Inter-American rights body condemns Jamaica’s homophobic laws

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A decision by a top human rights tribunal in the Americas has found the Jamaican government responsible for violating multiple rights of a gay man and a lesbian and urges an immediate repeal of the country’s homophobic laws.

The decision was made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 28 September 2019 but remained strictly confidential under their orders until today. The Human Dignity Trust, which brought the case before the Commission almost a decade ago in 2011, says it is a crucial and precedent setting legal victory.

As the first-ever decision of the Commission to find that laws criminalising lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people violate international law, this is now the landmark LGBT human rights case for the entire Caribbean region.

The Jamaican claimants in the case, Gareth Henry, a gay man living as a refugee in Canada, and Simone Edwards, a lesbian who was also forced to flee the country, had argued that sections of the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act – a British colonial-era law that outlaws the ‘abominable crime of buggery’ and acts of ‘gross indecency’ with punishments of up to ten years in prison with hard labour – violate their rights and legitimise violence towards the entire LGBT community in Jamaica.

The Trust and its legal team, led by Caribbean lawyer Douglas Mendes SC, represented the two Jamaicans, working closely with leading LGBT organisation the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

Watch Gareth Henry and Téa Braun, the Trust's Chief Executive Director, talk about the importance of the decision and what it means for Gareth, and all LGBT Jamaicans.