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Delroy Chuck criticised for buggery comments, accusing church of being a hindrance

Published:Friday | June 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Delroy Chuck

A suggestion by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck to over 30 parliamentarians from several CARICOM partners that they should lead by removing the buggery law in their countries, as the Church was the main hindrance in achieving this objective, has not settled well with The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society.

The advocacy group expressed alarm at what they described as disturbing remarks made by the minister at the Regional Parliamentarians Forum organised by the Pan Caribbean Partnership (PANCAP) against HIV and AIDS.

The event was held from May 30-31, in Kingston, Jamaica.

In his remarks, the justice minister suggested that parliamentarians were faced with a challenge to overcome what he described as a cultural "ingrained belief" embraced by the Church which militates against any attempt to remove the buggery law.

"The challenge before us is whether we have the courage to do so," Chuck told his regional colleagues.

"Faith-based institutions, including churches, are some of the greatest challenge. We have to open up and to think wider than the narrow teachings that they have adopted for centuries."

Chuck said that during his four-year tenure as speaker of the House of Representatives (under the Bruce Golding administration from 2007 to 2011), he was approached by an ambassador who urged him to "see how we can remove the buggery law in Jamaica".

The justice minister said that, "having listened to the ambassador, I said, 'The problem, you know, is not the parliamentarians'. How do you convince the churches to change their position because the Church's position is ingrained, very strong, and what is more, the churches, in particular, are very powerful influencers of opinions in our society."

He continued, "The issue before us as parliamentarians is: Are we going to lead or are we going to be (followers) of opinions and views in the society? This is a decision that somehow we will have to make because if we are going to be the leaders of opinions, then we have to do what is right regardless of the consequences."

... Coalition questions judgement, motives and decision-making of justice minister

The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society expressed disappointment and questioned the motives of Justice Minister Delroy Chuck in regards to his comments at the recently held Regional Parliamentarians Forum held in Kingston, Jamaica.

Calling the Church the "greatest challenge" in removing the buggery law, Chuck called on regional partners to lead the charge in removing the law in their countries.

"This position is grossly flawed as it goes against standard medical epidemiological practice in which behaviours associated with high risk for a disease are actively discouraged. HIV/AIDS has the highest rates among men who have sex with men (MSM)," the coalition said in a statement to the media.

"It is well established that 98 per cent of the difference in HIV rates between MSM and heterosexuals is due to anal receptive intercourse, 'buggery', and role reversal in MSM networks. Role reversal refers to the fact that males can be either the inserting partner or the receptive partner in the act of buggery."

The statement continued, "For a parliamentarian of Minister Chuck's experience to be seduced by PANCAP [Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS]'s unsound arguments brings into question his judgement, decision-making and motives."

In the run-up to the February 2016 general election, Andrew Holness, then Opposition leader, said if his party were elected to government, he would allow Jamaicans to decide in a referendum whether to remove the buggery law.

A joint select committee of parliament chaired by Chuck is currently reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and the Offences Against the Person Act, which has a provision dealing with the offence of buggery.