Rape and Domestic Violence: The rape of a woman is legally defined only as forced penile penetration of the vagina by a man; it is illegal and carries a penalty of 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Forced anal penetration of a woman or man is not legally defined as rape and may be punished by a maximum of 10 years in prison. This strict definition created wide discrepancies between cases that otherwise had similar elements of rape. The government did not always enforce the law with respect to the vaginal rape of a woman and was even less effective in cases involving male victims, according to civil rights groups.
Married women do not have the same rights and protections as single women. By law, marriage always implies sexual consent between husband and wife. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when one of the following criteria is met: the act occurs after legal separation or court proceedings to dissolve the marriage; the husband is under a court order not to molest or cohabit with his wife; or the husband knows he has a sexually transmitted disease.
Advocacy groups contended that rape was significantly underreported because victims had little faith in the judicial system and were unwilling to endure lengthy criminal proceedings. Sexual violence and intimate partner violence were widespread.
The government operated a Victim Service Division (VSD) to provide direct support to all crime victims, including crisis intervention, counseling, and legal advocacy. The VSD managed 13 independent offices throughout the country, each with its own hotline and staff of trained providers. The VSD coordinated with a network of NGOs capable of providing services such as resiliency counseling and operating shelters, although overall NGO capacity was limited. Few government services sensitive to the impact of trauma on their constituents were available.
The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) provided similar services exclusively for children, although both the VSD and the CPFSA were too understaffed to provide comprehensive care to the populations they served. There were insufficient shelters in the capital area for women and children, and even fewer were available outside the capital area, or for males. Police and first responders continued to receive training from an international NGO regarding referral mechanisms and services available to child crime victims.
Sexual Harassment: The government began implementing the 2021 Sexual Harassment Act, which created a legal definition of sexual harassment in private workplaces and public institutions. The law provides legal recourse for victims, including a Sexual Harassment Tribunal that can receive complaints up to six years after an act of sexual harassment and is empowered to impose fines. According to the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, a regional think tank, one in four women reported being sexually harassed during their lifetime.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Access to contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth were available, although availability was limited in impoverished or rural communities. While social and religious pressure against contraception created significant barriers to access, contraceptives were generally available and affordable. Minors were required by law to have parental consent to access contraception.
Women had access to emergency health care, including for the management of consequences arising from abortions. The standard of care varied widely, however, especially in rural communities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors. Emergency contraceptives were provided to sexual violence survivors as part of the standard medical response to rape.
Discrimination: Although the law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including equal pay for equal work, the government did not enforce the law effectively. Women encountered discrimination in the workplace. Women often earned less than men while performing the same work. Women were restricted from working in some factory jobs. Domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex women, women living in rural areas, and women with disabilities reported significantly higher levels of discrimination, particularly in employment.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The constitution provides for the right to freedom from discrimination based on race and skin color, but there are no laws or regulations prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity.
The population was 92 percent Black, and there were few reports of racial discrimination. Some media sources reported incidents of colorism (favoring lighter-skinned persons within an ethnic group) by employers or against patrons in upper-class restaurants. Speaking at a political rally in September, opposition politicians decried reduced opportunities and more frequent police violence faced by Black citizens. The government did not investigate these incidents.
While the public-school curriculum includes robust discussions of race, there were no government programs designed specifically to counter racial or ethnic biases.
Birth Registration: Every person born in the country after independence in 1962 is entitled to citizenship. Children outside the country born to or adopted by one or both Jamaican parents, as well as persons married to Jamaican spouses, are entitled to citizenship. Birth registration was provided on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Child Abuse: The law bans child abuse and mistreatment in all its forms, including neglect. The penalties are a large fine, a prison sentence with hard labor for a term not exceeding five years, or both.
The law bans corporal punishment in all government-run children’s homes and places of safety (government-run or regulated private institutions). The law requires anyone who knows of or suspects child abuse in any form to make a report to the National Children’s Registry. There is a potential penalty of a large fine, six months’ imprisonment, or both for failure to report. In March, the government began operating a child-friendly space in Falmouth, where law enforcement provided child crime victims with assistance and service referrals in a trauma-informed setting. The CPFSA and the Office of the Children’s Advocate maintained child abuse hotlines.
Corporal punishment and other forms of child abuse were prevalent. NGOs expressed concern regarding the role of sexual abuse in the transmission of HIV to girls and young women; approximately 45 percent of adolescent mothers with HIV were sexually abused as children. Physical punishment in schools remained commonplace.
The risk of sexual assault reportedly was three times higher for children than adults. Girls disproportionately experienced sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and sexual abuse. Cases were widespread and varied.
Boys experienced disproportionately high levels of physical violence, including corporal punishment both at home and at school. Boys experienced disproportionately poor educational outcomes, with UNICEF reporting that most adolescents not attending school were boys and that only a small minority of tertiary education enrollees were boys.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but children may marry at age 16 with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children, which includes the production, possession, importation, exportation, and distribution of child pornography. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a large fine. The law prohibits child sex trafficking and prescribes a penalty of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. There were continued reports of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child sex trafficking.
The law criminalizes sexual relations between an adult and a child younger than age 16 and provides for penalties ranging from 15 years’ to life imprisonment.
Institutionalized Children: The government placed some children with disabilities who lacked sufficient parental care in orphanages run by the government called “Places of Safety.” There was a small number of reports of children being placed in these facilities over the objections of their biological parents or other caretakers.
Approximately 500 persons in the country practiced Judaism. There were no reports of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: The law criminalizes consensual sexual conduct between men, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison with hard labor. Attempted sexual conduct between men is also criminalized, with penalties up to seven years in prison. Physical intimacy, or the solicitation of such intimacy, between men, in public or private, is punishable by two years in prison under gross indecency laws. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated the law legitimizes violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons.
The government did not provide information as to whether the government prosecuted consensual sexual conduct between men, but LGBTQI+ advocacy groups reported that the government did not prosecute this conduct.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Two LGBTQI+ community members were killed in their home in August. While the motive for the killings remained unclear, advocacy groups accused local media of insensitivity and misgendering the victims in subsequent reporting. The NGO Equality for All Foundation reported that during the year it received 13 complaints of violence against LGBTQI+ persons, a number of cases similar to previous years. Many of the cases reported during the year occurred in prior years. Underreporting of anti-LGBTQI+ violence was a problem, since many victims were reluctant to go to the police due to expected inaction by police. A local NGO reported that government officials, including police, had improved their response to LGBTQI+ rights violations. Many LGBTQI+ children faced persecution and bullying in their homes or communities; those who fled these abusive conditions were highly vulnerable to sex trafficking.
Discrimination: The law does not prohibit discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or sex characteristics. LGBTQI+ individuals experienced discrimination in many areas, including housing, employment, marriage, and protections against domestic violence.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Transgender persons are not legally allowed to register a change of gender.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: LGBTQI+ advocates reported that churches, families, and other faith-based organizations employed coercive psychological measures in attempts to “convert” LGBTQI+ individuals. There are no laws specifically prohibiting these practices. Advocates reported that some families sought unnecessary surgical procedures for intersex children, although these procedures were carried out in a quiet and nonsystematic way. A study by Equality for All indicated that nearly 50 percent of citizens supported or believed in the efficacy of “conversion therapy” to alter gender identity or sexual orientation.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There are no legal restrictions against LGBTQI+ gatherings or expressing opinions on LGBTQI+ issues.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, although it does not mandate accessibility standards. A new Disabilities Act came into effect in February, mandating increased accessibility, bolstering protections against employment discrimination, and revamping the process for certifying disability. Persons with disabilities encountered difficulties accessing education, employment, health services, public buildings, communications, transportation, and other services due to the lack of accessible facilities. The government did not provide all information in accessible formats.
There were reports of violence against persons with disabilities. In February, police arrested five minors for allegedly beating to death an elderly man suffering from mental illness after he reported them for trespassing on his property.
Some advocates for the disabled community complained that the government-run Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities insufficiently addressed community concerns and did not allocate resources effectively.
There were limitations in access to primary school education for children with disabilities, although the constitution provides all children the right to primary education. Media reported that some children with disabilities, particularly in rural areas, received no education at all. There was a lack of suitably trained teachers to care for and instruct students with disabilities. Postprimary and postsecondary educational services, vocational training, and life skills development opportunities were limited. Health care reportedly was sometimes difficult to access, especially for persons with hearing disabilities and persons with mental disabilities. Access problems were more pronounced in rural regions.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Civil society groups, international organizations, and government officials cited stigma and discrimination as factors contributing to low numbers of individuals being treated for HIV. The country’s legal prohibition of consensual sexual conduct between men disproportionately affected HIV treatment for subpopulations such as men who have sex with men and individuals who are LGBTQI+, where HIV infection levels were higher than average. Some individuals with HIV reported difficulty obtaining medical care, to the extent that some delayed seeking medical attention or traveled abroad to receive treatment.
The government collaborated with international programs to address HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Measures included training health-care providers on human rights and medical ethics; sensitizing lawmakers and law enforcement officials; reducing discrimination against women in the context of HIV; improving legal literacy; providing legal services; and monitoring and reforming laws, regulations, and policies relating to HIV.
The law prohibits HIV-related discrimination in the workplace and provides some legal recourse to persons with HIV who experience discrimination. In rural areas and poor urban areas, there was less knowledge of government services and programming related to HIV.