Jamaican gays seek to overturn colonial laws

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J Flag the symbol of the LGBT organisation in Jamaica

Two gay men in Jamaica are seeking to overturn the country’s 1864 Offences Against the Person Act (based on the 1861 Westminster Act). It is clauses 76,77 and 78 (renumbered from 61 in the UK Act) that are the ones that they are looking to get repealed.

76 Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal, shall be liable, at the Discretion of the Court, to be kept in Penal Servitude for Life or for any Term not less than Ten Years.

77 Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable Crime, or shall be guilty of any Assault with Intent to commit the same, or of any indecent Assault upon any Male Person, shall be guilty of a Misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the Discretion of the Court, to be kept in Penal Servitude for any Term not exceeding Ten Years and not less than Three Years, or to be imprisoned for any Term not exceeding Two Years, with or without Hard Labour.

78 Whenever, upon the Trial for any Offence punishable under this Act, it may be necessary to prove carnal Knowledge, it shall not be necessary to prove the actual Emission of Seed in order to constitute a carnal Knowledge, but the carnal Knowledge shall be deemed complete upon Proof of Penetration only.

Of course these are these laws, as later amended by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, under which Oscar Wilde was tried and sentenced in 1895. But which were repealed in England and Wales in 1967 some five years after Jamaica gained its independence (as is also the case in a lot of the other Commonwealth nations.

They are taking their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, similar to the European Court of Human Rights. But As Jamaica is not a full member any ruling that the men achieve there would only be in an advisory capacity. However, they are citing the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Jamaica are a signatory which protects private adult, consensual sexual activity.

It is a bid to overturn the law set by the colonial overlords in Victorian times which even the old heart of empire have since overturned, though not before granting independence to so many of the nations that it imposed these rules upon. The current Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has condemned discrimination but as yet has done nothing to overturn these homophobic laws, that are over 150 years old in origin.

This act is also the one that also still leads to abortion being illegal in many parts of the Commonwealth.

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