Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller

Human Rights Watch has called on Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to repeal the country’s anti-gay legislation.

In a letter to Simpson-Miller, the New York-based organisation said she must work to protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender.

According to Section 76 of the Jamaican Offences Against the Person Act of 1864, a maximum sentence of 10 years can be issued for the committing the crime of “buggery”.

Homophobic threats, including death threats, caused one of the most outspoken campaigners for the rights of LGBT people, Maurice Tomlinson, to flee Jamaica in January.

He told Human Rights Watch and the Inter American Commission that he had asked police in Montego Bay to protect him, but that the police officer in charge responded by saying, “I hate gays, they make me sick.”

In June there were at least two cases in which violence was threatened or used to injure civilians, simply because they were suspected of being homosexual.

On June 21, in Jones Town, Kingston, the police had to intervene as an angry crowd gathered in front of a house where five homosexuals were staying.

“Homophobia [in Jamaica] is so bad that human rights defenders advocating the rights of LGBT people are not safe in Jamaica,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

Before she took office in January, Simpson-Miller said that she opposed discrimination against LGBT people and indicated a willingness to review the country’s buggery law, but has since taken no action.

“We call upon Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to act swiftly and to bring Jamaica’s laws and policies in line with international human rights standards, in particular as they relate to the rights of LGBT people,” Dittrich said.

“We encourage the prime minister to publicly and unequivocally affirm that all Jamaicans, including LGBT people, will be equally protected by the law, the state, and all its institutions and that no discrimination will be tolerated.”

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