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Letter of the Day: Make rape gender neutral

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Jamaica remains stagnant while the world moves forward. Jamaica arguably has one of the most outdated rape provisions in the English-speaking Caribbean. Section 3 of the Jamaica Sexual Offences Act 2009 (JSOA) speaks specifically about rape.

The provision essentially defines rape as a man having sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent. It goes on to say that the consent cannot be extorted by physical assault or treats, or fear of physical assault to the complainant, or to a third person. Consent also cannot be attained by false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or identity of the offender.

The rape laws in other Caribbean states (specifically Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana) are similar to Jamaica's rape provision, except that they use the word 'person' rather than 'man' or 'woman'. By doing that, the provision is gender neutral. This means that a woman or man can be raped by another woman or man.

Jamaica should emulate these Caribbean nations by replacing the word 'man' or 'woman' with 'person', thereby making the legislation gender neutral and non-discriminatory towards men. This allows for rape victims of all genders to seek redress under the law. Furthermore, it removes or, at the very least, diminishes the perpetuation of the stereotype of the man as the perpetrator and the woman as the victim.

Together with this change, the meaning of sexual intercourse would have to be more expansive. Currently, Section 2 of the JSOA defines sexual intercourse as the penetration of the vagina of one person by the penis of another person.


wider meaning

A better definition for sexual intercourse would be the penetration of the victim's anus or vagina using an object, the offender's penis or other body part. With this wider meaning for sexual intercourse, the law will not only recognise rape victims with vaginas but victims without vaginas. The law will also apply to rapists with and without penises.

The Jamaican rape-related laws need to be more comprehensive as it pertains to consent. Jamaica must follow Barbados and have a legal provision that asserts that consent cannot be obtained through the use of one's position of authority or any kind of intimidation. Like Trinidad and Tobago's legislation, Jamaica's law should vitiate consent attained through unlawful detention. In addition, the law ought to stipulate that an intoxicated person cannot consent.

Jamaica's laws as it relates to rape have to be dragged into the 21st century.