Buggery Law No Longer on Trial in Jamaica

A man has withdrawn his Supreme Court case against Jamaica's antigay law out of fear for his safety.

BY Thom Senzee

August 30 2014 1:20 PM ET

A rally held in support of Jamaica's antigay law.

A Jamacian says he is dropping a legal challenge to the country's buggery laws out of fear for the safety of his family and himself.

Javed Jaghai said he's received death threats since bringing his case before the Supreme Court, which would have considered the constitutionality of Jamaica's law against gay sex. Dating back to 1864, the Jamaican law is a relic of British rule. It provides 10 years hard labor for "the abominable crime of buggery" and criminalizes male-to-male sex acts.

Despite previous promises by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller that her government would lead a review and a possible effort to repeal Jamaica's brutal buggery law, which criminalizes homosexuality, for now at least, it appears the law will stand. If a recent rally and the death threats against Jaghai and the LGBT youth forced to live in sewers are any indicators, a significant number of Jamaicans are passionate about maintaining societal homophobia on the island nation.

“We appreciate what Jaghai has had to endure and recognize his bravery in bringing this case forward in the first place," said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord in a statement. Still, “We are disappointed that this important case will not be heard by Jamaica’s Supreme Court, especially since the very law being challenged has helped to create the climate of discrimination and violence that has led to the withdrawal of the case."

Human Rights First urged the United States and allies of LGBT rights to continue "continue to partner with Jamaican activists and expand efforts to promote the human rights of the Jamaican LGBT community.”

The now dead court case was based on the plaintiff's claim that he was unlawfully evicted from the place where he lived for being gay because the eviction was based on a violation of his privacy. It would have argued the buggery law itself violates Jamaica's constitutionally protected privacy laws.

“The court case challenging the constitutionality of the buggery law would have been instrumental in achieving progress toward equality for LGBT Jamaicans, regardless of its outcome,” said Angeline Jackson, co-founder of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica. She hopes individuals and organizations that had supported the Supreme Court case will refocus their efforts on other fights. “Though constitutional and legal challenges are important steps toward the transformations toward equality that we seek in Jamaica," said Jackson, "we must never forget that another aspect of this process is changing hearts and minds — something that will not be achieved through court cases alone."

Tags: Jamaica, World

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