The Supreme Court of Jamaica is today set to hear a controversial motion that challenges the constitutionality of the 1864 buggery law.
US based advocacy group AIDS-Free World filed the claim on behalf of Jamaican homosexual Javed Jaghai.
The hearing follows rallies by Christian groups across the island on Sunday, to protest the repealing of the outdated buggery law. Around 1,500 people in their Sunday best gathered in a central Kingston park to protest.
Some carried placards saying marriage should only be between a man and a woman and others pumped signs into the air saying “Keep the buggery law!” A similar prayer meeting was held in the northern city of Montego Bay.
“God says homosexuality and lesbianism are unlawful and unnatural, and no government has the authority to rebel against God by making lawful what He says is unlawful,” Pastor Leslie Buckland told the Kingston meeting.
The colonial-era “buggery law” prohibits anal sex and “gross indecency” between men, outlawing sexual relationships between consenting men. The punishment is 10 years in prison in Jamaica, one of several Caribbean islands with anti-sodomy laws enforced with strong backing from religious groups. Barbados, Guyana and Grenada are among the regional countries that uphold laws prohibiting homosexuality.
The hearing follows the challenge by gay Jamaican lawyer Maurice Tomlinson who sued three local television stations for refusing to air an advertisement promoting tolerance of homosexuality.
Today the court will be asked to determine if the anti-sodomy law breaches rights guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms which was enacted in 2011.
AIDS-Free World noted in a release that the Charter explicitly guarantees the right to privacy while pointing out that it also contradicts itself by preserving the 1864 anti-sodomy law.
Under this law, intimacy between two adult men in privacy is an offence which can carry a prison term for up to 10 years at hard labour.
The group is arguing that under the Charter it is illegal to enforce the anti-sodomy law as it breaches the right to privacy.
In a pre-election debate in 2011, Portia Simpson Miller, then Opposition leader, promised to review the buggery law if elected. The government later decided to put the review on hold to focus instead on the economy, crime and other initiatives.