Thursday 9 July, 2020

MPs told to consider 'saving laws clause' related to buggery, abortion

MPs in Gordon House

MPs in Gordon House

Members of Parliament (MPs) have been asked to consider whether they will vote to retain or amend legislation that criminalises buggery and abortion, two usually divisive issues.

Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck told MPs on Tuesday to consider the matters as he opened the debate on the report of the Joint Select Committee that was appointed to review the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act.

In recent years, Jamaica has come under pressure from countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada to amend what many consider archaic legislation that prohibits same sex unions. In particular, Jamaica is being pressured to repeal its buggery law.

However, opinion polls usually find that Jamaicans are in favour of retaining the buggery law by significant margins.

The parliamentary committee, fearing that it could inadvertently overturn the buggery law, made no recommendations to amend the legislation relating to forced anal sex and incest.

Chuck explained why.

"If we touch buggery or abortion, it will affect the saving laws clause in the constitution, so parliament must make its recommendation whether we want to remove the saving laws clause as it appears in the constitution and deal with them. But once we touch these two particular offences, Mr Speaker, it immediately has constitutional effect, and therefore, this parliament must bear that in mind," he told MPs.  

It was for the same reason that there was no recommendation to change the law relating to incest involving males.

The Justice Minister noted that the government has promised referenda on buggery and abortion. However, he said the debate will provide them with the opportunity to make suggestions as to how the country should proceed.

The debate should continue next week Tuesday.

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