David Cameron urged to raise anti-gay laws on Jamaica visit

As British Prime Minister David Cameron visits Jamaica, he has been urged to speak out against a surge in homophobic violence and the nation’s colonial-era anti-gay laws.

The Conservative PM is currently on a visit to the Caribbean island nation, where homosexuality is still strongly taboo, and LGBT people face the very real risk of persecution and vigilante violence.

Despite being long repealed in the UK, an unrepealed colonial era law – the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act – continues to criminalise gay sex in Jamaica.

The country’s PM Portia Simpson-Miller had said she would consider decriminalising homosexuality before her election in 2011 – but has gone back on her promise.

She has since been accused of “betraying” voters on the issue, by failing to act on her pledge.

Following calls from cross-party peers to address the legacy of British anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth, Mr Cameron has been urged to raise the issue.

Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote: “Today, as he visits Jamaica, our Prime Minister will have a chance to make good that commitment in a country where it really matters and where his words can make a positive impact.

“All eyes will be on Cameron as he addresses the Jamaican parliament. Will he deliver on his promise to affirm LGBT rights globally, including for LGBT Jamaicans?”

He said: “Given the few liberal politicians in Jamaica and the failure of most of them to speak out against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, David Cameron should grasp today’s opportunity to help challenge prejudice and put LGBT equality into public and political consciousness.

“Not only would this be the right thing to do, it is perhaps his duty to speak out against the homophobia that Britain imposed on Jamaica in the nineteenth century, when it sent out ‘fire and brimstone’ Christian missionaries who promoted anti-LGBT prejudice in the name of religion.”