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'Don't bow to them' - British lawyer says Jamaica should not follow in the footsteps of the US and UK by removing anti-buggery laws

Published:Sunday | November 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

With the Jamaican Government adamant that a review of the buggery laws will be done, a leading United Kingdom-based attorney is urging the country not to follow the lead of the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) in this regard.

The two countries have removed the restrictions on homosexuality with more US states voting to allow same-sex marriages recently.

But Paul Diamond, a British barrister, last week urged Jamaica not to bow to any pressure from the UK and the US to relax the buggery laws.

Last week, minister with responsibility for information, Sandrea Falconer, revealed that while the review of the buggery laws - promised in the lead-up to the 2011 general elections - remains on the table, it is not a priority issue at this time.

Falconer told the media that the buggery issue has come up at Cabinet, but has been placed at the bottom of the pile.

"It is a matter that we have discussed, but most of the bills that we have focused on are bills that deal with the economy and those are the immediate bills," said Falconer.

That is a position supported by Diamond, who argued that Jamaica should not follow the legislative example of the UK because it has failed to honour the rights of its own citizens.

"The United Kingdom has totally failed to find a balance between religious rights and the secular modern human-rights agenda," said Diamond.

"Christians in the United Kingdom have sustained detriment in their employment for wearing crosses; for making any comment of opposition to the homosexual lifestyle; for offering to pray for someone (even if refused) or for asking for conscientious exemption to assisting in same-sex marriages," said Diamond in a written response to Sunday Gleaner queries.

"In one case that I did in 2004, a 69-year-old street preacher was assaulted by a crowd for preaching against the sin of homosexuality.

"He was attacked by a large group of homosexuals and their heterosexual supporters; the police arrested him for causing offence and he was convicted. I never thought I would live in a country where elderly citizens could be attacked."

Jamaica being pressured

The attorney also believes there is truth in claims that Jamaica is being pressured by the UK and US governments over the issue.

He argued that visas, aid grants and/or other benefits could be used to push the country to modify its position on homosexuality.

This is a view that has been repeatedly denied by officials of both countries.

However, Diamond is not swayed.

"There has been considerable activity in the international field on the issue of same-sex rights; both the United States government and United Kingdom link aid with a selective interpretation of human rights," charged Diamond.

"The issue of a variety of sexual rights is being endorsed by the human-rights agenda; much of this is contrary to the Judaea Christian tradition on sexual ethics.

"It is because these 'norms' are so contrary to the teachings of the Church which has resulted in the discrimination against Christians in the United Kingdom," Diamond explained.

Asked to give his opinion on the likely outcome of a challenge being mounted against Jamaica's buggery laws by two gay Jamaicans at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Diamond said Jamaica is caught in the "eye of the storm" as consensual homosexual acts can no longer be criminalised.

He argued that the court case is the beginning of an international campaign and Jamaicans need to consider the values of their country and the issue of sovereignty.

During the run-up to last year's general election, Portia Simpson Miller, now prime minister, said she would support a conscience vote in Parliament on whether the buggery law should be repealed.

For the matter to be brought to Parliament for consideration, it has to be taken by the Government in the form of a bill, or by way of a motion tabled by any member.