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Sunday, April 10, 2011

To Shirley Richards

Ahh boi, Ms. Shirley Richards, immediate past-chair of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship has me ranting.

Let me begin by directing you to Ms. Richards’ latest article 'No truth that repealing buggery law will help reduce HIV/AIDS'

Ms. Richards would like us to believe that decriminalizing buggery will not affect HIV incidents among men who have sex with men (MSM), and that decriminalizing buggery would actually lead to an increase in HIV transmission among MSMs. I am not disputing that the rate of infection among MSMs will decrease if buggery is decriminalized; my argument is that keeping the buggery law does not help to reduce HIV transmission. With the buggery law still on the books it makes it more difficult for MSMs to access treatment and prevention services. The rational for this statement rests in the fact that stigma and discrimination is high and that this drives MSMs underground and away from the necessary health services.

I have noticed from reading other articles from Ms. Richards that she seems to take bits and pieces of articles and incidents out of context and use that to fuel fear and resentment in the Jamaican population. If a private organisation or institution is operated by Seventh-day Adventists, then as a non-Adventist or even non-Christian you will be required to abide by the rules of that organisation. So it is with the issue of homosexuality; if a private body does not condone discrimination based on sexual orientation, then no individual can discriminate of such grounds, or they will be subject to sanctions. On the issue of human rights no-one can be forced to do something against their belief, or personal ideals.

Ms. Richards asks “where do rights originate?” Let us turn to the preamble in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which gives us the reason the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was created. It listed among others that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; it also stated that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people. Jamaica as a signatory to the UDHR should keep the Declaration in mind when they are (as in the Charter of Rights) formulating the rights to which Jamaicans are entitled.

Ms. Richards, the rights of consenting adult homosexuals to conduct their sexual business in the privacy of their bedrooms is frankly neither the business of you nor the government of Jamaica.

Decriminalizing buggery will not make HIV infections among MSMs go away, it will however, over time lead to an increase of access to and utilization of health services.

Wake up Ms. Richards, policy and law makers, and HIV interest groups. Take your heads out of the sand.

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