The Jamaica Observer has joined calls for the country to tackle its ‘buggery’ law, calling it ‘backward’ and ‘outdated’.
The Observer has been a homophobic title for much of its 27 year history. But now it has voiced fears that Jamaica’s anti-LGBT+ laws may harm the island nation’s international reputation.
It says: ‘The uncomfortable issues of same-sex unions and the outdated buggery law need to be dealt with.
‘For while Jamaica has apparently put the matter on the back burner, many countries are gradually coming to terms with same-sex unions and are passing laws accordingly.
‘Increasingly, countries like Jamaica which continue to effectively outlaw homosexuality by way of the buggery law are being seen as backward and flying in the face of basic human rights.
‘In Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said years ago that a referendum will be used to decide this thorny issue; as well as others, including abortion.
‘Jamaicans haven’t heard much about that lately. It was hardly an agenda item in the recent election campaign.
‘It’s time for the society to stop dithering on this and other controversial issues.’
Gleaner says law is ‘offensive’
The Observer’s comments come despite them publishing a poll in January showing more than nine in 10 Jamaicans support the ‘buggery’ law.
The law dates from British colonial rule and is the harshest in the western hemisphere. It punishes homosexuality with up to 10 years hard labor.
The Jamaican Observer is not the first paper to support a change. Back in 2015, the Jamaican Gleaner, its main rival, backed repeal, calling the law ‘offensive’ and ‘anachronistic’.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage on the island may seem like a distant dream.
However the leading Jamaican LGBT+ campaigner, Maurice Tomlinson, has mounted legal challenges to scrap the ‘buggery’ law and bring equal marriage to the country.
This year, he argued in GSN that campaigners should make a case for same-sex marriage and decriminalizing gay sex at the same time.
Previously LGBT+ activists have resisted doing this. Many think marriage equality may alienate potential supporters and they should take one step at a time. However Tomlinson said homophobes already treated the issues as if they were the same thing.
He said: ‘By hiding this whole agenda, we are only hurting ourselves and fooling nobody.’
However, the Jamaican Observer also indicates that Jamaican churches will battle any attempts to change the law. It notes the Jamaican churches ‘came out in strong opposition’ to news that nearby Barbados may become more LGBT+ inclusive.
That country has also maintained it’s law against gay sex. However, its government is now promising to scrap the law, recognize same-sex partners and hold a referendum on same-sex marriage.
Despite this, campaigners warn a referendum on marriage equality could risk serious violence against LGBT+ people.