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Majority of Jamaicans resolute on keeping buggery law intact

Published:Monday | October 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Despite a growing acceptance of same-sex unions across the world, an overwhelming majority of Jamaicans are standing firmly against any attempt to change local laws that make it illegal for men to have sex with men.

According to the results of the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, conducted on September 6-7 and 13-14, 91 per cent of Jamaicans believe lawmakers should make no attempt to repeal the controversial buggery law, which makes it a criminal offence for persons to engage in anal sex.

The poll, which involved interviews with 1,208 residents of Jamaica, has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.

Of all the questions asked in relation to homosexuality, it was on the repeal of the anti-sodomy law that respondents were most strident.

Only five per cent felt the law should be abolished and just four per cent said they did not know.

The findings are likely to leave the local homosexual community crestfallen and could serve as a signal to legislators whenever Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller makes good on her commitment to have Parliament engage in a conscience vote on whether or not to repeal the buggery act.

Simpson Miller first indicated it was time for a review of the buggery law when, as opposition leader, she took part in a leadership debate on the eve of the December 2011 general election.

Simpson Miller, who said her administration would be committed to the protection of human rights, has, almost three years later, yet to bring the vote to Parliament.

But with the administration admitting it was focusing more on crime and the economy during its first three years, events in the months before Johnson's team went into the field have fuelled anti-gay sentiment before a vote can come.

Earlier this year, a public relations nightmare resulted for gay-rights proponents when it was revealed that the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) Coalition authored a letter it claimed was signed by at least 35 groups across the region, urging the University of the West Indies to fire Professor Brendan Bain as head of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Centre Network (CHART).

Bain had raised the ire of the group after he offered expert opinion about the health risks of anal sex in the case of a Belizean man who was challenging the constitutionality of the buggery laws in that country.

The UWI dismissed the professor, but Bain sued the institution and secured an injunction blocking his release while the matter remains in court.

The controversy surrounding the Bain case led to demonstrations outside the UWI campus and increased concerns among several individuals and groups that there is a so-called 'gay agenda' to foist an acceptance of homosexuality on the Jamaican people.

Supporters of gay rights received further backlash when it came to light that human rights lobby Jamaicans For Justice crafted a sex-education programme taught in state-run children's homes, but which contained material deemed "inappropriate" for some of the children to whom it was exposed.

In other poll findings, 82 per cent of Jamaicans said they believed homosexual men were not treated fairly by either the legal system or the police in Jamaica.

Ten per cent said they were treated the same, while eight per cent said they did not know.

However, 68 per cent said they should not have the same rights as others, while 26 per cent said they should, and six per cent did not know.

At the same time, 79 per cent said lesbians are not treated the same as others by the police and courts, 13 per cent believe they are treated equally, and eight per cent did not know.

But 65 per cent believe they should not have the same rights as other people under the Jamaican legal system, 30 per cent said they should, and five per cent did not know.

In 2008, in a previously published Johnson poll, it was revealed that 70 per cent of Jamaicans believe homosexuals and lesbians should not be entitled to the same basic rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual Jamaicans.

In another question related to homosexuality, 85 per cent said they believed transgender or cross-dressing persons were not treated the same as others. Eight per cent said they were treated the same, and seven per cent said they didn't know.

Seventy-two per cent felt transgender persons should not have the same rights as other people have under the Jamaican legal system. Twenty-three per cent said they should have the same rights and five per cent said they didn't know.