Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Anal sex row - Debate reignites with proposal to expand definition of intercourse

Published:Friday | February 3, 2017 | 2:00 AMJovan Johnson
In this May 26, 2014, photo Dr Wayne West (left) joined a protest at the gate of the University of the West Indies.
Arlene Harrison Henry
1
2

The old debate about anal sex has been resurrected with a United Nations (UN) recommendation that Jamaica's Parliament approve a redefinition of sexual intercourse to add penetration of the mouth or anus in order to fairly protect men and women against sexual violence.

However, the local church lobby, through the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) and the Associated Gospel Assembles (AGA), has been quick to advise lawmakers to reject the proposal.

Mark Connolly, from the UN Country Team, on Wednesday, read out the recommendation to a parliamentary committee that has resumed its review of Jamaica's sex laws.

Sexual intercourse under the Sexual Offences Act is "penetration of the vagina of one person by the penis of another person".

But Connolly said that if the definition is "too narrow, the legal recognition of sexual violence against men and boys would not fall under it in an equally protective way as against women and girls.

"If sexual intercourse does not consider the possibility of other penetrative practices that may be used for inflicting grave sexual violence to any person, it does not recognise the same nature of any sexual penetration and diminishes particular humiliating or painful traumatic experiences that victims may go through."

Wayne West, head of the JCHS, said that the proposal disregards the 'biology of sex' and promotes the 'gay agenda'. "The UN is working an ideological framework that is seeking to remove consideration of the reality of biology in order to advance its political agenda. You don't have to redefine sex from its biological moorings in order to punish people who offend other individuals."

Like West, the AGA's first vice-president, the Reverend Peter Garth, insists that the redefinition to include anal sex is a route to legalise same-sex marriage in Jamaica. He said that an "honest" medical doctor would admit that that form of penetration is unhealthy.

"I believe anal penetration is wrong in 2017 and anal penetration will still be wrong in the year 3000," he said.

 

Rape is rape!

 

For Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry, however, the United Nations' proposal is important especially because it also recommends a redefinition of rape as an act committed "against any person".

Under Jamaican law, only a woman can be raped - an offence that carries a penalty of up to life imprisonment, unlike buggery, which carries up to seven years' imprisonment.

"There is need for this broader protection of rights of men and women and it ought to be gender neutral. Rape is rape. Right now, a male child who is buggered, no one under our law committed the act of rape against him," argued Harrison Henry.

Janet Farr, president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica, said that redefining sex is accepting the reality. "The definition that we had before was rather archaic. The definition might be speaking to a certain ideology, but this is what the reality is."

 

SHOULDN'T BE A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE

 

Noting the importance of equality before the law, rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and the gay lobby JFLAG have dismissed critics of the proposal.

"Protecting men and women from rape should not be controversial. The same groups opposing this common-sense reform are also arguing to maintain archaic marital rape exceptions that allow married men to rape their wives," said Rodje Malcolm, JFJ's advocacy manager

According to JFLAG's Glenroy Murray, it is "unfortunate" that Christian critics are taking a position that gives greater significance to some sexual violence over others.

Delroy Chuck, justice minister and committee chairman, has said that the review will run for up to six months, after which a report on the recommendations will be done.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com