A new constitutional challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law that criminalises all forms of intimacy between men was launched. There is overwhelming evidence that the law provides licence for abuse, discrimination and, too often, the assault, torture and murder of LGBTI Jamaicans, including through cases of violent ‘corrective rape’ perpetrated against lesbian and bisexual women. In fact, one senior police officer has said that anti-gay attitudes will not change until the law changes.
There are also well recognised public-health reasons to abolish this colonial relic, including the fact that its existence continues to drive men who have sex with men underground and away from effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions. Consequently, Jamaica has the highest HIV prevalence rate among MSM in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world - around 33 per cent.
The challenge being launched will be the second attempt to use local courts to abolish the law. The first case was withdrawn in 2014 when the claimant and his family received death threats. In that case, more than a dozen religious organisations were allowed to intervene in defending the law.