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No to buggery!

Young candidates oppose relaxing laws, but want more education on subject

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011    

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FOUR aspiring politicians have come out against relaxing buggery laws in Jamaica, although they believe, collectively, that there should be national dialogue on the subject.

The four — the Jamaica Labour Party’s Paula Kerr-Jarrett, who will represent the party in Hanover East and Collin Virgo, the candidate in Manchester South, as well as the People’s National Party’s candidate in St Mary West, Jolyan Silvera and his colleague in St Andrew North East, John-Paul White — are all, based upon religious considerations, against the act of buggery. However, they argue that discussions should be held on the subject with the people as a whole, to determine whether or not Jamaica should continue to enforce buggeryrelated laws.

The four were guests at yesterday’s Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters in St Andrew.

The subject arose from revelations at a conference on HIV/AIDS being held in The Bahamas, which showed that countries without buggery laws had a lower HIV prevalence rate among homosexual men, than countries with such laws.

“I was brought up as a Christian. I am a practising Christian, and I know that there are a lot of things that are in the Bible as well as just generally, morally, the approach to it is not acceptable,” said Kerr-Jarrett.

“We need to educate our people in Jamaica more before laws are changed, because if you remove something, a void is created, and before anything is done there ought to be a blitz of education on the subject,” she added.

Virgo, who will challenge veteran member of parliament Michael Peart, said that the matter of buggery was a delicate one which requires solid discussion.

“The constituency where I am from, that is not something that you would be able to sell to them right now,” Virgo said.

“I come from a very strong Christian constituency, which has one of the largest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the country, and that's the church I grew up in.

“I don’t get the feeling that they (constituents) are going to be highly supportive of that one. To be an elected representative of the people is not going to be my responsibility to force my view on them. I will encourage dialogue, but at the end of the day, changing the law will not allow the problems to be solved,” he said.

“Knowledge and some level of exposure will cause it to be changed. If there isn’t acceptance by a significant portion of the people of Jamaica, changing the laws will not solve the problems,” Virgo added.

Both PNP representatives also echoed similar sentiments that buggery was immoral and an effort should be made to clarify issues surrounding the subject.

For Silvera, who is going up against JLP powerhouse Robert Montague, buggery has no place in the society.

“I grew up in a Christian home and I have my morals intact. But this is where we are today and this is reality,” Silvera said.

“We do have to engage, and we have to sit down and talk ,and take certain things into consideration, because at the end of the day, the Bible is ambiguous, there are double meanings every chapter you read.

“We are a civil society, and if buggery has to be brought to the table to be talked about, I don’t think I would have a problem listening. But at the end of the day I know where I stand, because I have Christian beliefs. I think the law should stay, but I am open for discussions. We would be a bit premature as a country to open it up presently,” Silvera said.

As for White, the son of a former preacher, education is the key to handling matters related to buggery.

“I am also from a spiritual and Christian background, but we need to educate the country more,” he said.

“When a person hears about buggery, he associates it with, based on our socialisation, things to do with homosexual activities.

“As representatives, we really need to seek the opinion of those we represent, and based on the majority of those opinions, we take it into the Houses of Parliament.,” he said.

“My biggest concern about the law has more to do with a health point of view and the transmission of diseases associated with such activities, especially in a society where the cost of health care is really expensive,” White said.

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