Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller
Jamaican lawmakers are reportedly set to soon vote on repealing the Caribbean island nation’s colonial era law that makes consensual sex between men illegal.
According to The Gleaner, Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer told reporters at a post-cabinet press briefing on Thursday that the vote would take place soon.
She said that Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller intended to stick to her commitment, made during her 2011 election campaign, to see parliament address the matter.
MPS are expected to be allowed to vote according to their conscience.
LGBT rights groups have criticised Simpson-Miller for not taking any action on her promise since she was elected.
Falconer said that the matter had not been a priority but that as more pressing issues had been dealt with by the government, the way was now clear to address the so-called Buggery Law.
In December last year, Jamaica’s Health Minister, Dr Fenton Ferguson, said that he supported decriminalising homosexuality.
“Whatever might be our past in terms of tradition, culture and views, the rest of the world is moving. And the Caribbean must also move in relation to recognising the human rights issue…” he said.
Gay rights activist Javed Saunja Jaghai recently filed a suit with the Jamaican Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the criminalisation of homosexuality. His case is set to be heard on 25 June.
He has argued that the right to privacy contained in the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Act, 2011, means that laws outlawing sodomy cannot be used to prosecute adult gay men.
This case is one of at least three that have been filed, both in Jamaica and with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, challenging the legality of criminalising sex between men in Jamaica.
According to Section 76 of the Jamaican Offences Against the Person Act of 1864, a maximum sentence of 10 years can be issued for committing the crime of “buggery”.
Eleven nations in the former British West Indies, in and around the Caribbean, still criminalise homosexuality.