Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The rape of women is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when spouses have separated or begun proceedings to dissolve the marriage; when the husband is under a court order not to molest or cohabit with his wife; or when the husband knows he suffers from a sexually transmitted infection.
The law prohibits domestic violence and provides remedies, including restraining orders and other noncustodial sentencing, but violence against women continued to be a severe problem. Breaching a restraining order is punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 JMD ($78) and six months’ imprisonment.
Sexual Harassment: No legislation addresses sexual harassment, and no legal remedy exists for victims of sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .
Discrimination: Although the law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including equal pay for equal work, women suffered from discrimination in the workplace and often earned less than men. Domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.
Birth Registration: Every person born in the country after independence in 1962 is entitled to citizenship. Persons outside the country born to or adopted by one or more Jamaican parents, as well as those married to Jamaican spouses are entitled to citizenship.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes sexual relations by an adult with a child–male or female–under the age of 16 and provides for penalties ranging from 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Enforcement of the law, however, was sporadic, especially in rural areas, with child abuse and incest often suspected but not reported to authorities. The law requires anyone who knows of or suspects child abuse to make a report to the registry office, with a penalty of up to 500,000 JMD ($3,900) and six months’ imprisonment, or both, for failure to do so.
Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was substantial and widespread. NGOs reported that gang leaders, sometimes including fathers, initiated sex with young girls as a “right,” and missing children often were fleeing violent situations and sexual abuse.
For additional information, see Appendix C.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but children may marry at 16 with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years old, the minimum age for consensual sex. Sexual relations by an adult with a child under 16 is punishable by up to life imprisonment. The law provides for a Sex Offenders Registry, which the Department of Corrections administers and police enforce.
The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and applies to the protection, possession, importation, exportation, and distribution of child pornography. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 JMD ($3,900). There were reports of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
International Child Abductions: As of May the country was a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Approximately 500 persons in the country practiced Judaism. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, it does not mandate accessibility standards. Persons with disabilities continued to encounter discrimination in employment and access to schools, usually due to the state of the infrastructure, which limited access to buildings and provided few accessible facilities.
There were limitations in access to education at the primary school level, due to insufficient facilities for persons with disabilities. There was also a lack of suitably trained faculty to care for and instruct students with disabilities, although the constitution guarantees all children the right to primary education. Health care reportedly was universally available but at times difficult to access, especially for deaf and intellectually disabled persons.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security has responsibility for the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities. The council distributes economic empowerment grants of up to 150,000 JMD ($1,170) to persons with disabilities to help them develop small businesses and 250,000 JMD ($1,950) per person for the purchase of assistive aids.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits “acts of gross indecency” (generally interpreted as any kind of physical intimacy) between persons of the same sex, in public or in private, and provides for a penalty of two years in prison for the offense. There is also an “antibuggery” section in the law that criminalizes consensual and nonconsensual anal intercourse, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. During the year the law was enforced only in cases of sexual assault and child molestation and was not used to prosecute consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men. Homophobia was widespread in the country.
The NGO Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays reported that through September it received 23 reports of human rights violations against LGBTI individuals according to its criteria, including 19 incidents of physical assault, five mob attacks, one case of employment discrimination, and six cases in which police failed to respond adequately to reports.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The country’s National HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy prohibits HIV-related discrimination in the workplace and the Public Health (Notifiable Diseases) Act 2003 provides some legal recourse to persons with HIV/AIDS who experienced discrimination. The overall prevalence of HIV reached 2.8 percent among sex workers and 32.8 percent among men who have sex with men, according to UNAIDS data for 2016. Members of these groups were highly stigmatized and had difficulties accessing HIV testing and treatment services.