Jamaica should repeal its colonial-era gay sex ban, the top rights body of the Americas has said, in a symbolic landmark ruling on LGBT+ rights in the Caribbean. This ruling said Jamaica’s law violated the rights of Henry and to human treatment, equal protection before the law, privacy and freedom of movement.
It is the first time the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled that criminalising gay and lesbian people violates international law, said the Human Dignity Trust, an LGBT+ legal advocacy group which brought the case.
Two Jamaicans who initiated the case in 2011 - after they were attacked by homophobic gangs and sought asylum overseas - said the 1864 ban on the “abominable crime of buggery” and “gross indecency” legitimised violence against LGBT+ people.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Gareth Henry, one of the claimants who is now a refugee in Canada, said. “Gays and lesbians continue to be killed and tortured because they are deemed to be different,” he added, describing how he was beaten by the police in front of a mob. The other claimant, Simone Edwards, fled to Europe after being shot multiple times outside her home.
A spokeswoman for the Jamaican government was not available to comment. Jamaica is one of nine Caribbean countries that criminalise gay sex. Homophobia is rife and the penalty for same-sex intimacy is up to 10 years in jail with hard labour. Gay sex is illegal in 68 countries worldwide.