Sixty-six-year-old Portia Simpson Miller was sworn in for the second time as Jamaica’s prime minister on Thursday, vowing to address the island's deep poverty and sever colonial-era links with Britain.
Simpson Miller takes office after explicitly endorsing gay rights and calling for a review of the nation's sodomy laws. Philip Dayle at The Guardian describes Simpson Miller's position as "unthinkable."
At a nationally televised leadership debate, Simpson Miller gave full-throated support to gay rights. No one should suffer discrimination based on their sexual orientation, she declared.
In so doing, this veteran politician set up a clear contrast with former prime minister from the opposition party, Bruce Golding, who had infamously stated that he would never have any gay or lesbian minister in his cabinet. Going even further, Simpson Miller promised a conscience vote on whether Jamaica's laws criminalising consensual male homosexual acts – "buggery laws" – should be repealed. Given Jamaica's reputation as the most homophobic place in the world, Simpson Miller's comments on homosexuality could have been political suicide. But her party won a blinding victory, and she has been returned to serve as prime minister for a second time.
Simpson Miller's center left People’s National Party won in a landslide—42 seats in the 63-seat legislature, leaving the incumbent center right Labour party with only 21.
The prime minister announced that the government intends to "abandon the British monarch as Jamaica’s official head of state, and instead adopt a republican form of government." Simpson Miller also announced plans to replace the London-based Privy Council—a panel of judges from the UK's supreme court—with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s highest court of appeal.
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. British PM David Cameron has asked African, Asian and Caribbean nations in the Commonwealth to decriminalize same-sex relations in an effort to fight rampant HIV rates across the global south.
Best of luck to Prime Minister Simpson Miller.
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