Maurice Tomlinson (Pic: Facebook)
A Jamaican human rights activist has launched a legal bid to challenge the constitutionality of laws criminalising consensual sex between men.
Maurice Tomlinson filed the claim in Jamaica’s Supreme Court of Judicature. The case is being supported by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and AIDS-Free World.
The colonial-era Offences Against the Person Act of 1864 not only prohibits “gross indecency” between men but also outlaws the “abominable crime of buggery” (i.e., anal sex, including between any people of any sex).
“The law is a gross violation of my human rights and those of all LGBTI people in my country,” said Tomlinson, who is now based in Canada.
“It directly infringes numerous rights guaranteed by Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and also fuels horrific violence.”
Tomlinson added that, “the criminalisation and marginalisation of consensual sex drives gay men and other men who have sex with men underground, away from desperately needed HIV prevention, treatment and testing services.”
The Caribbean has the second-highest HIV prevalence in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2014, another Jamaican man, Javed Jaghai, was forced to drop a similar legal challenge because he feared for his safety and that of his family.
Jamaica has a reputation of being one of the world’s most homophobic countries and those found guilty of gay sex can be jailed for up to ten years.
The island nation has also seen a number of horror mob attacks on LGBT people in recent years. In a damning report last year, Human Rights Watch found that “LGBT people in Jamaica face intolerable levels of violence” and are taunted, threatened, fired from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, beaten, stoned, raped, or killed.
In 2011, before she took office, 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.