Parliamentary committee recommends legislation criminalising wilfull HIV infection
KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – People who knowingly infect others with HIV could face criminal prosecution if the government accepts the recommendations of a parliamentary committee established to review several pieces of legislation including the Sexual Offences Act and Offences Against The Person Act.
The Joint Select Committee, chaired by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, acknowledged that there was a deficiency in the law in relation to the deliberate spreading of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
It noted that while such an offence exists in other jurisdictions, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, the Offences Against the Person Act should be amended to make it a criminal offence for someone to wilfully or recklessly infect a partner with a sexually transmissible disease which can inflict serious bodily harm.
But, the parliamentary committee has decided against making any recommendations to change the laws relating to forced anal sex and incest for fear of inadvertently overturning legislation outlawing buggery.
The committee discussed the possibility that forced intercourse with a woman could attract penalties as harsh as a life sentence, while forced anal penetration was not treated with the same level of gravity under Jamaican laws.
The recommendations made were for the penalties to be the same as forced penetration of the anus given that the committee felt it was just as traumatic as forced vaginal penetration.
However, the committee decided against expanding the definition of rape to reflect this.
The committee also contemplated whether forced anal penetration should be treated as an element of grievous sexual assault, which would be punishable by life imprisonment.
But, the committee decided not to make a recommendation on the issue because it was advised that any attempt to differentiate between forced anal sex and consensual anal sex could be seen as an amendment to the laws relating to buggery.
The committee was of the opinion that the changes could result in the buggery laws losing the protection of the Savings Law Clause, which maintains pre-independence laws – this would mean the buggery laws would be open to challenge in court.
The parliamentary committee also made no changes in relation to incest involving males for the same reason and recommended that the laws relating to incest should be gender neutral since the crime could be perpetrated by a male or female.
The committee said such matters should be decided on by the parliament.