Jamaican elections underscore a vote for LGBT tolerance

Jamaican elections underscore a vote for LGBT tolerance

Portia Simpson-Miller on Thursday was sworn inas Jamaica’s new Prime Minister after being elected to the office on Dec. 29 — in a pre-election debate last month, Simpson-Miller came out in support of LGBT rights in what activists called an “historic moment.

Portia Simpson-Miller

Simpson-Miller, leader of the People’s National Party (PNP) also pledged to review the country’s criminalization of homosexuality, and stated she would not forbid gays and lesbians from taking office in her new cabinet.

“No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation,” Simpson-Miller said in the debate last month against outgoing Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, leader of the Jamaican Labor Party.

“Government should provide the protection,” she added, and said that her administration should review the law criminalizing homosexuality and allow a free vote on the matter at the Jamaican parliament.

In contrast, Holness, accepted that Jamaica should adhere to Human Rights laws while saying that the Jamaican people ought to determine their own particular “civil rights” (i.e. exclusive of LGBT rights).

The People’s National Party won 41 seats while the Jamaican Labour Party was left with the resting 22 seats of Jamaica’s 63-seat Parliament.

Voting turnout was a record low of below 50% as Jamaica is facing dire economic, social and high debt issues.

This advancement in raising LGBT rights positively in a political context “hasn’t come out of nowhere,” said LGBT rights activist Paul Canning:

“Jamaica has been positively evolving on LGBT rights for some time — perhaps unnoticed,” said Canning, who also cautioned, “Whether the PNP will deliver anything of consequence remains to be seen.”

Dane Lewis, the executive director of Jamaica’s LGBT Advocacy group, J-FLAG, said in a radio interview that the group expects the new Prime Minister to stick to her pledge.

Simpson-Miller served a previous term in the office of Prime Minister, from March 2006 to September 2007, and was the first woman in that role.

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