Last edited: July 11, 2004

Jamaica Says Will Not Abolish Ban On Homosexuality

Reuters, December 16, 1998

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s justice minister on Wednesday dismissed calls from homosexuals for the government to abolish laws declaring homosexuality illegal.

"No, there’s no plan by the government to repeal the laws relevant to homosexual activities. The law is founded in a moral imperative which has not changed," Justice Minister K.D. Knight told Reuters.

Knight’s comment followed the creation last week of J-FLAG – the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays.

"We believe that homosexuality and discrimination against gays and lesbians are legitimate human rights issues, which must be treated as such," said J-FLAG spokesman Brian Williamson.

Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica and in the past year has become a hot issue throughout much of the Caribbean. Britain is urging some of its remaining colonies and independent former territories in the region to liberalize anti-gay laws, drawing resentment from many people.

The Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights (IJCHR) backed J-FLAG’s appeal.

"We would support the repealing of the law relating to sex, which does not only affect homosexuals. It is Victorian and is no longer appropriate to the time," Executive Director Hilaire Sobers told Reuters.

In March, Jamaican church leaders protested against a show on the island by the U.S. gay pop vocal group The Village People, saying it highlighted "a behavior repugnant to the majority of people in this country."

The government of the Cayman Islands started a furor over gay vacationers a year ago December when it refused landing rights to a cruise ship, saying the 900 gay passengers could not be expected to uphold appropriate standards of behavior.

Jamaica gained international notoriety in August 1997 when prison inmates killed 16 fellow prisoners believed to be homosexual.

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