Jamaica’s new Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller of the People’s National Party, will not only be the Caribbean nation’s first female leader—she has also vowed to run a government more accepting to gays and lesbians.
Her party beat the incumbent Labor Party by an overwhelming margin yesterday, elevating Miller to the Prime Minister’s office.
Her election may indicate a cultural shift toward tolerance in Jamaica. Notorious as one of the most homophobic nations in the Western Hemisphere, Jamaica has seen several instances of serious violence, including murder, against LGBT activists and citizens in recent years. The country’s “buggery” law, a relic from its centuries as a British colony, criminalizes homosexual acts with sentences of up to ten years’ hard labor. Miller’s disgraced predecessor, Bruce Golding, refused to hire gay men or lesbians in his administration.
While Miller has not indicated whether her party would move toward repeal of the “buggery” law, she did claim at a televised debate in December that “our administration believes in protecting the human rights of all Jamaicans. No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Government should provide the protection.” She also indicated that “anyone with the ability, the capacity and the capability,” regardless of sexual orientation, would be eligible to serve in her administration.
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