A paragraph in the 2001 Report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on its deliberations on the bill entitled an Act To Amend The Constitution of Jamaica to Provide for A Charter Of Rights and for Connected Matters, has begun to raise questions about JFLAG’s advocacy programme at that time. The paragraph notes that:
It is important to record that the representatives of J. Flag have stated that they regard the legislation which criminalizes buggery between persons as the essence of discrimination against homosexuals, particularly in relation to its enforcement against male homosexuals, and, therefore, that if a recommendation for the repeal of that legislation in relation to consenting adults in private is as far as the Committee would be prepared to go, they would be grateful for that concession.
The particular areas of concern relate to:
- The assertion that Section 76 of the Offences Against the Person’s Act which criminalizes buggery represents the essence of discrimination against homosexuals, particular in relation to its enforcement against male homosexuals.
- The precise understanding of the use of the term concession especially with regards to the principled stance of demanding inclusion of sexual orientation within the Bills Section13.2j Freedom from Discrimination
The paragraph is at odds with JFLAG’s own name and mandate, as minority groups such as Lesbians and some transgendered individuals are not directly affected by the Buggery Law yet remain homosexual, in the case of the former, and marginalized. Furthermore, homosexual men not engaging and when not engaging in anal sex are at a low risk of prosecution owing to the difficulties and peculiarities of proving anal disturbance due to sex. Yet these same persons will face discrimination as it regards a host of issues including access to education, health care, employment, career advancement, choice of housing, security etc. Notably, the paragraph is at odds with the entity’s own written submission to the committee which highlighted the institutionalized nature of homophobia in Jamaican society (a copy of which can be seen by clicking here a summary of which can also be seen here).
Interestingly, the Committee urged JFLAG to carry out further research as to the Constitutions (ie global best practice) which guarantee protection against
discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation; the laws which would be inconsistent with such a constitutional provision; scientific data as to the causes of homosexuality; and whether there has been an increase in homosexuality following on such a liberalization of the law in other countries. We are currently awaiting a response from JFLAG as to whether the further research was conducted and the findings communicated to the members of the Parliamentary Committee between 2001 and November 2010, when the Lower House debated the bill. However, the current Executive Director, Dane Lewis, who joined the organization in 2008 has preliminarily noted in email correspondence that “as I have only just joined the organization in the last three years, I cannot speak to what I do not see on file. As far as I know there was no other opportunity to respond to the issues raised by the committee, as has been the case for a number of years.”
When quizzed about JFLAG’s own public education and advocacy programme concerning the Charter of Rights during his tenure in the post, the Executive Director noted the entity’s funding challenges in developing and executing such a programme. In addition, the Programmes Manager at the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, Ivan Cruickshank has lamented the complete absence of sustained followership in the Gay Community. However, observers will question why a copy of the Charter of Rights is not placed on the organization’s website or why discussions in its Group Page on Facebook have focused mainly on requesting information regarding Human Rights abuses but no articulation of what those Rights are or what JFLAG intends to do with the information if and when given! Notwithstanding we are still awaiting an email response regarding the organization’s Public Education Programme regarding the Charter of Rights