World pressure

World pressure

Int'l community criticises Jamaica on buggery law, death penalty

Senior staff reporter

Friday, November 13, 2020

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Calls for the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations and the abolition of the death penalty were high on the list of recommendations put to Jamaica on Wednesday during the third review of the country's human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.

Of the more than 70 territories represented, 19 voiced dissatisfaction and “concern” that Jamaica still retains provisions that criminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults.

Greece, leading the charge among other things, recommended that “Jamaica continue its efforts towards eliminating domestic and gender-based violence, remove the existing restrictive conditions to determining marital rape in the Offences Against the Person Act, and step up its efforts to protect all its citizens from violence and discrimination, including lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons”.

Comments from Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Timor-Leste, the United States, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Fiji, France, and Germany followed in this vein.

Honduras, in its recommendations, urged Jamaica to “fully abolish the death penalty... and implement legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings including at home; decriminalise consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex and expand anti-discrimination legislation to include the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; provide guidance including setting standards where necessary, and sensitise health professionals, health service providers, security forces and legal operators to provide service with dignity and respect for all persons including LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) persons”.

Ireland, for its part, said Jamaica should implement comprehensive non-discriminatory legislation after meaningful consultations with civil society to protect against institutionalised and societal discrimination against socially marginalised groups, including LGBTI people. Further, in urging decriminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, Ireland called for full and thorough investigation of all incidents and acts of violence suspected of being motivated by homophobia or transphobia and bringing to justice those found criminally responsible.

Mexico — while recommending that Jamaica abolish the death penalty and ensure that alleged abuse committed by law enforcement officers, including those under states of emergency, are swiftly investigated, perpetrators punished, and victims given access to effective reparation — called for Jamaica to “decriminalise same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and punish acts of discrimination, harassment and violence against the LGBTI community”.

The representative from The Netherlands said while the kingdom noted Jamaica's advances in areas such as the launch of a 10-year strategic plan towards the elimination of gender-based violence, it remained concerned about the rights of LGBTI people.

“To date, Jamaica has provisions in place that criminalise consensual same-sex relationships. Moreover, a 2019 perception survey shows broad intolerance amongst the general public in Jamaica towards LGBTI people. The Netherlands recommends that Jamaica reviews all provisions that criminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults by 2025; enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation to provide accessible remedies for all forms of discrimination, whether in public or private, and in particular in the context of health, education and housing by 2025,” The Netherlands' Monique TG van Daalen said.

Canada, for its part, called for the “repeal of legislation criminalising same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and the strengthening of legislation to combat discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

It further recommended the amendment of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act to give that body the mandate to arrest, charge and prosecute members of the security forces in instances of unlawful killings and abuses of power.

In the meantime, Chile called for Jamaica to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender/sexual orientation”, while Denmark, in commending the efforts by Jamaica to “improve the welfare of women and girls”, said it remains concerned about the inadequate protection of the LGBTI community. It further recommended that the Government decriminalise same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and enact protective measures for LGBTI people and punish all forms of violence against LGBTI individuals.

Germany recommended that Jamaica ensure that cases of violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals are thoroughly investigated, and that the perpetrators, if convicted, are punished, and that the victims have access to effective remedies.

Jamaica's Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, who appeared before the group, in responding to the slew of recommendations, emphasised that, “Jamaica's constitution provides for the respect of the rights of all persons without distinction.” She further noted that the Government was opposed to violence and discrimination against any group of people and has made significant efforts to implement measures to address same.

On the issue of the death penalty, she pointed out that the country has a had a long-standing de facto moratorium on the application of the death penalty with there being no executions since 1988.

Jamaica was one of the 14 states being reviewed by the UPR Working Group during the session which runs from November 2 to 13. Jamaica's first and second UPR reviews took place in November 2010 and May 2015.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the recommendations made to Jamaica at 17:30 on November 13. The State under review may wish to express its positions on recommendations posed to it during the review.

The UPR is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights record of all 193 UN member states. Since its first meeting was held in April 2008, all 193 states have been reviewed twice within the first and second UPR cycles. During the third cycle, states are again expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed during their previous reviews which they committed to follow-up on, as well as highlight recent human rights developments in the country.

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