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Portia's profound comments

Published:Saturday | December 31, 2011 | 12:00 AM


The president of the People's National Party (PNP) recently said she would not exclude persons from her Cabinet on the basis of sexual orientation. Few seem to appreciate how profound the comment is. One newspaper sprang into attack mode with its bold headline, 'A idiot thing that'.

At first glance, the leader's comments seem to imply or assume that in appointing ministers, she has knowledge that the person being appointed is gay. This has inherent legal implications based on Jamaican law (The Offences Against The Person Act). Although buggery is not defined in the law, it is listed as unnatural offences, where it is described as "the abominable crime of buggery committed either with mankind or with any animal".

Additionally, the law specifically speaks to male-to-male acts of gross indecency, but is totally silent on female-to-female acts. So being a bugger and being gay or homosexual are not legally the same in Jamaican law. Being gay or homosexual is a much broader term, covering same-sex relationships. It does not appear to include "any animal".

The Jamaican law regarding unnatural offences and acts of gross indecency is, therefore, gender specific and includes animals. It does not consider or treat female same-sex relationships as unnatural offences or acts of gross indecency. So, based on the present law, appointing a female gay minister should not be an issue legally.

This, however, would not be the case if she were to appoint a male gay minister, especially if she knows that male is gay.

The reason for this is that it is a crime to know of a crime and not report it to the police. This may and ought to be considered concealment, cover-up, you name it. Although she may not have personally witnessed the act or crime, it's no different from the acts of bishops who concealed reports of priests sexually molesting youths and covered it up.

Therein rests a part of the dilemma, ie, the buggery law, as it stands, and whether or not she knows the appointee has breached the law.

Indeed, the law is gender-specific in its treatment of same-sex relationships. This ought to be deemed unconstitutional and ought to be corrected. How else does Parliament legislate a law that retains the wishes of the majority on the issue, and comply with the gender (sex) requirements of the Constitution (Section 13)? In democratic societies, it's done by review of the law.

For those males who have already concluded that "a idiot thing that", note that for a male caught committing (a) an unnatural offence, or (b), an act of gross indecency with another male, there is no fine. In the case of (a), it's prison at hard labour, for a term not exceeding 10 years.

In the case of (b), it's prison with or without hard labour, for a term not exceeding seven years. However, it's no offence for females to be caught doing similar acts. Easy nuh.



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