Jamaica should lift its colonial-era gay sex ban, America’s highest rights agency said on Wednesday in a symbolic milestone that will determine LGBT rights in the Caribbean.
Two Jamaicans who started the case in 2011 – after being attacked by homophobic gangs and seeking asylum overseas – said the 1864 ban on the “heinous crime of buggery” and “gross indecency” legitimized violence against LGBT people. People.
“I am overwhelmed with joy,” Gareth Henry, one of the applicants, who is now a refugee in Canada, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Gays and lesbians continue to be killed and tortured because they are considered different,” he said, describing how he was beaten by police in front of a mob.
A spokeswoman for the Jamaican government was not immediately available to comment.
It is the first time the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled that the criminalization of gays and lesbians is a violation of international law, said the Human Dignity Trust, an LGBT legal advocate group that brought the case forward.
Jamaica is one of nine Caribbean countries that criminalize gay sex. Homophobia is common and the penalty for same-sex intimacy is up to 10 years in prison with hard labor. Homosexual sex is illegal in 68 countries around the world, says the ILGA advocacy group.
Wednesday’s ruling said Jamaica’s law violated the rights of Henry and Simone Edwards – who fled to Europe after being shot several times outside their home – to humane treatment, equal protection, privacy and freedom of movement.
“It is a major legal victory that is relevant not just for Jamaica but for the entire region,” said Tea Braun, director of the Human Dignity Trust.
“It’s a major pressure point and hopefully it will speed up the repeal of these laws,” she said, adding that the largely symbolic decision would not result in an immediate change.
The Washington-based IACHR is the Organization of American States’ human rights arm, which was established to protect human rights in the region, but without its own enforcement powers.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in 2014 when he was in the opposition that he wanted to introduce the ban on gay sex to the public in a “grand referendum,” along with marijuana, abortion and whether Britain’s Queen Elizabeth should remain head of state.
The IACHR decision was made in September 2019 but remained strictly confidential until Wednesday.
Follow other stories on Facebook and Twitter
This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text.