The following statement is issued by the HIV Legal Network and should be attributed to Maurice Tomlinson, Jamaican-Canadian activist, lawyer, and nurse.

December 8, 2023 – Kingston, Canada – Today, I filed my notice to appeal the October 27th decision of the Supreme Court of Jamaica, a decision that threatened to end my quest for justice for myself and all other LGBTQ+ Jamaicans whose human rights are being denied.

As a proud Jamaican-Canadian man and member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster since October 27 when the Supreme Court shielded the anti-sodomy law from judicial scrutiny in my homeland. This law is used to criminalize, imprison, and inflict violence upon LGBTQ+ Jamaicans. It is also a law that drives LGBTQ+ people away from HIV testing, care, and treatment – and acts as a driver of new HIV infections in the country. It is a terrible, misguided law that denies my humanity.

As a believer in the rule of law and a lawyer myself, I was left bereft by the alarming decision by the Supreme Court in Jamaica to dismiss clear constitutional principles to preserve bigoted legislation. You can read more about the October 27th decision here.

The justice system in Jamaica has long suffered under the weight of holdover laws from colonization. This anti-sodomy law is one such law, an appalling remnant of “Victorian-era morality” that allows human rights abuses to flourish in Jamaica. In 2020 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found Jamaica in violation of the rights of its own LGBTQ+ citizens, and recommended repeal of this homophobic law. Of course, nothing has changed since that international rebuke.

The Jamaican government is currently reviewing its constitution. If Jamaica is to remain a free secular state governed by the rule of law, this October 27th judgement must not stand. Our courts are the last bulwark against the tyranny of the majority, and Jamaica is at a crossroads. Will we settle for a constitution that makes a mockery of our motto: “Out of Many, One People?” Will Jamaica end up being the last country in the Western Hemisphere to criminalize consenting adults for their acts of intimacy? Or will we finally stand up for justice and health for all?

This appeal will no doubt come at a terrible personal cost, but I am willing to stand up for myself and for all LGBTQ+ Jamaicans. The time for change is now.