Mon | Mar 25, 2019

Letter of the day: No healthy society without equality

Published:Thursday | May 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM


The visit of Randy Berry, special envoy for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in the US State Department, and Todd Larson, senior coordinator for LGBT affairs in the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has sparked opposition and demonstration by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) and the Love March Movement (LMM).

The action and attendant alarm raised by the respective Christian groups would be deemed irrational, and plainly ridiculous, because of the lamentable prominence which it places on the retention of the buggery law, in promoting a 'healthy' society.

There is no doubt that the retention of the buggery law, which seeks to criminalise gays and men who have sex with men (MSM), with up to 10 years imprisonment, who engage in consensual sex, in the privacy of their bedrooms, creates the space for oppression, indignity and inequality of LGBT persons, and that it gives licence to individuals of the anti-gay demographic to perpetrate violence and other criminal behaviours against these vulnerable persons.

Objective individuals are yet to ascertain, from all the lobbying and the arguments made for the retention of the buggery law, how the phenomenon of oppression, indignity and inequality, which are the three main factors affecting the lives of LGBTs, would be eliminated.

There has been repeated calls, including from the Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, for the review of the buggery law to be put to a referendum. In fact, Holness has a penchant for calling for a referendum on matters of national importance, which require sensible, objective, and careful legal input and determinations - the decriminalisation of ganja; and whether to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the final appellate court for Jamaica.

It escapes me, as well as several judicious luminaries whom I have been in dialogue with, how matters of such significance, which affects the rights of persons, particularly in a vulnerable space, could be put to a referendum for the electorate to decide on, when many ordinary persons in the electorate can barely, if ever, make simple, common-sense decisions when faced with conflicts and daily challenges of their own.

The current administration has rejected calls by the Opposition for a referendum on the decriminalisation of ganja and the CCJ matter. We would hope that common sense would prevail in the minds of said administration that the buggery law, like any other law on the books, must be canvassed in Parliament, by the legislators, and that objective reasoning and actions must be the order of the day.

The buggery law cannot be enforced against consenting adults who engage in anal sex in the privacy of their bedrooms. There are also reports of an increasing number of heterosexuals who engage in anal sex, consensually, in their private spaces. How could the buggery law be relevant and enforced in such circumstances, without breaching the fundamental rights of citizens?

Since oppression, indignity and inequality are like a cancer, then there can be no 'healthy' society, as advocated for by these two Christian groups, unless it is eliminated, and the persons respected, regardless of their sexual orientation. Let us use logic, and leave emotions out, when dealing with matters of significance and law.