The Prime Minister of Jamaica has said he would not object to a gay person serving in his cabinet.
Andrew Holness, the country’s leader since 2016, went against comments by one of his predecessors who proclaimed gay people should be banned from high office.
Jamaica has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the crime of sodomy.
Asked if he would ban gay person from serving under him, Holness said: “Absolutely not.”
“Firstly, it’s not my business, neither is it my interest. Whatever is in my discretion to distribute politically, a person’s sexuality or sexual orientation is not a criteria for the use of my discretion.”
Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as the most homophobic country in the world because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people.
Pressed on how slowly Jamaican society is progressing in its attitudes he said: “I think that Jamaica ought to be given space to find its own solution to the problem.”
”The culture is evolving. The people are evolving. Even in the church, which 10 years ago had a unified position (against homosexuality), the church in Jamaica now has multiple positions on the issue,” Holness said.
He told a gathered audience for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that the issue of homosexuality is not one that modern Jamaica is afraid to address.
“The truth is that, in the past, like many developed countries now, there was a very conservative view on these matters.
“Jamaica is a part of Western culture. We are generally liberally orientated; we are very well connected into the world,” Holness declared.
He continued: “Jamaica is going through its own process – just as Europe did 50 years ago and some probably 20 years ago or more recent than that. And it can be very frustrating for Jamaicans to understand what is happening – to feel a little bit targeted sometimes.”
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Holness, a Labour prime minister, argued that Jamaican law protects the human rights of all its nationals, regardless of their sexual preferences, while failing to acknowledge the ban on same-sex male intercourse.
“I think we are generally very liberal, but more so, very tolerant,” he claimed.
“The first steps that are positive steps include that the state protects the human rights of every citizen regardless of sexual orientation or inclination, and that’s the… start.”
“I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country,” she told the meeting of leaders.
“They were wrong then and they are wrong now.
“As the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, I deeply regret the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”
The UK Government has announced a £5m fund to support reforming laws that discriminate against LGBT people and women in Commonwealth nations as part of a push for more progressive laws in the family of nations.