Jamaican senator calls for LGBTQ+ protections – but support for abolishing gay sex ban is scarce

A Jamaican senator has called for the creation of an anti-discrimination act to protect the country’s LGBTQ+ community.

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Supporters from Jamaica join the Caribbean Equality Project in New York. (Getty)

 

Natalie Campbell-Rodriques gave a state of the nation presentation in Jamaica’s Senate on Friday (9 September).

During the speech ,she pointed to data produced by Jamaica Forums for Lesbians, All-Sexual and Gays (J-FLAG) on discrimination, ill-treatment and stigma against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

J-FLAG’s survey, which polled 1,043 people, showed showed 50 per cent of those sampled had positive attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community on issues such as education.

Sadly, the same poll found 67 per cent of respondents didn’t support amending laws to decimalise same-sex intimacy.

The Jamaica Observer reported Campbell-Rodriques as saying: “This is not government-sanctioned hardships that these groups of Jamaicans are facing.

“These hardships, however, can be helped with specific steps relating to changes with certain laws and the development of an anti-discrimination act, as well as a change in our mindset of how we treat our fellow human beings.”

LGBTQ+ Jamaicans are criminalised by The Offences Against the Person Act, which became law in 1864 under British colonial rule. It forbids same-sex intercourse between males as well as any “gross indecency”, such as a kiss.

Anal sex can be punished by hard labour and up to 10 years in prison, with “gross indecency” punishable by up to two years incarceration.

There are no protections for LGBTQ+ people against discrimination.

In 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged Jamaica to repeal its ban on gay sex, noting that it was fuelling discrimination and violence against the community.

‘All Jamaicans matter’

According to the country’s daily newspaper, Campbell-Rodriques said the government’s commitment to set up a national human rights institute was a step in the right direction to address the injustice for LGBTQ+ people.

She recalled it not being “so long ago when people of Black skin and African heritage were shunned and treated less solely on the basis of our skin colour”. She added that “all Jamaicans matter”.

Campbell-Rodriques highlighted how, throughout history, people have used religion to support their biases – including the British parliament in the 1800s, in arguments against abolishing slavery.

The Jamaica Observer noted that a RJRGleaner Group-commissioned Don Anderson poll that found 80 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed are against rolling back the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

Anti-LGBTQ+ laws cost the country around $11billion per year, according to the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI).

In 2018, prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, said he would not object to a gay person serving in his cabinet.

 

 

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