Michael Abrahams | Why the buggery law should be repealed
One day, several years ago, while taking my daughter home from school, she asked me a very interesting question: “Daddy, regarding the buggery law, if two men are caught having sex, the punishment is to lock them up with other men. Does that make sense to you?” I laughed because I had never looked at it that way before, then thought about it, and answered “No”.
The buggery law is being discussed a lot these days. I have always thought that it was an unfair law, and after dispassionately scrutinizing the arguments on both sides of the debate, I still see no valid reason for its existence.
There are genuine concerns regarding anal sex. The anus, unlike the vagina, and the mouth, is a tighter orifice, is not self-lubricating and its lining is not designed to withstand wear and tear. For this reason, the anus is more likely to be traumatized during intercourse, facilitating the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
But this does not mean that there ought to be a law against it. Penile-vaginal intercourse is responsible for most of the STIs in our country. Jamaica has a high rate of cervical cancer, and this too is as a result of penile-vaginal intercourse. The number of people who die as a result of tobacco and alcohol every year number over three times the population of our country, and not only are these products legal, but companies that produce them are listed on our stock exchange. So, concern about health does not appear to be a rational reason to maintain the law.
Many religious folk believe that anal sex is wrong, as is homosexuality which, in the case of men, is associated with anal sex. I do understand their beliefs and their concerns. But just because one considers something to be wrong, does not mean that others who do not subscribe to that view, and are not interfering with the lives of others, should be punished. The argument regarding “immorality” reeks of hypocrisy. The Bible speaks repeatedly against adultery and fornication. Adultery is mentioned in the Ten Commandments, and Jesus spoke about it as well. Interestingly, neither anal sex nor homosexuality is mentioned in the commandments or by Christ. But adultery is not illegal, even though there are many instances of it contributing to STI transmission and family disruption. On the other hand, two men can be in a monogamous relationship, and be arrested for engaging in an act of intimacy. It really is unfair.
And the argument that if these acts are performed in private, the law will not be enforced, and people will not be arrested anyway, is false. Several years ago, in the parish of Manchester, police were attempting to apprehend a suspect and ventured onto a private property. They looked through the window of the house, saw two men having a sexual encounter, and arrested them.
The “slippery slope” line of reasoning about the repeal of the buggery law leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage is also invalid. There are many countries where anal sex is legal and same-sex unions are not even recognized. Also, our constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and to legalize same-sex marriage would mean changing our constitution, requiring a two-thirds majority in parliament, which is extremely unlikely. The polemic about this leading to legalization of sex with children and with animals is also ludicrous, as children and animals cannot give consent.
The arguments about the “decay of the family structure” are not sound. Heterosexuals bear the overwhelming majority of responsibility for the fragmentation of the family in this country. When we look at our society, we see men having children with multiple women, women having children with multiple men, men having children outside their relationships, women giving men “jackets”, high rates of separation, divorce and domestic violence, and lots and lots of women becoming single mothers as men abandon their families.
Another reason why the law is unjust is that it presents a significant gender bias. Women are allowed to engage in intimate sexual activity with other women, but men are restricted. The fact is that both men and women desire intimacy. It is a need or most of us, and to dictate the type of intimacy that two consenting adults can engage in is unacceptable. In addition, the law serves to further marginalize gay men.
Yet another argument put forward is that anal sex is unnatural and that the anus is not a sex organ. The male and female genitalia are indeed designed for coitus, but it is a fact that, depending on the individual, almost any part of the body, including the brain, is a potential sex organ.
I know a woman, for example, who can bring herself to orgasm just by thinking about sex. Some women can achieve orgasm from stimulation of their breasts alone. And although when the buggery law is mentioned, many of us immediately think about men having sex with other men, many women enjoy anal sex. The first patient who ever spoke to me about it told me that it was the quickest way for her to reach orgasm. The last one who brought it up to me, just a few days ago, told me that she absolutely enjoys it, probably even more that penile-vaginal sex.
The buggery law is archaic and inequitable, has no justifiable reason to exist, and ought to be repealed. In the meantime, there should be organized efforts to educate the populace on human sexuality and safe sexual practices, free of religious bias.