Poverty, children and the Buggery Law
HEART TO HEARTTuesday, January 10, 2012
Betty Ann Blaine
It is now very clear that the issue regarding the repeal of Jamaica's Buggery Law has found some space in the country's dialectic, so much so that interest groups have already begun to pounce.
The Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) youth arm, G2K, sensed that an opportunity presented itself, given the country's anti-homosexual environment, and attempted to use the buggery debate to benefit the outcome of the recent election. It failed, and that is because God doesn't like "ugly" even when the principle of the matter might be correct in His eyes.
Of course, there is vested interest in certain quarters, both inside and outside of Jamaica, and already certain constituencies have made it very clear what they would like the new administration to do. To my mind, the matter is not so simplistic, neither is it urgent.
First of all, the need to repeal the Buggery Law cannot be the most important item on the national agenda at this time and should be recognised as such. When one considers the deep and entrenched problems of poverty, dispossession, joblessness, the abominable atrocities against children, the plight of the elderly, among other day-to-day abuses, the revocation of Jamaica's Buggery Law could by no means be considered to be high on the list of priorities. If Jamaicans had to choose among the raft of pressing issues, including the 'bread and butter' ones, I suspect that the issue of buggery would be low on the list.
Secondly, and more importantly, there can be no discussion about buggery outside of a broader discourse concerning poverty and the vulnerability of the poor, especially poor children, to the risk of homosexual abuse. Let me hasten to say that I am aware that the risk of abuse by heterosexuals is equally as great.
Until the problem of poverty in general, and child poverty in particular, are adequately addressed and alleviated, the repeal of the Buggery Law cannot be considered, and anybody who is concerned about the most vulnerable groups in the society should agree.
As the founder of two major children's organisations and as a children's advocate for over 30 years, I have had to deal with many cases involving the sodomy of children. The tragedy is that they are almost exclusively children of the poor, and as a consequence, they have had little or no access to justice, let alone restitution.
It is impossible for my colleagues and I to forget the case of the nine-month-old baby boy who died after being buggered and otherwise physically abused. The tiny casket stood starkly in the front of the near-empty church on the day of the funeral. As far as I recall, no public statement was ever made by any of those groups now clamouring for the repeal of our Buggery Law.
It is common knowledge that one of the most accessible sources for those in the society who prefer to have sex with children, are the country's street boys. In my work I have come to know several of them who are now young adults who have been irreparably damaged as victims of child sodomy while living on the streets.
It is also common knowledge that there is a conspiracy of silence and secrecy surrounding a certain set of tapes involving a certain influential man in the society who was brutally murdered six years ago. It is rumoured that young boys are among those captured on the tapes. Of course, in a country dominated by class supremacy and the abuse of power by influential individuals, it is no surprise that to this day no information has been forthcoming regarding the allegations of sexual violence against the children who may have been victims of that particular circumstance.
Any discussion about repealing the Buggery Law must be preceded by a full and thorough study of buggery in the society and how those cases have, and are being been dealt with in the justice system. It is critical that the country should understand the nature and extent of the problem in order to arrive at any informed position.
That sentiment must be clearly articulated to any foreign government which thinks that it has a right to dictate the repeal of any of the laws of a sovereign state like ours, however dependent we may be. Instead of threatening sanctions, those countries concerned about our Buggery Law should instead help us to strengthen critical institutions and to eradicate poverty so that the rights of those Jamaicans who are vulnerable to the ravages of abuse from both homosexuals and heterosexuals will be protected and advanced.
At the moment, Jamaican children are at risk, both outside in the general society and behind closed doors, everywhere across the country. With an average of 200 children being reported missing each month, and with the increase in rape and other sexual offences, strengthening our laws and not weakening or repealing them must be the highest priority.
Until Jamaica begins to see a levelling of the social and economic playing field, I don't see that we can pursue any worthwhile debate about the repeal of any law that may involve the sexual abuse of the poor and of minors, whatever the sexual orientation.
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