Laws must be amended to protect rights of all people
THE EDITOR, Madam
I write in response to the letter published in The Gleaner on Tuesday, July 13, titled ‘Why should be change our law?’ The letter writer suggested that foreigners want Caribbean countries to change their laws to suit them. However, this is not the case.
In Jamaica, the retention of Section 76 to 79 of the Offences Against the Person Act, commonly referred to as the buggery law, not only infringes upon LGBT people’s right to privacy and equality, but has implications for how boys, girls, men and women are treated under the law.
Under the Sexual Offences Act, rape is defined as an instance where a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, or knowing that the woman does not consent or recklessly not caring whether the woman consents or not.
By this definition, only women and girls can be victims of rape, which carries a higher sentence, meanwhile men and boys can only be buggered, which carries a lower sentence. This also applies in the event that a girl or woman is buggered.
Take for example, the recent case involving a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly buggered by five persons in St Ann, reported by this very paper on May 1. If the five suspects are found guilty of buggery, then each of them face a maximum sentence of 10 years. However, based on our Supreme Court sentencing guidelines, the usual range is two to seven years imprisonment. If buggery was considered rape in this instance, then these suspects would face a statutory minimum of 15 years, with the normal range being 15 to 25 years.
The retention of laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy in the Caribbean are problematic not only for foreigners, but also for LGBT people living in Jamaica as they form the basis for continued stigma, discrimination and violence against them.
These laws that continue to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against the LGBT community must be repealed to create a Jamaican society that respects and protects the rights of everyone.
Policy and Advocacy Manager
Equality For All Foundation Jamaica Limited