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Customs not rigid on sex toys - Awaiting AG’s ruling

... on legality of devices

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaibserver.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2012    

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THE Customs Department says it will not interfere with the importation of sex toys into Jamaica until the attorney general makes a ruling on their legality.

The department's Director of Communications Dania Beckford, responding to questions from the Jamaica Observer, directed to Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese, said the department is currently taking no "definitive action" against importers of sex toys.

"The Customs Department is in the process of requesting clarity from the attorney general regarding Section 40 (xiii) of the Customs Act, which speaks to the importation of indecent and obscene articles, Beckford said in an e-mail response.

"Persons have been observed importing sex toys under tariff codes relating to 'items of plastic' or 'games'. Therefore, until clarity is gained from the AG's Department, we will take no definitive action against these imports," she explained.

The matter was first raised by Commissioner Reese while answering questions on Customs issues from members of the St Andrew North Rotary Club at their weekly meeting last week Monday at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica on Ruthven Road in Kingston.

"We have so many challenges. The current one is whether or not sex toys are illegal, and in reading the (Customs) Act, we are not too sure of the interpretation," Reese told the Rotarians. "It just shows that as life evolves, situations change."

Yesterday, the Observer spoke to two persons who have been involved in the importation of sex toys over the past year. Both said that they have never encountered any problems with the importation of the products, and suggested that getting Jamaicans to accept the use of sex toys as normal was much more challenging that getting the products into the island.

Sex toys, including vibrators, dildos and artificial vaginas, are objects or devices primarily used to facilitate human sexual pleasure. However, lifestyle consultant Heather Little-White says that they are just as important as health aids and should be considered for their medical value.

"There is a lot of sensationalising, but they actually help couples with, for example, stimulation problems," Little-White explained. She said that years ago she had recommended to the then minister of finance that the devices be allowed into Jamaica primarily for health purposes.

"People shouldn't see them as just sensational products, they are very important in terms of their health value," she insisted.

However, the fact is that most manufacturers label them as novelties to avoid US Food and Drug Administration's rigid tests for medical products. There have also been claims that they cause hormonal imbalance and affect reproduction.

Americans opposed to the legality of sex toys insist that there is no "fundamental right for a person to buy a device to produce orgasm". But pro-users, like Dr Marty Klein, author of America's War on Sex, accuse the US Supreme Court of "declaring our orgasms a battlefield, and sex toys another casualty".

Little-White sympathises with Klein, suggesting that people should be free to choose whether or not to use sex toys.

"People can be very shy about these things, especially when they are declared illegal. By allowing them to choose, they feel freer to make choices which can be of significant benefit to them in their relationships," she said.

Globally, the sex toy industry is valued at US$15 billion, with a growth rate of 30 per cent per annum. Seventy per cent of the sex toys are manufactured in China.

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