Colman Domingo
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Could Jamaica End Colonial-Era Gay Sex Ban?

Maurice Tomlinson

Human rights activist Maurice Tomlinson filed a constitutional challenge to Jamaica's 1864 law banning "buggery," a.k.a. sodomy, on Thursday, the Associated Press reports — and some are seeing it as a first step at tackling the Caribbean nation's deep animus toward LGBT people.

Tomlinson's challenge follows a similar lawsuit that was brought last year, but was later withdrawn after the plaintiff faced threats against himself and his family. The initial challenge prompted a homophobic rally that brought 25,000 people to the streets.

The current law calls for punishment of up to 10 years in prison with hard labor for those convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery." Tomlinson's attorney say the law violates the Jamaican constitution by conflicting with the nation's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Activists say the law legitimizes discrimination and encourages violence against LGBT people, of which there is no shortage in Jamaica. "The law also breeds a climate of impunity in cases of violence and discrimination against LGBT Jamaicans," according to a statement from Human Rights First.

"The law is a gross violation of my human rights and those of all LGBTI people in my country," Tomlinson said in a statement. "It directly infringes numerous rights guaranteed by Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and also fuels horrific violence."

Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord urged the American government to make it clear they support repeal of the 151-year-old act and to ensure the safety of Tomlinson.

The push for repeal follows President Obama's visit to the island nation in the spring, during which he advocated for LGBT rights and respect. Jamaica also held its first Pride festival this summer.

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