The international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World will file the first-ever legal challenge to Jamaica's sodomy laws, reports Care2. Although rarely enforced, the mandates imprisonment of "up to ten years ... for the abominable crime of buggery."
The suit will argue that "by criminalizing homosexuality, Jamaica is in violation of international human rights laws" and the law "feeds a homophobic society in which gays and lesbians are harassed, mocked, vilified, beaten and killed simply because of their sexual orientation."
The group has submitted a petition at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of two Jamaican gay men whose names are being withheld to protect their safety.
Representing the petitioners will be a very high-powered legal team including Lord Anthony Gifford, who practices in both Jamaica and the UK and was counsel on a similar and successful case before the European Court of Human Rights, and pro bono attorneys from the US firm Thompson Hine and the Law Center at Nova Southeastern University.
Although the Jamaican so-called “anti-sodomy law” is not enforced, the argument is that it nevertheless casts a destructive pall over the lives of gay Jamaicans.... It encourages vigilante justice by private citizens, most of whom believe that the “anti-sodomy” law grants them permission to commit acts of violence against sexual minorities.
Driven underground, many fear that seeking an HIV test will brand them as homosexual, and therefore criminal. The national prevalence of HIV is more than 30 percent among men who have sex with men, compared to a rate of 1.6 percent in the general population. The IACHR petition establishes clear ties between the country’s active promotion of discrimination and its AIDS epidemic.
A new anti-homophobia video PSA campaign debuted last summer on Jamaican television. The campaign was released at a time of heightened brutality, violence and harassment toward Jamaica's besieged LGBT community. Two gay bars were raided in February 2011. In December 2010, an activist with JFLAG was found viciously stabbed to death. There have been no arrests. In March 2011, the nude dead body of a male rape victim was discovered. And again, there were no arrests.
The move comes as sodomy laws in several Caribbean nations are being challenged. A similar legal challenge is underway in Belize. And earlier this month, Antigua and Barbuda announced that it would not amend its "buggery" laws, despite growing international pressure from the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
The news comes only the eve of the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia. British, Canadian and Australian leaders are expected to ask African and Asian nations to decriminalize same-sex relations in an effort to fight rampant HIV rates across the global south.
Did You Read? ...
Anti-Homophobia PSA Campaign Launched in Jamaica
JA: Police Chief Apologizes After "Gay Crime" Remarks
JA: Judge Allows Gay Panic Defense for "Killing Homo"
Rasta Attacks Woman Suspected of Being Lesbian
Jamaican Gay Activist Murdered in Kingston
Gay Jamaican Cop Seeks Asylum in Canada
JA Gay Activist Attacked by Mob Seeks Asylum
JA Mob Attacks Two Gay Men
Angry Mob of 2,000 Jamaicans Attack Gays
"One Gay is Dead, What's the Difference?"
Jamaican Newspaper Criticizes Anti-Gay Laws
"Gay Panic" Defense in Brutal Slaying
Who Killed Ambassador Peter King?
"Gay Panic" in Killing of Popular Priest
"Flaunting Sexual Preference May Incite Violence"