Case Against Jamaican Anti-Sodomy Law Withdrawn
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today expressed serious concern over the rising tide of homophobic rhetoric which lead to the withdrawal of the Jamaican Supreme Court case challenging the nation’s anti-sodomy law. Today the plaintiff, Javed Jaghai, withdrew his case for fear of potential for backlash against him and his family.
“We are disappointed that this important case will not be heard by Jamaica’s Supreme Court, especially since the very law being challenged has helped to create the climate of discrimination and violence that has led to the withdrawal of the case,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “We appreciate what Jaghai has had to endure and recognize his bravery in bringing this case forward in the first place. The United States and the international community should continue to partner with Jamaican activists and expand efforts to promote the human rights of the Jamaican LGBT community.”
“The court case challenging the constitutionality of the buggery law would have been instrumental in achieving progress toward equality for LGBT Jamaicans, regardless of its outcome,” said Angeline Jackson, co-founder of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica. “Though constitutional and legal challenges are important steps toward the transformations toward equality that we seek in Jamaica, we must never forget that another aspect of this process is changing hearts and minds—something that will not be achieved through court cases alone. We should not be disheartened by this change of events. Rather, we must identify multiple methods through which we can move toward full rights for LGBT Jamaicans.”
The court case challenging the country’s “anti-buggery” law was originally brought by Jaghai after he was evicted from his housing due to his sexual orientation. The court case would have asked the Supreme Court of Jamaica to rule on whether the law violates the claimant’s right to privacy under Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The case was filed with the Jamaican Supreme Court by AIDS-Free World on February 7, 2013 on behalf of the claimant.
The criminalization of homosexuality in Jamaica dates back to the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act, which calls for a punishment of up to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor for those convicted of the “abominable crime of buggery.” Article 76 of the law makes sexual acts between men illegal. The Act also provides law enforcement the ability to obtain proof of penetration for suspected homosexual acts and provides the power to detain any person whom they suspect to have committed or to intend to commit these crimes.
While rarely enforced, the mere presence in Jamaican law continues to legitimize discrimination and violence toward LGBT people based on sexual orientation. Members of the LGBT community are denied access to basic rights and services, resulting in alarming rates of homelessness and HIV.