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Coalition wants forced anal penetration punished severely

Published:Thursday | October 16, 2014 | 10:00 AM
A woman exercises her Christian faith outside of Gordon House yesterday afternoon, where a joint select committee was reviewing the Sexual Offences Act. -Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

THE JAMAICA Coalition for a Healthy Society is urging the courts in Jamaica to apply the full strength of the law in instances where persons are convicted for the heinous crime of forced anal penetration categorised as buggery.

Spokesperson for the group, Phillipa Davies, suggested that sentences should run consecutively, where possible, and prosecutors should ensure that charges are laid for other offences arising from the incident.

In a wide-ranging presentation yesterday to the joint select committee reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and related pieces of legislation, Davies said the group was moved by the relatively low maximum sentencing available for forced anal penetration. Buggery attracts a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

She told the committee that correcting the deficiency of a low maximum sentence for the crime posed a challenge, adding that any alteration to the present buggery law made it vulnerable to successful constitutional challenge.

Citing an example where an offender has been charged with three counts of buggery, and four charges of indecent assault are brought against the accused, and the case tried in the Circuit Court, Davies said the offender could be faced with a maximum of 90 years imprisonment. Indecent assault could attract a penalty of 15 years.

PRIVATE MORALITY

Committee member Delroy Chuck quizzed the Coalition on whether it would accede to some flexibility in law in respect to what he described as private morality.

"If two males live together, do you believe it is the business of the State to investigate what they are doing within the confines of their bedroom?" Chuck questioned.

Head of the Coalition Dr Wayne West said if he had been asked the question five years ago he would have been inclined to support the position "because I have no intention of peeping into anybody's bedroom".

However, West quipped, "when your neighbour's house is on fire you better take note of it".

He argued that what is taking place in the bedroom is now being forced on persons in the public square.

West contended that the legislative process and the social process in developed states such as the United States and the United Kingdom is that what people do in their private space is "costing persons such as myself our jobs, our freedom of expression, our ability to tell our children what is right or wrong".

He said: "They are actively forcing people who do not accept that way of living to line up or lose their jobs."

Committee member Senator Lambert Brown asked if the Church had any tolerance for the homosexual community.

In response, West said he supported a quote from an aide of President Barack Obama, who declared that religion and homosexuality are irreconcilable.

Committee member Marisa Dalrymple Philibert acquiesced to the comment, noting that the way the Jamaican society was socialised "there was no beating around the bush" on the issue of homosexuality.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com