An image from the banned Love & Respect advert
Jamaica’s Constitutional Court has ruled that three television channels have the right to refuse to air a paid-for advert calling for the acceptance of LGBT people.
The ad was created by the organisation AIDS-Free World to promoted tolerance as part of its HIV advocacy strategy in the Caribbean.
The inoffensive 30-second spot (watch below) shows AIDS-Free World’s Legal Advisor Maurice Tomlinson’s aunt telling him that she respects and loves him as a Jamaican gay man and “that love is enough for all of us”.
The television stations argued that by screening the ad they would be supporting an illegal activity, namely homosexuality.
The stations continued to refuse to air the ad, even after the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica confirmed that the ad did not breach any broadcasting rules.
Tomlinson took the matter to the Constitutional Court under Jamaica’s new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The court, however, ruled in favour of the television stations on Friday.
It said that the channels had the right to reject a message they did not agree with and should not be forced to do so. Ironically, the broadcasters touted the judgement as “a landmark ruling for freedom of expression”.
AIDS-Free World – which is planing to challenge the country’s anti-sodomy law – said that it was “shocked and disappointed” by the ruling and that it intends to appeal the judgment “as we feel the decision is wrong in law and wrong in principle”.
It stated that “Jamaica’s discriminatory laws are perpetuating a destructive and divisive culture of homophobia and are complicit in sustaining a public health crisis” and that they “fuel the spread of HIV by driving LGBT underground, away from effective HIV prevention, care and treatment services”.
Jamaica’s LGBT community was rocked a number of violent attacks this year.
In July, 17-year-old Dwayne Jones was attacked by revelers at a party after they“discovered” that she was not biologically female. She was stabbed, shot and chopped to death by the mob.
Same-sex sex is illegal in Jamaica and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Before she took office last year, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said that she opposed discrimination against LGBT people and indicated a willingness to review the country’s criminalisation of homosexuality, but has since taken no action.