Culture

Spreading HIV Could Become a Crime in Jamaica

Knowingly infecting someone with HIV could become a crime in Jamaica. That’s if government accepts a recommendation made by a parliamentary committee that has been reviewing several pieces of legislation  the Offense Against the Person Act, the Sexual Offense Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act – over the last two years.

The committee acknowledged there was a deficiency in the law in relation to the deliberate spreading of HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – and other sexually transmitted diseases the Offense Against the Person Act should be amended to make it a criminal offense for someone to willfully or recklessly infect a partner with a sexually transmissible disease which can inflict serious bodily harm, as is the case in other jurisdictions like Canada and the United Kingdom.

The committee made several other recommendations. Among that was a deletion of Section 5 of the Sexual Offences Act, which contends that rape cannot occur within the context of a marriage, unless conditions set out in the provision were met.

“This was viewed as placing married women in a disadvantageous position, when compared to other women in relationships,” the committee’s report said.

However, it said it had decided against recommending a change to legislation related to forced anal penetration because it could affect existing buggery laws.

“We wanted to include a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for forced anal penetration, and sought to achieve this by recommending that non-consensual anal penetration be treated as an element of grievous sexual assault, with an expressed intent that this should not be construed as impliedly amending or repealing any provision in the Offense Against the Person Act, since this would be a different offense from buggery,” it reported.

“We also learnt that amending the law in this manner would be incompatible with the current policy position of the Government that the provisions related to buggery be put to a referendum with other matters of broad public divide,” it added.

The committee also suggested that any amendment of the existing law concerning abortion should be examined “by Parliament as a whole”.

It further recommended: aggravated sentencing for the murder of pregnant women, as well as other vulnerable individuals including the elderly, people with disabilities and children; a new offence of ‘predatory sexual assault’ in cases where a sexual assault victim is a child under the age of 12 or someone with a mental disorder; prohibiting the employment of children in massage parlours, betting, gaming and lottery activities, and the promotion of parties and events outside of commercial sale within an establishment; prohibiting corporal punishment in all schools, public institutions for the care, instruction or guidance of children in the care of the State, and in all public places; and expanding the court’s ability to make a Parental Order to bind parents over for the good behaviour of a child, with a penalty of being sent to parental seminars.

However, it refused to increase the age of consent from 16 to 18; make incest gender neutral; decriminalize living o the earnings of prostitution; restrict judges’ discretion in allowing evidence of sexual history; and approve detention of children below the age of 12 in juvenile correctional center or remove the special authority under which children under 12 can be detained in a juvenile correctional centre.

 

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