An editorial in today's Jamaica Observer applauds new Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller for explicitly endorsing gay rights and calling for a review of the nation's sodomy laws. The editors commend Simpson Miller and the People's National Party for recognizing that gay rights are "fundamental human rights."
What we do believe is that Mrs Simpson Miller deserves commendation for her courage. Not only did she speak to the need to review the centuries-old law bequeathed to us by British colonialists, but insisted that she would not "pry" into people's private lives and would appoint "anyone" to her Cabinet based on "ability" regardless of suspected sexual orientation.
WIn one stroke, she departed from the line taken by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who had declared "...Not in my Cabinet" when asked by British television three years ago if he would consider accommodating homosexuals in the Jamaican executive.
WWe sensed at the time, that the cautious, middling response of the then Prime Minister Andrew Holness to the gay rights question reflected a recognition, perhaps unconscious, of the possibility of a 'softening' in Jamaican public attitudes over recent years.
WOf course, any Jamaican Government must also take into consideration the realities in the outside world. For in Europe and North America and many other places, gay rights are routinely considered fundamental human rights.
The 66-year-old Simpson Miller's center left PNP won in a landslide—42 seats in the 63-seat legislature, leaving the incumbent center right Labour party with only 21 seats. Simpson Miller was sworn in for the second time as Jamaica’s prime minister last week.
Simpson-Miller's remarks on the nation's "buggery" laws come after the first-ever legal challenge to Jamaica's sodomy laws. Although rarely enforced, the law mandates imprisonment of "up to ten years ... for the abominable crime of buggery." Sodomy laws in several Caribbean nations, such as Belize, are also being challenged.
In 2007, the Jamaica Observer and Gleaner published historic editorials that opposed homophobia and anti-gay violence and argued for greater acceptance of gays.
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