-day Adventists also rejected the call to revisit the buggery law, while saying they had no problem with gays in a Cabinet.

“The issue is with reviewing the law, that’s where the church has an issue. Like any other faith-based organisation, we are concerned because it goes against the biblical side of things,” said SDA director of communication, public affairs and religious liberty, Nigel Coke.

But general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, Rev Karl Johnson commended Simpson Miller for tackling the issue head on when asked by a journalist in the debate. Reviewing the law did not necessarily mean that a change would occur, Johnson argued.

“I think it is a commendable thing to always review our laws to see whether they speak to current realities, whether they are still informed by values and norms that we can sustain both as a country and I would say as a religious community,” he said.

President of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, Bishop Rohan Edwards said he believed that a review of the buggery act would not affect the way the church viewed the homosexual lifestyle.

“We don’t have a problem with the revisiting buggery law, but we know the law that we have to answer to which is the word of God. So they have the right to revisit anything they want to,” he said.

For its part, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG) welcomed Simpson Miller’s position. Executive director of the lobby group, Dane Lewis, said: “We are very encouraged by the statement, it was a very bold statement by a political leader knowing the history of statements which our leaders have made and so we look forward to seeing what is to come if they certainly do form the next government.

“It really speaks loudly to a respect for the human rights of all Jamaicans, including those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender,” he noted.

He said he was disappointed with the response given by Holness who was very cautious in his response when he stated that his “sentiment must be the sentiment of the country”.

“We are disappointed that the prime minister, even though he had another opportunity to make certainly a bold statement, he didn’t,” he said. “It is very clear that he is going to pander to the religious community and vaguely step around the issue,” Lewis asserted.

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Church-angry–gays-happy#ixzz1hH2S6qYH

Meanwhile

Dr. Lentworth Anglin, Convenor of the Umbrella Croup of Churches said on CVM News 21.12.11 “We consider homosexuality, lesbianism, same sex marriage to be anti scripture and therefore we oppose that kind of behaviour, we are not necessarily dictating to individuals how they should live, we’re just stating a position, we are not trying to necessarily trying to deprive persons of opportunity for service to the nation but we are just simply presenting our position.”

HERE IS MY TWO CENTS IN AUDIO:  On Buggery & Gays in Cabinets ……… 21.12.11

Also see on sister blog GAY JAMAICA WATCH –

On Buggery and gays in cabinets with politics ………… some responses …………

Peace and tolerance

H

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.

2009, the year that was

2009 is easily one of the most active years in our recent lgbt history, we saw many new developments mostly negative on our scene and an unprecedented public education campaign as it were by the media in both print and audio/visual formats on gay issues thus giving us very high visibility. Homophobic as well as gay on gay violence increased dramatically than previous years and deaths due to both also saw a shocking corresponding increase as well. Most of the more prominent cases that have come to light are still under investigation and as feared may never get solved despite the prominence of some of the victims involved, such is the nature of our police and justice investigatory arms.

The lesbian community specifically saw a continued onslaught of homophobic incidents with the so described and disturbing “Corrective Rape” cases continuing from 2008. We saw allegedly 5 cases in 2008 and a further 4 for 2009 with one couple who had relocated from another parish to restart their lives due to a previous homophobic attack of a different nature falling victims to this awful scourge.

Homophobic and related incidents
Gay persons murdered in 2009 rose to 7 from 4 in 2008 according to my information here with of course the three more prominent cases being that of British Ambassador Mr. John Terry, the founder of the adult entertainment website Rudejam who was found dead in his apartment in December 2009 with several stab wounds and the operator of Café Aubegine who was found with his throat slashed at his Mona address. Arrests have been made by the Police on the first and third cases aforementioned that of Mr. John Terry but the case stalled late in 2009 and should recommence in 2010. The alleged male tenant of the home of the restaurateur was arrested after evidence pointed to him having blood from the deceased on his hands, in his defense he has said he tried to stop the bleeding of the victim after hearing cries for help and arriving in the bedroom to find him on the floor with his throat slashed open, he used his hands to try to slow down the hemorrhaging.
The general public’s belief that the violence meted to gays are done by other gay persons has left an air of sinicism about the cases mentioned above so the interest in having them solved has waned greatly and they are overlooked in a sense by the relevant authorities or the pace has dramatically slowed as other societal issues take precedence.

Community based violence also increased in my estimation just by the reports with the two most prominent being the house attack in South Central Jamaica where a lovers quarrel ended up with a mob called in by one of the persons involved alleging that the other was gay and leaving the victim with bruises all over and the loss of personal items. The other very public gouging of the eye incident that has been followed closely by the mainstream media especially the Jamaica Observer, the accused has since been bailed and the trial continues despite the victim’s call the drop the charges and discontinuing the case which could not be done as the presiding judge explained that seeing a police report was filed and things set in motion that could not be undone. Other small skirmishes occurred but were not of major significance and the entertainment scene saw a leveling off of fights and incidents much to the delight of party goers.

Interventions/agitation
Social support and other similar activities from the sole formal GLTBQ organization JFLAG waned significantly, the usual press release followed major incidents and commentary in the respective print media however many persons specifically the homeless MSM problem which came to a head in 2008 – 9 left an ugly scar on the landscape with controversy surrounding the snap resignation of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life’s Executive Director due to a housing project meltdown and the decision by the NGO’s board to discontinue the activities with this group which included a safe house of sorts operated on the property. (See post following this) It is not yet clear as to JFLAG’s position on this issue as they have been mum as expected on the matter.
There seems to be a fear that issues must be kept secret from the rest of the community on general matters of interest. The ED of JASL at the time of this post was said to be travelling and could not be reached for comment. The homeless MSM saga became a sticky issue due to the lack of funds as said by JFLAG to adequately address the persons who fall in this category, it was the ED’s involvement in this matter that saw an upturn in the HIV/AIDS, behavior change intervention within the community and the impact was felt island wide however many are doubtful now and upset at the turn of events with mistrust re-emerging in as far as accessing testing/treatment services. This sensitive matter is being watched closely by ordinary gays on the ground as well as others in international circles including funders and concerned Jamaicans living abroad. Questions are being raised as to why it took JASL to do that kind of activity and not JFLAG fully?

Jamaican dancehall artists came under intense pressure and scrutiny from overseas GLBTQ groups specifically in the EU and the United States with emphasis under the Stop Murder Music campaign and similar typed activism. Many artists were blocked from entering countries and cities like Canada, The US (San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles), Luxemburg, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad, and Copenhagen to name a few. Mr. Mark Myrie aka Buju Banton of course made headlines from as early as June 2008 when his CD launch and subsequent tour dates were announced. He faced protests and a hazing incident at one of his concerts in Los Angeles over his lyrics in the song “Boom Bye Bye” (Inna Battyboi head) that advocated death by shooting etc on gay men. He eventually met with a group in San Francisco to work out a supposed compromise which turned out to be a public relations stunt to avoid further cancellations of his tour dates in the US which was bleeding millions of dollars. The lack of support from other dancehall acts openly was telling as it seems many were afraid of the impact it may have had on their careers and earnings from tours and CD sales if a backlash should occur.

The lack of support from the Jamaican GLTBQ community was also telling as the cancel Buju Banton website formed by a key player in the campaign has brought to bear that very few Jamaicans registered to be a part of the agitation from our supporters up north.

His subsequent arrest by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in December on alleged cocaine trafficking charges in Florida was linked by some as a “set up” by the powerful gay lobby who are using the issue to destroy his career. As it has now turned out both issues are unrelated and public support which was strong for him at first has down died down tremendously. JFLAG had tried to diffuse the rumour mill by publishing a letter to the Jamaica Observer and radio interviews on same.

Asylum seekers and professionals left in greater numbers in 2009 that probably any other time in our recent history as persons were distraught by the conditions they had to endure from bias to fear of violence in their communities. Others left because of economic reasons to pursue better opportunities in work and study. JFLAG and Women for Women lost its Co-chair and Chair respectively (one individual) in this grouping as well. Many took the opportunity to use the favourable asylum policies of some EU states in as far as homophobic threat was concerned and have been assimilating in the respective countries. It is hoped that links can be forged with those abroad to better agitate for rights based issues here at home and their financial support would be indeed welcomed. In trying to track the numbers it is estimated that more than 23 persons have taken the move some reluctantly as the possibility of return is not anytime soon, it is not yet known if JFLAG has a head count for this year or if they have been tracking it closely as some persons access them for information of the procedures necessary.

Legal Issues
As it relates to law we saw the passing of the revised Sexual Offences Bill with the deliberate exclusion of gender and sexual orientation discrimination clauses removed after vigorous debate and lobby from the anti gay establishment chief among them Lawyers Christian Fellowship/Council led by chief homophobe Atty-at-Law Ms Shirley Richards.
There were no submissions from the gay lobby during this crucial debate along with the Charter of Rights roster as well. The government capitulated to this move by the group in a bid to sure up political mileage and pushed the well timed “No to Gay Marriage” smoke screen launched by Prime Minister Golding just before the US President Obama signed their version of the Act to make it a federal offence for crimes against persons due to sexual orientation and gender discrimination playing with public sentiments on homosexuality in general. The gay community in Jamaica never asked for gay marriage rights during the Charter’s or SOB debates. It seemed to have worked as we have been overlooked in both pieces of legislation.

The Charter of Rights in the meantime was passed in the upper house and has been sent back to the lower house for ratification within some days time (normally 60 days or so) it should be debated there again possibly gazzetted and sent back to the upper house for final passage. Sadly very little was done in the community to sensitize persons on the importance of such a Charter and the possible implications it may have on the Buggery Act and specifically male homosexual sex in general. The government is intent it seems on a theocracy becoming moral dictators for private citizens’ decisions.

Media landscape
Nearly all mediums of media had a thing or two to say or publish in 2009 on GLBTQ issues but in fairness most of the publications were fair and some even went as far as to examine Jamaica’s homophobic problem, strong articles by commentators such as Ian Boyne, John Maxwell and Martin Henry were crucial in that examination.
The juxtaposing of religion, sexuality and gender issues were refreshingly good to see coming from the aforementioned as prior t recent times their writings were somewhat of a biased nature. What was clearly lacking was the standpoint of the gay community on a whole and this is where JFLAG has been faulted for not adequately having a pubic presence except for the occasional letter to the editor and second hand reporting by journalists on conversations held with persons within the group, they came for heavy criticism yet again by the community for the poor editorial condition of their website and seeming lack of engagement with the GLBTQ community. Although there were negative letters, articles and editorials as well in some print media and gossip tabloids (notably the Xnews and Observer Chat) the strong articles helped to bring balance to the scene and the editors of the respective papers and news rooms clearly are realizing that people can’t be led anymore and that the issues are being looked at with more scrutiny. There is still more interest that needs to come from the gay community.

JLFAG presence on radio was light in 2009 in discussing issues such as the Buju Banton arrest in December, the John Terry murder case and the San Francisco protest of Buju Banton’s album tour.

One ugly media moment was the now infamous Raggashanti interview of an alleged drag queen who was arrested by Police in Central Jamaica after herself and a man were caught in a compromising position in a car in a public place. The police soon realized he was a cross dresser and the story made headlines. The Observer Chat carried a full photo of the assumed cross dresser and insinuated that the members of the Police were allegedly courting her for sexual favours. The exchange was irritating for some and many were very upset at the Chat’s article which named JFLAG in an alleged telephone interview saying that she was OK and never suffered any harm following the media’s interest in the story and the television footage. The mother paper to the Chat, The Jamaica Observer was however irresponsible in it’s handling of this story and published full face photos of the cross dresser.
Transgenderism was highlighted in a piece in the Jamaica Observer and its impact from dancehall culture, media in general has been slowly playing catch up on this issue as the public’s understanding and that of the gay community’s tolerance is still far behind.

Outlook and possible hot beds for 2010
All in all 2010 is already a dramatic year generally for our nation with the present economic woes facing us and the fledgling IMF deal the administration is trying to pin down with a letter of intent. The john Terry, Rudejam Founder and Restaurateur murders are to be watched closely this year as the respective trials and investigations proceed.
The Homeless MSM situation at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and its outcome are also of concern. It is hoped that there will be some compromise reached between the Board and the Executive Director who has tendered her resignation or maybe a new organization formed to deal with the issue of these men who clearly need all the support possible at this time. She is known to have powerful connections to funders having herself worked with major agencies in her tenure elsewhere, details of these possible new initiatives are being held close to the chests of those involved but if it comes to fruition let us hope that it may serve the men in the group for their development.
The intervention strategies by JFLAG, The Ministry of Health in as far as HIV/AIDS and social support are to be watched too as some funding should be available for this year for them.
Transgender interventions and initiatives are expected and more informative activities such as workshops and seminars are urgently required to bring into focus the widely misunderstood group.

If anything was left out let me know please and thanks.

Here is wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and thanks for your continued support, comments and suggestions. Please keep on supporting this blog and other similar typed initiatives.

Peace & Tolerance
H

Sexual Offences Bill 2009 (Excerpts from the final bill)

As it relates to anal intercourse or buggery I have found some of the relevant clauses to that effect. Please bear in mind I am not legally trained or do not seek to imply same, this is just my layman’s two cents on the bill as I understand it.

Please see the full 40 paged PDF document for your perusal. Download here

AN ACT to Repeal the Incest (Punishment) Act and certain provisions ofthe Offences Against the Person Act; to make new provision for the prosecution ofrape and other sexual offences; to provide for the establishment of a Sex Offender Registry; and for connected matters

PART II. Rape, Grievous Sexual Assault and Marital Rape
3. -(1) A man commits the offence of rape if he has sexual Rape. intercourse with a woman
(a) without the woman’s consent; and
(b) knowing that the woman does not consent to sexual intercourse or recklessly not caring whether the woman consents or not.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), consent shall not be treated as existing where the apparent agreement to sexual intercourse is
(a) extorted by physical assault or threats or fear of physical assault to the complainant or to a third person; or
(b) obtained by false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the identity of the offender.
4.-(1) A person (hereinafter called “the offender”) commits the Grievous
sexual offence of grievous sexual assault’ upon another (hereinafter called assault.
the “victim”) where, in the circumstances specified in subsection (3), the offender
(a) penetrates the vagina or anus of the victim with-
(i) a body part other than the penis of the offender; or
(Ii) an object manipulated by the offender;
4
(b) causes another person to penetrate the vagina or anus of the victim by
(i) a body part other than the penis of that other person; or
(ii) an object manipulated by that other person;
(c) places his penis into the mouth ofthe victim;
(d) causes another person to place his penis into the mouth of the victim;
(e) places his or her mouth onto the vagina, vulva, penis or anus of the victim; or
(t) causes another person to place his or her mouth onto the vagina, vulva, penis or anus of the victim.
(2) Subsection (l)(a) and (b) do not apply to penetration carried out in the course ofa search authorized by law or for bonafide medical purposes.
(3) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1) are that any of the acts specified in paragraphs (a) to (t) ofthat subsection is
(a) carried out
(i) without the consent ofthe victim; and (it) knowing that the victim does not consent to the act or recklessly not caring whether the victim consents or not; or
(b) carried out upon a victim under the age of sixteen years.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), consent shall not be treated as existing where the apparent consent to the act is
(a) extorted by physical assault or threats or fear of physical assault to the victim or to a third person; or
(b) obtained by false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the identity of the offender:

This section seems to be the only section that speaks to anal intercourse directly whether by consent or not, interestingly it falls under this section. So it seems to me if one person fully consents to have sex with me and we decide to conduct oral sex or with an object such as a dildo (which by the way are readily available at sex shops across the island) as adults I may be in breach, then in the Charter of Rights which affords the right to privacy seems threatened here. Why guarantee that right and then challenge it with a piece of legislation that impedes on that right so profoundly?

Is lesbian sex also impacted here as many lesbians use sex toys and specially made impliments for penetrative activity by women who have sex with women, notably “strap on” toys.

So consent is overlooked as we saw during the debate itself from the presentations.

Sexual intercourse is described as acts between a man and a woman, yet assumed acts of buggery within a heterosexual union is captured here as an offence which is already assumed/captured in the Buggery law as it is gender neutral. Male homosexual penetrative sex had been skirted around from early in the debate (click labels below this post to see the debate tracking).

Remember to track previous posts on the Sexual Offences Bill please LABELS see the below this post, just click it will take you to all associated posts.

Just my two cents
H

What if Semenya were a Jamaican?

Peta-Ann Baker
Would Jamaica have added an eighth gold medal to its haul at the recently concluded World Athletics Championships if Caster Semenya had been a Jamaican? Semenya’s victory in the Women’s 800 metres was called into question because the athletic authorities had requested (demanded?) that she undergo testing to determine her sex.

For many people, the conclusions that they had drawn based on her physical appearance were confirmed by news reports that her body is producing three times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. Semenya is a man!

Here in Jamaica the cartoonists, commentators and talk show hosts have been having a field day. One cartoonist caricatured her name – Si-man-ya! A commentator admits that she might be a woman, but not one that he would take out on a date. (The arrogance of his assumption that she would want to go anywhere with him escapes him of course.) A talk show host shows off his knowledge of Latin to suggest that there might be a subliminal message about her sex in her name: Semen-ya = semen = male.

Given the dominance of conservative religious ideas in Jamaica at the present time, it could be something of a challenge to find people willing to discuss much less accept the idea that defining one’s sex is not a simple matter. But an even cursory investigation produces credible information that many societies have long recognised that the binary definition is not appropriate. As Dr S. F. Ahmed, a consultant in paediatric endocrinology at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Scotland, states, “It is one thing to have a vulva, vagina, clitoris, breasts, ovaries, but it may be quite another thing being female, feminine, or a woman.” It seems that we have to acknowledge that there is a continuum of embodiment, and while the majority may tend more to one end or the other, there are those who occupy spaces closer to the middle.

AMBIGUOUS SEX

Scholars have identified early creation myths in which a person with neither male nor female sex was created to “serve the King”. Ancient Asian and Latin American societies have deities that have both or neither sets of genitalia. Some theologians have suggested that the Ethiopian eunuch whom Phillip encountered was not a man who had been castrated (the common definition of eunuch), but was instead a member of this “third sex”. The existence of intersex and transsexual persons in eastern Africa including southern Ethiopia has been documented.

But persons of ambiguous sex are not just the subject of myth or scriptural exegesis. In recent times, occupants of this space between male and female have been identified in countries as diverse as India which has millions of such persons called the Hijra; in Samoa where the Fa’afafine (featured in a recent BBC documentary) seemingly male children are raised as females and perform domestic roles in the family. Here in the Caribbean, there are the Guevedoche of the Dominican Republic. These persons appear female at birth, but with the onset of puberty develop male organs. Many continue to identify as female.

What we do not realise is that every year intersex children are born here in Jamaica. What we also do not sufficiently appreciate is that being intersex is only one of several distinctions that exist in the fields of sex, gender and sexual orientation, that these three are separate constructs and that science cannot definitively say what makes us ‘male’ or ‘female’, nor what determines same or other sex attraction.

If the ambiguity is evident at birth or in early childhood, surgery and possibly hormone therapy are routinely provided. If the ambiguity emerges later in life, such as happens in the Dominican Republic similar actions might be taken. Some girls having undergone surgery go on to form heterosexual relationships and bear children. But reports from other countries indicate that the result of sexual assignment surgery is not always positive. In some instances the child comes to adulthood with a different gender identity to that assigned by doctors (who intervened based on what they found to be the dominant characteristics). It is not easy to undo that which has been done in early childhood, especially if male genitalia have been removed. Interestingly, it seems as if the female is the “default” version for all of us; male characteristics only emerge several weeks into the development of the foetus.

Perhaps even more painful is the experience of those children who are born with these characteristics who are locked away at home because of their parents’ shame, fear or desire to protect them from the prying eyes of a gossipy and superstitious community. A lack of understanding makes them objects of derision when they emerge in public. Some play on the public’s voyeuristic tendencies and earn a living by exhibiting themselves.

DECISION-MAKING

What is sure is that there are very few persons in Jamaica competent to provide information and advice to parents and young persons facing these issues. The ethical question of the child’s right to participate in decision-making about such a life changing matter – which implies at least delaying surgery, does not appear to have become part of the discourse even among this small group of professionals, and the early surgical intervention approach seems to predominate.

I wonder if Senator Hyacinth Bennett was aware of any of this when she demanded that the new Sexual Offences Bill give no protection from rape and any other form of sexual assault to persons who have had sex-change operations. One would have expected an educator to demonstrate some minimal understanding of the complexity of the issues of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Even if we disapprove of a particular set of sexual behaviours, those who occupy positions of leadership need to be careful that these opinions do not result in a failure to ensure that we act on the basis of factual information rather than on the basis of prejudice or belief.

This is particularly important in light of the fact that those who for whatever reason appear to be other than ‘normal’ are among the ones most likely to be subject to violence, including sexual violence.

Given the foregoing, it is unlikely that if Caster Semenya were Jamaican, we would have added an eighth gold medal to our tally. The news reports state that her parents affirm that she was raised as a girl although she was always considered a ‘tomboy’. Can you imagine a similar Jamaican child’s parents being willing to be interviewed in the national and international press? Even if they were not ashamed of their child, they would be fearful of the backlash from their community and would therefore remain silent.

SEX VERIFICATION

It will be interesting to see what happens if the authorities determine that Semenya is in fact more male than female, and that this is due to no conscious action on her part or on the part of those associated with her athletic career. Producing more testosterone than usual for a woman is not a definitive sign of masculinity by the way, since it is possible for the body to produce this hormone but not be able to use it. The International Association of Athletics Federations had abandoned the wholesale use of sex verification tests in 1991 because it realised that they were not completely reliable.

A recent edition of Sports Illustrated on-line reports that in a similar case an athlete who had lived her life as a woman, but who was stripped of the medal she won at the 2006 Asian games, tried to commit suicide.

In the meantime, rather than going home in shame, as would probably have been the case were she Jamaican, Caster Semenya returned to the warm embrace of family, village and nation. What she does from here on remains to be seen.

All this should not be surprising since South Africa is the first country in the world to provide constitutional protection from discrimination for persons of different sexual orientations and is reported to be willing to grant asylum to persons who fear persecution on the grounds of sex, gender or sexual orientation. Gender reassignment surgery is available and openly performed, and people are able to change their personal documents, e.g., passports, to reflect a change in sex. While community attitudes are not always approving, South African legislators had the moral courage to recognise the legitimate rights of all its citizens.

Peta-Anne Baker is the co-ordinator of the Social Work Programme at the University of the West Indies, Mona. pab.ja2009@gmail.com.

Predator Paedophiles (Guyanese Editorial)


(In relation to their sexual offences bill debate)

There are reports that a 35-year-old man from West Berbice has been charged with raping and sodomising a nine-year old girl. It is alleged that the man was on bail for raping another 10-year-old girl and had also committed the act on many other girls of the same age group, with several of those incidents being settled out of court. The pattern of behaviour of the alleged perpetrator fits the classic profile of a “paedophile”.While the meaning of the term is “one who loves children” the behaviour is hardly as benign as it sounds, since the typical paedophile is totally obsessed with having sex with the juveniles – boys as well as girls. Even though we have been inundated over the last few years with reports of this bestial behaviour, we are only glimpsing the tip of the iceberg. Studies in the US show that for every instance where the paedophile is apprehended for raping a child, there are at least a hundred acts that did not surface or were hushed up.

From anecdotal evidence of adults recollecting their past, the reality for the Guyanese is no different.Paedophiles can be found in every demographic category: old, young, educated, uneducated, professional, non-professionals – and of all races, colours and creeds. Typically, however, the paedophile is male, single, seemingly fascinated with children – especially around puberty and targets shy, handicapped, and withdrawn children, or those who come from troubled homes. They work to master their manipulative skills and often unleash them on troubled children by first becoming their friend, building the child’s self-esteem.While the new sexual offences bill before Parliament addresses some of the issues emanating from paedophilic behaviour they do so in a generalised fashion. We believe that the matter is serious enough to warrant specific legislation.

Take the issue of bail: the above cited instance of an alleged paedophile committing sexual offences while out on bail is not the exception – it is rather the norm. This circumstance raises the larger issue of exactly how society is to deal with a crime that incarceration appears to have no effect in diminishing.
Because of the deep-seated nature of the paedophilic imperative, some in the medical community have begun to view paedophilia as a disease rather than a crime. They have amassed evidence that at least some violent and antisocial behaviour have genetic links and signposts, but have been unable to isolate a biological cause for paedophilia. In our view, it is a mistake to label a behaviour—even a behaviour with some biological and genetic determinants—a “disease” because it ultimately means abandoning the concept of volition altogether. To do so would place us on a very slippery slope – for if there is no volition where is the crime?

The repercussion from the activities of paedophiles reverberate so widely (as was explained above) that we need to even revisit the putative benefits of incarcerating the offender after conviction. In the developed countries, lifetime recidivism rates show that “rehabilitation” alone in jails have not been very effective for sex offenders, and we know that deterrence is unlikely when most offenders are able to “get away with” multiple acts before apprehension. Now it would not be practical from an economic standpoint to keep all convicted paedophiles locked up for life: the only treatment that works and is feasible is castration of male offenders.
While it may sound harsh, in an effort to stop male paedophiles, male child molesters have the option of being chemically castrated in several states in the US. “Chemical castration” is a term used to describe treatment with a drug called Depo-Provera – a common birth control pill for women – that, when given to men, acts on the brain to inhibit hormones that stimulate the testicles to produce testosterone. The only drawback is that the drug had to be administered monthly and may be counteracted. In Guyana, with so many of our beautiful children being exposed to these deviants, we propose that the procedure must be made mandatory on convicted paedophiles.

Sexual Offences Bill (Trinidad)

Thanks to gspottt for this, we can compare notes. Please see older posts on our recently passed joke of a bill and also Scottland’s Revised Bill as well.

Under Trinidad & Tobago’s Sexual Offences Act, anal intercourse between a man and a man or a man and a woman who are both adults, whether consensual or not, is punishable by 25 years in jail.
The Immigration Act prohibits entry of prostitutes, homosexuals, persons living on their earnings, persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes, and “persons who are reasonably suspected of attempting to bring into Trinidad and Tobago or of procuring prostitutes or other persons for the purpose of prostitution or homosexual or other immoral purposes”. This exclusion does not apply to citizens and residents.
All non-heterosexual sex is criminalized under the Sexual Offences Act. Pleasurable use of the genitals is punishable as “serious indecency”, worth five years in jail, except if it’s done between a man and a woman, both over 16, in private (or between a husband and wife, e.g., if she’s under 16 under the Hindu or Muslim marriage laws).

Sexual Offences Act
Chapter 11:28
Act 27 of 1986
Amended by20 of 1994
31 of 2000

13. (1) A person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment—
(a) if committed by an adult on a minor, for life;
(b) if committed by an adult on another adult, for twenty-five years;
(c) if committed by a minor, for five years.
(2) In this section “buggery” means sexual inter­course per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person.

16. (1) A person who commits an act of serious indecency on or towards another is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment—
(a) if committed on or towards a minor under sixteen years of age for ten years for a first offence and to imprisonment for fifteen years for a subsequent offence;
(b) if committed on or towards a person sixteen years of age or more for five years.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an act of serious indecency committed in private between—
(a) a husband and his wife; or
(b) a male person and a female person each of whom is sixteen years of age or more, both of whom consent to the commission of the act.

(3) An act of “serious indecency” is an act, other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.

THE FULL ACT HERE

Lata

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Women’s groups react to Senate passing Sexual Offences Bill

THE landmark Sexual Offences Bill, which reforms and amalgamates various laws relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences, was finally passed by the Senate last Friday.

WEBSTER… [the Bill] has been a long time coming

The Bill will repeal the Incest (Punishment) Act, as well as several provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act. It also provides for the establishment of a Sex Offenders Registry, which will maintain a register of sex offenders.

It was passed in the House of Representatives on March 31, tabled in the Senate in April and the debate started in May. However, over a lengthy process in the Senate, 28 amendments were made before the Bill was passed.

These amendments cover a number of crucial provisions, including: violation of persons suffering from mental disorders; procuring violations by threats, fraud or administering drugs; abduction of children to have sexual intercourse; unlawful detention to have sexual intercourse; living on earnings from prostitution; and protecting the anonymity of complainants and witnesses.

VASSELL… when women’s rights are advanced, it provides a wake-up call to men
The Bill also provides a statutory definition of rape, as well as provisions relating to marital rape, specifying the circumstances in which such rape may be committed.

It was piloted through the Senate by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, who is also the leader of Government business.

Lightbourne noted that the Bill was examined rigorously by the Senate and that the members had, in large part, made useful comments on the provisions.

HERON… there are still a few provisions that could have been less restrictive
Senator Navel Clarke who spoke on behalf of the Opposition members, welcomed its passage. He described the Bill as being “in the interest of the people”, and expressed the hope that the Senate will continue in that direction.
– JIS

Gender experts weigh in

EXECUTIVE Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs (BWA), Faith Webster, said the Bill would go a far way in protecting the women in society who are often times victimised.

“It has been a long time in coming, but we have reached there; and I think now in Jamaica we are even ahead of some of our other Caribbean counterparts. They have been watching closely too and commending us to know that we have reached this stage now, and now we are looking forward to the drafting now, and the finalisation of this Bill, so that it can be implemented,” she said.

She said she was especially pleased with the fact that consultations had taken place on all levels before the bill was passed and that parliamentarians were able to work with other stakeholders to ensure that it was okay.

“I was heartened to see the level of discussions, and the dialogue also that took place even at the parliamentary levels. That showed that there was keen interest in what was happening,” she said.

She said while there were reservations on some aspect of the bill, it was able to capture most of the essential issues that Jamaican’s had to grapple with.

“I can’t say that any piece of legislation is ever fool-proof or perfect and the laws to me are not static. This is why we have a mandate as a country at large to constantly review and to assess, and to analyse and to see what’s happening in the law, what’s happening in the courts with the piece of legislation, to ensure that if it is not working as it should, what it is that we need to amend,” she said.

Former president of Woman Inc and attorney-at-law Dundeen Ferguson, said she was especially pleased with the fact that the Bill dealt with the issue of marital rape, which has been a major concern for persons who worked in gender-related fields.

“In terms of our working with women and the increases in sexual assault against young girls and women who are being abused by their husbands, I think the legislation would work very well,” she said.

“We are very happy that it’s now coming into law. When you talk about almost 15 years of advocating for amendments to the Incest Punishment Act and amendments to various sections of the Offences against the Persons Act, looking at the central issues regarding women and sexual offences, we are very happy that it has passed,” she said of the bill.

Director of the “men’s desk” at the BWA, Dave Williams, said he too was in support of the Bill.

“Anything that protects the rights of women, we feel that it is a victory for men as well, because we believe in gender equality, and so if it protects one, then it will protect all. Anything that empowers women, we are happy for that and we welcome that,” he said.

Meanwhile, women’s activist and chairperson of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC), Linnette Vassell believes the legislation was gender neutral. Furthermore, she noted that, “When women’s rights are advanced, it provides a wake-up call to men on a whole to allow them to know about what is permissible within the law.

“It is a family law and healthy families mean healthier communities and nations on a whole,” she said.

Other reactions

“FINALLY! There are still a few provisions that could have been less restrictive/more liberal but perhaps on a next round when can expect (more) enlightenment. Big up to the Bureau, the women’s NGOs, the concerned ministries and individuals who really pushed this through from start to finish.
Now for implementation and monitoring – and training of course – so the work will continue.”

– Taitu Heron, manager, Social Development & Gender Unit, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ)

“Aaaaat laaaast! We have come a long way. Congrats are in order for all who truly hold on to the dream, that one day we will reach the mountain top.”
– Lana Finikin, SISTREN Theatre Collective

“Remember that several amendments were made to the Bill by the Senate which now need to be studied carefully. These amendments also mean that the Bill goes back to the House for approval before it is law, therefore the celebrations may be a little too soon.”
– Nancy Anderson, IJCHR