Fears for family’s safety force claimant to close lawsuit against anti-gay laws; and in his own words

Please find below a press release from J-FLAG, dated Friday, August 29, 2014. I have also added Javed’s thoughts on the matter. 

Javed Jaghai, a gay man who brought a legal challenge to Jamaica’s anti-buggery laws in the country’s Supreme Court, has discontinued his case following threats of violence. Mr Jaghai argued that these laws violated his and others’ constitutional rights.

In a signed affidavit, a copy of which is attached to this statement, Mr Jaghai attributes his decision to personal threats, the burden that the litigation was putting on his family, and continuing incidents of violence against Jamaica’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In his affidavit, Mr Jaghai told the court:
“Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings.”

Janet Burak of AIDS-Free World, which supported Jaghai in his case from the beginning, said: “The fear that drove Javed to withdraw from the case is the same fear that keeps gay men in Jamaica underground, away from effective HIV testing, prevention, treatment, care, and support interventions. Jamaica’s own Minister of Health has publicly stated that stigma and discrimination are driving the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men. The country’s HIV prevalence rate for this at-risk population is the highest in the western hemisphere (33%), and Jamaica’s anti-gay law is among the most severe in the Caribbean region, with sentences of up to 10 years in prison for consensual sexual relations between men.”

J-FLAG, which had brought the claim alongside Mr Jaghai, said it understood his situation and that it fully supported his decision. J-FLAG has therefore consented to a Notice of Discontinuance.

Dane Lewis, Executive Director of J-FLAG, said: “A law criminalising what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home has no place in a free society that values and protects all its citizens.

The existence of this law and the closely related cultural hostility experienced by LGBT Jamaicans should be carefully considered in light of the reasons for Javed requesting that the case be discontinued. This is a live example of the ways in which the continued existence and enforcement of the anti-buggery law contributes to the lack of access to justice for sexual and gender minorities in Jamaica.”

All parties involved hope that in the aftermath of this there will be an opportunity to engage in a series of consultations with multiple stakeholders, including government, geared at sensitising Jamaicans about the LGBT community.

AIDS-Free World has been working, and will continue to work, in the Caribbean and elsewhere, to eliminate laws and policies that inhibit a more effective HIV response, including Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws.

J-FLAG remains committed to advocating for the rights of Jamaica’s LGBT community and will continue to support any legitimate means to effect meaningful change to improve their lives and to ensure that the community enjoys the rights afforded to all.

J-FLAG logo
The J-FLAG logo includes the colors of the Jamaican flag (black, green and gold).

Contacts:

AFW: jburak@aidsfreeworld.org +1 (212) 729-5084
J-FLAG: admin@j-flag.org (876) 754-2130
Mr Jaghai filed a constitutional challenge to the buggery laws against the Attorney General on 6 February 2013. On 3 September 2013, J-FLAG was added to the action as a claimant.
AIDS-Free World is an international advocacy organization working for more urgent and effective global responses to HIV and AIDS. To learn more, visit
http://www.aidsfreeworld.org.
J-FLAG is the foremost organisation in Jamaica advocating for the rights of LGBT people, and is committed to promoting social change, empowering the LGBT community, and building tolerance for, and acceptance of LGBT people. Through our programmes we seek to foster the acceptance and enrichment of the lives of same-gender-loving persons who have been, and continue to be an integral part of society. To find out more, please visit http://jflag.org/.

 

AIDS-Free World
AIDS-Free World

END NOTES from Javed Jaghai:

After a period of extensive reflection, I am confident in my decision to withdraw as claimant for the following reasons (in no particular order):

My family is currently attending to the urgent medical needs of my sister. My participation in the case and the attendant social consequences place an extra burden on us that I cannot justify at this time.

Jamaica is a very small society with many poorly socialized people. Unstable individuals regularly harm unsuspecting others for choosing to live in a way that displeases them. While I have never been harmed physically, I have been threatened enough times to know that I am vulnerable. Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings.

The plantocracy in the colony of Jamaica ratified the law in question in 1864 – a year before the Morant Bay Rebellion. Great Britain granted the island independence in 1962 and one-time subjects of a violent empire became citizens of a new nation. Fifty-two years after independence, we are debating the constitutional validity of an 1864 law that is silly. I simply cannot continue to submerge my consciousness in an 1860’s reality to make sense of a legal system that acknowledges no discontinuity between colonial Jamaica and Jamaica in 2014.

I am very concerned that this case could go into 2015 and beyond given consistent delays. If this matter should be taken to the next level, which my lawyers suggested is likely, then we can expect another few years of sensationalized deliberations. I refuse to stand by while prominent voices in the society use this moment as an opportunity to incite mistrust and instigate waves of hysteria. I am not fighting any battles. This is not a war. I do not fight, I promote peace. But participants in island-wide protests and subsequent media reports and commentaries insist that “we” are at war, so I am going to lay down my weapons. I do not want to be characterized as a villain anymore.

After reading the submissions made by the many interested parties in the case (please read their submissions), it is clear to me that the “homosexual” or “gay” is a fantasy born of ignorance, fear and misguided convictions. I will dedicate no more of my time, energy and intelligence to grappling with anyone’s illusions. We only get to witness a slice of cosmic time. I want to enjoy the phenomenal chance I get to ride this rotating planet in space.

For these and other reasons, I think it is best for me to withdraw the claim. A genuine challenge deserves a claimant who is actually convinced that there is justice to be pursued by way of The Law.


5 thoughts on “Fears for family’s safety force claimant to close lawsuit against anti-gay laws; and in his own words

    1. Yes, he is indeed. I have the honor of knowing him and he is a sincere, kind and sensitive young man. Extremely bright and an Ivy League graduate. I think he will be fine.

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  1. I hope he has made the right decision, for himself, his family and his cause. On a related note, I have often wondered how much of the protest against the buggery law is because of its symbolic nature, rather than material effect on the lives of gay men. A couple of years ago, while doing some legal research, I tried to find reported cases of men actually prosecuted for consensual sex under the relevant section of the Offences Against the Persons Act. I think I found one from a newspaper article in the 1990s, and that was it. When I contacted the attorney in that particular case and asked him if he knew of any more, he said no. I contacted J-FLAG, and they said they didn’t know of any such case. So it is always something of a puzzle to me that international agencies put so much emphasis on this law. I do agree the section should be explicitly modified to address only anal *rape* (of children, women and men). But from the case law, this is mainly (exclusively?) what it is used for by the police and DPP’s office already.

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    1. Only Javed can say if he has made the right decision, but I respect it. You have raised an interesting point, though, about symbolism. I am not very good at legal matters, but will refer your comments to J-FLAG and relay their response. Thank you so much for your input!

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