A major human rights group in the United States has urged the government of Jamaica to repeal its colonial-era anti-buggery law and protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a letter to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Human Rights Watch claimed that homophobia is “so bad that human rights defenders advocating the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people are not safe in Jamaica”.
Buoyed by Simpson Miller’s statements supporting a review of Jamaica’s anti-buggery law, the human rights group has joined LGBT activists in stepping up calls for the repeal.
Human Rights Watch noted that Simpson Miller made a “courageous stand” before she took office in January, speaking out against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
During the leadership debate, the group said the prime minister also indicated a willingness to review the country’s 148-year-old buggery law.
“Jamaica needs to act now on its international obligations to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the LGBT rights programme at Human Rights Watch.
Dittrich referred to reports in the Jamaican media about two public incidents of homophobia in June in which “violence was threatened or used to injure innocent civilians, simply because they were suspected of being homosexual”.
The group highlight Jamaica’s signature of a raft of international human rights treaties, but claimed that the country did not live up to those standards.
It said the Washington-based Organisation of American States (OAS), of which Jamaica is a member, adopted five resolutions between 2008 and 2012 condemning “acts of violence and human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” and urging states “to adopt the necessary measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate” discrimination.
Dittrich is calling upon Prime Minister Simpson Miller to act swiftly and to bring Jamaica’s laws and policies in line with international human rights standards. (CMC)