Keen Eye on Jamaica as Belize Sets Precedent on LGBT Rights

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Updated: August 11, 2016

With Belize’s Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin making history via his decision on the constitutionality of Section 53, one of the countries in the Caribbean that has been looking keenly at the judgement is Jamaica.  On one hand, there is talk that the judgement in Belize will have legal implications for Jamaica while others are saying otherwise.  Bert Samuels is a prominent Defense Attorney in Jamaica and according to him via an interview, he noted, quote, “unlike a Privy Council decision which is binding, we can’t say that it must be followed elsewhere.  It is the first time in the Caribbean territory that any such sexual contact is deemed to be in breach of a person’s constitutional rights.”  End of quote.  Samuels went on to note via the Jamaican Gleaner, that any potential impact from the ruling would have to be determined when the court hands down its written judgement.  He also added that some consideration would have to be given to whether the law in Belize is the same as in Jamaica.  There are some, according to the Gleaner, who have argued that the ruling has set a legal precedent and will influence common law.  Meanwhile, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has issued a statement in its territory declaring its hope that yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Belize would persuade Jamaica to abandon its anti-buggery laws.  The online article reads, quote, “The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has described the ruling as groundbreaking and potentially game-changing.  It notes that 10 states in the Caribbean, including Jamaica continue to cling to British colonially imposed anti-gay edicts. It argues that such outdated laws contribute to hate and violence against LGBTI people, and exacerbate the HIV epidemic in the region.  It says it is supporting the ongoing constitutional challenge of Jamaica’s anti-buggery laws by Jamaican lawyer and rights activist, Maurice Tomlinson.  The Network says although yesterday’s ruling is not binding outside of Belize, it hopes it will be highly persuasive in Jamaica and other countries in the region.  The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network promotes the human rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in Canada and internationally.”  End of quote.