Inter-American rights body finds Jamaica violated LGBT rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found in a landmark decision released Wednesday that the Jamaican government is responsible for violating the human rights of two of its nationals within the LGBT community.
The Human Dignity Trust (HDT), a charity composed of international lawyers championing LGBT rights, brought the case in 2011 on behalf of two individuals. Gareth Henry is a gay man, who, after facing police brutality and repeated attacks by homophobic gangs and mobs, sought asylum in Canada in 2008. Henry was beaten by a policeman while a crowd of 200 people stood by. Simone Edwards is a lesbian woman who was forced to flee Jamaica after being shot multiple times outside her house in 2008. The two perpetrators wanted to kill her and her brothers, one of whom is gay. After the government continually failed to protect them, Edwards was granted asylum in Europe.
The commission found the Jamaican government responsible for the violation of the rights to humane treatment, privacy, freedom of movement and residence, equal protection, and judicial protection, set down in the American Convention of Human Rights. It recommended that the Jamaican government provide full reparation, including economic compensation, to Henry and Edwards. It also called for homophobic laws to be repealed on an immediate basis (sections 76-79 of the Offenses Against the Person Act, 1864). There are no legal safeguards against discrimination in the country, and, for that reason, the commission called for an anti-discrimination legal framework. It recommended that the government gather statistical data on violence and discrimination based on gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and body diversity; train public officials; and give a comprehensive sexuality education inclusive of sexual and gender diversity. It also called for applying the standard of due diligence.
Henry and Edwards had argued that the laws prohibiting “buggery,” or anal sex, and “gross indecency”—remnants of the colonial era—not just violate their rights, but also legitimize violence against LGBT persons.
“This is a major legal victory for Gareth, Simone and the entire LGBT community in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, where nine countries continue to criminalise consensual same-sex intimacy,” said Téa Braun, Director of the HDT. “It is a highly significant step forward that must now accelerate the repeal of these stigmatising and discriminatory laws.”
It is the first decision by the commission to find that laws criminalizing LGBT people violate international law. Consequently, it sets a precedent for the Caribbean region.
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