On Repealing the Buggery Law

Administrator on October 31, 2014, 6:07 am 2972 3
On Repealing the Buggery Law

As countries around the world relax their hard lined stance against men having sex with men, Jamaicans are still not willing to ease up on the question of repealing the Buggery Act. A recent poll commissioned by the Daily Gleaner shows an overwhelming number of Jamaicans firmly holding the view that the buggery law should remain where it is. No change. The Bill Johnson poll that was carried out during September 2014 revealed 91 percent of Jamaicans expressing the opinion that the legislators should not repeal this law. For those unfamiliar with this controversial law, it makes it a criminal offence for anyone to engage in anal sex. It is not surprising that Jamaicans are still adamant where this law is concerned. Despite making the promise during the leadership debate in 2011, no effort has been made by the Portia Simpson led administration to review and repeal this law.

One may forgive the administration for its delay in putting the buggery law under the microscope; after all legislators have other more pressing laws to reform, thanks to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Once there is breathing room in the country's legislative agenda, then perhaps the government will turn its attention to the repeal of the buggery law. The reality is that the administration is focusing more attention on the economy and crime as a first priority. In the mean time, human rights and gay rights advocacy continue to send signals to the Jamaican society that its unwavering stance against homosexuality should change. This is an uphill battle for gay rights advocates as the march in Half Way Tree by approximately 25,000 Jamaicans from all walks of life that took place earlier this year presented a live demonstration of the strength of feelings shared by the majority of Jamaicans on this issue. This mass rally was a call to action toward strong families, justice and righteousness and a resistance against the “homosexual agenda” which desires the repeal of the Buggery Act.

Recent controversies, however, have not helped the gay rights lobby. The backlash caused by the sex education programme administered in private children's homes without the knowledge and approval of the state run Child Development Agency has placed the advocacy group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) in a rather negative light. The JFJ has not fully recovered from the resulting fall out. Jamaica is just not willing to allow its children, particularly the most vulnerable, to be exposed to the alternative lifestyle advocated by gay rights lobbies.

What are the real issues here? Why are both sides of the buggery law debate so completely opposed to each other? Ian Boyne, in a Gleaner article on July 27, 2014 suggested that as long as the Jamaican culture continues to be influenced by fundamentalist Christianity, the stigma towards homosexuality will continue no matter what legal changes may have been made. Even if the buggery law were to change now, acceptance and inclusion of homosexuality and homosexual practices will not automatically follow as long as conservative religious tenets remain intact. The fact is that the buggery law has not worked at all and does not deserve a place among Jamaican legislation. This is an archaic law that could not be effectively policed anyway. Yet vocal arguments for its retention are driven more by fear rather than merit. Once the complications are removed from the debate on the buggery law, then it will be easier to see that the law itself only condemns one aspect of sexual behaviour - anal penetration, and not homosexuality in its broadest sense. Maybe if the law is examined in its purest form then both sides may agree that it is actually ripe for reform.

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