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Jamaica: Health minister in favour of buggery law review

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Jamaica: Health minister in favour of buggery law review

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — "We can’t hide, we can’t dodge it. 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 recognizing human rights issues," says Jamaica's health minister, who wants to see a review of the Caribbean island's buggery law.

According to a Television Jamaica (TVJ) report, Fenton Ferguson says his administration is taking action, indicating a white paper tabled in parliament about a workplace policy on stigma and discrimination.

In the report, Ferguson recalled Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller's comments during a televised election debate in which she said she was in favour of MPs voting their conscience on the buggery law.

"For many it was almost a rescue statement in relation to Jamaica, where we are in terms of homophobia," Ferguson says, noting that Simpson-Miller's statement met with much approval at the global level. 

"Irrespective of what our personal opinion might be — I have my personal opinion — but I think for the greater good when you look at a situation we have to take decisions that will take us forward in this present period," Ferguson concludes.

However, the Jamaica Observer carried a Nov 22 story headlined "Promised buggery review put on back-burner" in which the minister responsible for information, Sandrea Falconer, is quoted as saying that the issue is not yet on the table as the administration is prioritizing other legislation that must be approved this year.

"Not that the buggery law is not of concern to a segment of the population, but the issues like crime and the economy, we decided, we were going to give those priority in terms of the legislation that we pass this year," Falconer said.

Gay Star News quotes Dane Lewis, director of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), as saying he is hopeful legislation to remove the buggery law would be brought forward "in the life of this parliament."



Landing image: Jamaica Information Service

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It wouldn't surprise me if
It wouldn't surprise me if Jamaica is suspended from the Commonwealth until it shows some respect for human rights.

A buggery review at this time
A buggery review at this time of our history would be foolhardy not when the Christian right is so vocal and merging the disturbing rise in sex crimes nationally with predatory behaviour or paedophilia and some ministers of government getting a backlash from their own constituents on their poor performance generally. Besides PM Simpson Miller made no promise to review she merely suggested it as an answer to a question posed by a journalist about her predecessor's Bruce Golding "Not in my cabinet position" he took on that BBC interview some years ago.

Politicians are more about gaining political capital than losing it and with the high rates of intolerance still out there a review would not be in the affirmative, one of the PNP's own ministers poured cold water on the suggestion earlier this year, in fact the very words used by Sandrea Falconer as the review not being important at this time was said by Damion Crawford who himself was the brunt of a backlash in his constituency some months ago, he concluded it was highly unlikely that the review would ever happen:



the other variables that would help to get a positive outcome are not there yet which includes GENUINE tolerance from the public which a JFLAG study confirmed in September at an all time low of 17% but the way the public relations campaign is being rushed by some including one Maurice Tomlinson/AIDSFREEWORLD many are interpreting tolerance as acceptance of homosexuality with the perceived strong arm tactics being employed including a lawsuit to two TV stations for not airing an ad he is in when the previous ad rejection experience taught us all how to go about it. There are also ethical considerations involved.

The same study (Attitudes towards homosexuality) also showed that only a few MPs would think about the idea of a review. Many also confuse a review as a repeal of the buggery law despite the PNP's own press release just days after the then opposiiton leader suggested the review: http://pnpjamaica.com/index.php/news/pressreleases/603-no-repeal-of-buggery-act-says-pnp

The subsequent UTECH abuse matter has also shown in clear terms where we are as a nation with respect to just a perception or accusation of someone who is gay without any serious proof one could find oneself the subject of an attack.

Intellectual gymnastics is not going to help the cause, we need to be careful what we wish for as TIMING with a properly sensitised public and politicians is key to getting an affirmative vote if not we may very well be left with a negative outcome.
This is such great news on th
This is such great news on th heels of Uganda's intention to pass the kill-the-gays bill. *****

Jamaica will be on the right side of history.
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