From 8:00 to 8:45 a.m. on Friday April 8, 2011, a group of Jamaicans stood near the entrance of Devon House in Kingston to condemn the exclusion of sexual orientation from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the re-saving of the country’s anti-buggery law.
Noted Jamaican Queen’s Counsel, Lord Anthony Gifford, stated that the views expressed by some that a Charter should only reflect the majority opinion on human rights could have been used to justify the Nazi holocaust. Agreeing with Lord Gifford, Arlene Harrison-Henry, former President of the Jamaica Bar Association said that the role of a Charter is to provide protection for marginalized groups in a society, such as Jamaican gays. Holding a placard with the slogan ‘Golding, Charter is homophobic’ radio talk-show host, Lloyd D’Aguilar argued that the Charter undermines the already fragile civil liberties of the country’s vulnerable homosexual population.
Jamaica’s 147 year old anti-buggery legislation is futile and dangerous as it has failed to prevent private consenting male same-sex activity and instead provides legal justification for the often violent abuse and extortion of gays. Furthermore, the 2009 UNAIDS report highlighted that the law contributes to Jamaica’s HIV epidemic by driving gays underground, making it difficult to reach them with effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions.
by Maurice Tomlinson, Legal Advisor, Marginalized Groups, AIDS-Free World.