JASL against criminalising HIV transmission
The Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) has come out against a recommendation from the Joint Select Committee of Parliament which reviewed the Sexual Offences Act and other related legislation for the criminalisation of wilful transmission of sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
“... a move considered retrograde of any parliamentary committee given that countries around the world are moving away from this having realised its deleterious effects on public health,” JASL said in a statement.
The committee's report was tabled in Parliament last Tuesday.
The interest group said that it is also disappointed that the committee failed to recommend legislative amends that would broadening the Sexual Offences Act to adopt a gender-neutral language throughout the legislation; broadening the definition of sexual intercourse to include the penetration of the mouth or anus by a penis, or any other body part or object; and broadening the offence of rape to include non-consensual penetration of the mouth or anus by a penis or object.
It said greater effort has to be made to protect the most vulnerable populations from violence and abuse.
Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) notes with disappointment the decision by the Joint Select Committee of Parliament (JSCP) established to review the Sexual Offences Act and other related Acts, not to amend several key pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the most vulnerable populations from violence and abuse, in keeping with the organisation’s 2016 recommendations.
The report of the JSCP, which comes more than a year after the Committee heard submissions and held a retreat to discuss the matter, failed to consider and review critical existing pieces of legislation which purport, among other things, to protect women, children, the disabled and the elderly from violence and abuse, with particular emphasis on the offences and punishment under these pieces of legislation.
JASL notes that the JSCP found common ground on recommendations such as the removal of marital rape, the restricting of Sections 23(i) to decriminalise specific beneficiaries of sex work; and suggested increases in the fines for breaches of protection orders, even proposing a review of the Domestic Violence Act. Notwithstanding, JASL is disturbed by the fact that the JSCP largely avoided dealing with the overarching public health-related issues raised in its submission.
Among the recommendations the Committee failed to amend are i) broadening the Sexual Offences Act to adopt a gender-neutral language throughout the Act; ii) broadening the definition of Sexual Intercourse to include the penetration of the mouth or anus by a penis, or any other body part or object and iii) broadening the offence of Rape to include non-consensual penetration of the mouth or anus by a penis or object.
The Committee also failed to act in the interest of Jamaica’s youth by refusing to amend legislation to allow persons under the age of sixteen to be provided with sexual and reproductive health services, commodities and information without parental consent, in specific circumstances, and providing immunity from prosecution for Health Care Professionals who provide such services in the clinical and best interest of the minor.
JASL is further disheartened that the Committee saw it fit to include the criminalisation of wilful transmission of sexually transmitted infections including HIV, a move considered retrograde of any Parliamentary Committee given that countries around the world are moving away from this having realised its deleterious effects on public health.
JASL believes that a more comprehensive discussion on the matters is imminent if, as a society, we are to adequately address the needs of the vulnerable and safeguard the nation’s health.