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Jamaica activist brings legal challenge to anti-sodomy laws

Published:Wednesday | December 9, 2015 | 11:34 PMAP



A Jamaican gay rights activist has brought a rare legal challenge to the nation's anti-sodomy laws that criminalise consensual sex between men, the Canadian advocacy group he works for said.

Gay rights campaigner and attorney Maurice Tomlinson recently filed a claim in Jamaica's Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the rarely-used 1864 laws that ban anal sex and anything interpreted as "gross indecency" between men.

In a statement yesterday from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Tomlinson said longstanding laws are a "gross violation of my human rights" and those of all LGBT people in Jamaica. He is a senior policy analyst with the Toronto-based advocacy organisation.

Tomlinson believes the laws infringe on a charter of human rights Jamaica adopted in 2011 that guarantees islanders the right to privacy, among other things. He asserts the 151-year-old laws hinder efforts to fight HIV in Jamaica while fueling homophobia and "horrific violence."

Another Jamaican gay rights activist made headlines in 2013 after initiating a similar constitutional court challenge to the anti-sodomy laws. But that activist, Javed Jaghai, withdrew the case last year because of safety concerns. He was represented by Tomlinson.

Homosexuality is perceived as a sin by Jamaica's influential religious lobby and nearly a dozen other Caribbean nations where anti-gay laws are on the books. Many in Jamaica consider homosexuality to be wrong, and some insist violence against gays is blown out of proportion by homosexual activists.