Tuesday, June 11, 2013

JFLAG Position Statement on Upcoming Conscience Vote on Jamaica’s Buggery Law

(photo scanned from an article in print in 2012)

J-FLAG welcomes the government’s announcement that a conscience vote will be scheduled for the promised review of the buggery law. This commitment was one of the major contributions of the current Prime Minister in the lead up to the 2011 General Elections and was a bold and decisive political move that we laud the Prime Minister for making.

Sections 76, 77 & 79 of the Offences Against the Persons Act of 1864, collectively referred to as ‘the buggery law’, criminalize “the abominable crime of buggery” (defined as anal sex with any person or animal) and “gross indecency” (intimacy) between men. We submit that these catch-all definitions are inappropriate since they criminalize the sexual relationships of consenting adults in private and possibly violate the constitutional right to privacy of the home.

J-FLAG’s position on the buggery law has evolved over the years. Our appeals for the definition of rape in the Sexual Offences Act to be gender, orifice, and object neutral have been met with resistance, and therefore in the interest of protecting the most vulnerable Jamaicans we are not agitating for a repeal of the buggery law. Instead, we are requesting an amendment to the law to differentiate between consensual and non-consensual anal penetration.

As our parliamentarians engage in this review process, we urge them to consider the following:

1. We suggest that Section 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act read: “Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed with any person without consent, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for a term not exceeding ten years.” – This amendment will serve to decriminalize the intimate acts of consenting adults in private and to affirm the Prime Minister’s position that she is not interested in “prying into the private business of anyone”.

2. We believe that bestiality should be a separate offence as is the case in Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago which have similar buggery prohibitions. The conflation of buggery and bestiality is problematic and inappropriate because it isan affront to the human dignity of consenting adults who should be free to engage in acts of private sexual intimacy.

3. We ask that Parliamentarians clarify the definition of an “act of gross indecency” pursuant to Section 79 of theOffences Against the Person Act and kindly request that this section be brought into alignment with the proposed ethos of no longer criminalizing consensual same-sex intimacy in private.

To reiterate, J-FLAG wishes for legislators to understand that we are calling for a reading-down of the buggery law to de-criminalize the acts of consenting adults in private, NOT the repeal of the law itself.

We are open and available to assist our parliamentarians with information to act in good faith in their review of the relevant sections of the statue and anticipate a rational debate that recognizes the rights and honours the inherent dignity of every Jamaican citizen.

also see: Buggery law conscience vote for parliament soon ...

Read this document on Strengthening the Charter of Rights


On June 25, the Supreme Court will decide whether to proceed with a constitutional challenge by a gay man to the colonial-era buggery law. Here are the key facts in the case of Javed Jaghai v The Attorney General of Jamaica.


June 20, 2013 | Kingston, Jamaica

In recent weeks there has been a spate of negative coverage in the press concerning the Jamaican Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. This type of coverage has in several instances reinforced negative stereotypes about gay identity, and used pejorative and incendiary language to sensationalize otherwise innocuous stories.

With reference to a report published in the Jamaica Observer of June 20 under the headline “Gays promise ’hell and powder house’ Sunday”, the author revealed that the source of his/her information was an email sent to the newspaper by “an apparent homosexual group”. For the editorial team to feel it was reasonable to treat this email from an unknown source with the level of significance it has given it is irresponsible. For them to go further and to publish these details in an already tense social environment under a sensationalist headline is reckless and unethical. As in previous interventions with the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), J-FLAG urges all media practitioners to follow ethical standards in the pursuit of their noble profession.

J-FLAG supports the democratic right of church groups to peaceful assembly and the exercise of their freedom of speech, and religion. Indeed, we celebrate this freedom; however we urge that the rights and freedoms of LGBT Jamaicans be similarly recognized by all citizens.
We reserve the right to disagree, both publicly and privately, with what we perceive as concerted efforts to limit the quality of citizenship of sexual and gender minorities in Jamaica.

J-FLAG, in its capacity as representative for a vibrant community of Jamaican citizens of diverse sexual and gender identities, is willing to work with all stakeholders in the media to ensure balanced and fair reporting of issues affecting the LGBT community and the interest of the broader public.

An interview on Nationwide Radio 


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