No changes to Jamaica's sexual offences law

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The parliamentary committee which reviewed Jamaica's sexual offence laws has decided against making any recommendations to change the laws relating to forced anal sex and incest for fear of inadvertently overturning legislation outlawing buggery.

The Joint Select Committee, chaired by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, reviewed the Sexual Offences Act, Offences Against The Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection Act.

One of the issues the Committee grappled with was the fact that forced intercourse with a woman could attract penalties as harsh as a life sentence, while forced anal penetration was not treated with the same level of gravity under Jamaican laws.

Recommendations were made that the penalties should be the same as forced penetration of the anus was just as traumatic as forced vaginal penetration. However the committee decided against expanding the definition of rape to reflect this.

The committee also contemplated whether forced anal penetration should be treated as an element of grievous sexual assault, which would be punishable by life imprisonment. In the end the committee decided not to make a recommendation on the issue because it was advised that any attempt to differentiate between forced anal sex and consensual anal sex could be seen as an amendment to the country's laws relating to buggery.

The committee says making the changes could result in the buggery laws losing the protection of the Savings Law Clause, which maintains pre-independence laws - this would mean the buggery laws would be open to challenge in court. The Committee also made no changes in relation to incest involving males for the same reason.

It was recommended that the laws relating to incest should be gender neutral since the crime could be perpetrated by a male or female. The committee said such matters should be decided on by the parliament. It also noted that recommending amendments to the law in relation to buggery in particular would be incompatible with the current policy position of the government to put the matter to a referendum.

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