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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has accepted the admissibility of a case challenging Jamaica’s anti-buggery laws.
The Human Dignity Trust (HDT) in a release today welcoming the decision, said the victims in the case — a gay man living in exile, and a lesbian who argued that she was forced to flee the country — claim that sections of Jamaica’s 1864 Offences Against the Person Act not only criminalise consensual sexual activity between men, but also legitimise violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
According to the release, the IACHR in its report setting out the decision, acknowledged the victims’ concerns about “violence and discrimination against LGBT people and the impact of buggery laws,” and noted that, “if proved, the alleged facts relating to threats to life, personal integrity, interference with private and family life, obstacles to the right of residence and movement, unequal treatment, lack of access to justice and judicial protection, and interference in access to health care, could establish possible violations of (…) the American Convention [on Human Rights]”.
The gay man, who sought asylum in Canada in 2008 after allegedly enduring repeated attacks by homophobic gangs and police brutality, was quoted as saying: “I was forced to flee Jamaica in fear of my life simply because of who I choose to love. I am convinced that putting LGBT people in Jamaica outside the protection of the law leaves us vulnerable to violence and harassment.
“I take heart from the Commission’s decision, and sincerely hope that it signals the beginning of meaningful change for our community.”
Meanwhile, the lesbian was shot multiple times outside her home in 2008 by two men allegedly belonging to a homophobic gang, who also tried to kill her two brothers, one of whom is also gay. Following accusations of police failures to protect her and her family, she was granted asylum in the Netherlands, the release explained.
“I believe that the gang members who almost killed me and my brothers felt emboldened to do so by the very existence of these homophobic laws. One of the few family members I have left in Jamaica was even forced to leave his job because he was harassed merely for having gay and lesbian siblings,” the woman was quoted as saying.
“Despite this, it’s a real boost to see that the Commission is taking our complaint seriously. It gives me hope that one day these outdated laws will be done away with, and I’ll be able to return to my homeland without fear of attack,” she added.
The case is set against a backdrop of persecution of LGBT people in Jamaica. According to J-FLAG, an organisation advocating for LGBT people, the majority of violations of Jamaican LGBT peoples’ human rights are not reported to the relevant authorities, as community members are reluctant to go to the police because of fear of discrimination, retaliation or inaction.