Jamaican-Canadian Gay Activist Challenges Buggery Law

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Jamaican-Canadian gay rights activist, Maurice Tomlinson, is challenging Jamaica’s buggery law in the Supreme Court.

The Attorney General is listed as the claimant in the case.

Tomlinson says the buggery law breaches his fundamental rights and freedoms under the constitution.

These include his right to freedom of expression, equality before law and to be protected from torture or inhumane and degrading treatment.

In the 21-page affidavit, Tomlinson identifies himself as an attorney-at-law and a gay man.

He says he is married to a Canadian man, and that he regularly travels between his homes in Montego Bay and Toronto.

He says that as far back as he can remember, he’s been sexually attracted to men.

Tomlinson says he was always told that homosexuality is the result of some childhood abuse or absent parents.

But he says he was raised in a loving Christian home with two heterosexual parents and was never molested.

In 1999, he married the woman who was his best friend in college and fathered a child, on the belief of church teachings that regular heterosexual sex and prayer would cure him.

However, the relationship fell apart four years later, and in 2011, he married a man in Canada.

Both he and his husband are prominent gay rights activists.

But Tomlinson says his visibility as a prominent gay man in Jamaica makes him fear for his life.

He’s documented death threats he’s received in response to several media interviews, as well as letters to the editor published in newspapers.

Additionally, Tomlinson says in the affidavit that he has a real and tangible fear of being prosecuted and convicted for engaging in any form of intimacy with his partner in Jamaica.

He says, “In my view, the laws of Jamaica that criminalize consensual sexual intimacy between men essentially render me an un-apprehended criminal.”

He says this violates his right to life, liberty and the security of the person; right to freedom of expression; equality before the law; protection for his private and family life; and protection from torture or inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment – all guaranteed under the constitution.

Tomlinson is asking the court to make null and void, sections 76, 77 and 79 of the Offenses Against the Person Act, also known as the Buggery Law.

The law allows a prison sentence of up to ten years for what it calls an “unnatural offense” or “outrage on decency”.

However, Tomlinson is also asking that the court to order that the law continues to criminalize non-consensual sex between men, or rape, as well as sex with someone under the age of 16.

In 2013, the court dismissed a claim filed by Tomlinson against Television Jamaica, CVM TV, and PBCJ for refusing to air a public service announcement promoting tolerance for homosexuals.

He also has ongoing constitutional cases against the governments of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago.

Immigration laws in those countries prohibit homosexuals from entering the country.

In Belize, a case similar to Tomlinson’s challenge to the buggery law, has been awaiting a decision for the past two years.

Although arguments were concluded in May, 2013, the Supreme Court is yet to hand down a decision, which would be a landmark for the Caribbean.

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