Jamaica might hold ‘referendum’ on anti-gay law

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Jamaican government might hold a ‘referendum’ on the country’s anti-gay law – though the law enjoys overwhelming public support.

Under Jamaican law, men who have sex with men can face up to 10 years imprisonment and hard labour.

In reality, the toll is often far higher – the country is a hotspot for extreme homophobic violence, and the Jamaican public is overwhelmingly opposed to LGBT equality.

The country’s new Prime Minister Andrew Holness hinted at a strategy to get round international pressure on the law this week – by suggesting a referendum.

The leader of the Jamaican Labour Party, who ousted PM Portia Simpson-Miller in an election, signalled that he would hold “public votes” on “key constitutional and social issues” – widely interpreted to suggest the sodomy law will be put to a vote.
Jamaica might hold ‘referendum’ on anti-gay law
An editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper noted that such a vote has very little chance of securing a majority in favour of repealing the law.

It states: “The buggery law, which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has often said should be put to a referendum, is a no-brainer.

“How do they think the average Jamaican would respond? Obviously, the response will be impulsive, driven by cultural norms, ignorance and fear.

“Is this the way to lead? The only way a referendum could work is if there, is a public relations effort behind the referendum to raise awareness of the issues.

“I think it belittles us to have a sexual act between consenting adults be taken to a national referendum.”

The country’s previous Prime Minister had been elected on a platform calling for the anti-gay law to be scrapped.

Portia Simpson-Miller claimed she would consider decriminalising homosexuality before her election in 2011 – but went back on her promise.

She was later accused of “betraying” voters on the issue.