Hijacking the SOA Review

SOA Review

When the GoJ publicly invited submissions on the review of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2009 it was very clear in its intent. The primary aim of the review was to secure greater protection (and security) for women and children who have been vulnerabilised by the law with regard to power over (or lack thereof) their anatomies. In his judgement, the Minister of Justice – Senator Mark Golding and his Joint Select Committee recognised that possible amendments to the SOA, could also affect provisions in other related Acts such as the Child Care and Protection Act, The Domestic Violence Act, and the Offences Against the Person Act.

While the related Acts are being considered, they are not the primary reason for this review process. It is the SOA that is up for comprehensive review, which, to my knowledge is not homophobic. It does discriminate, yes, but primarily against women and girls as a collective class – gay women and girls, bisexual women and girls, straight women and girls – regardless of and not because of their sexual orientation. It is also discriminatory against boys and men, regardless of their sexual orientation and not because of their sexual orientation. It discriminates based on anatomy and not identity. So, for example, under the SOA men cannot be raped because their anatomy does not include a vagina. Boys cannot be raped because their anatomy does not include a vagina, and the SOA makes it clear that only a vagina can be raped. Also, in a ‘healthy marriage’ a man can never be charged for raping his wife – supposedly because it is her duty to spread her legs for him at his behest (as per marriage certificate?). Persons under 16 cannot legally access contraceptives without parental consent, so if there is no consent from parents, by the time they get to 16 (the age of consent), the law implies that they are supposed to be clueless about how to have safe sex. Another useful example is the fact that women cannot be charged for committing rape because they do not have a penis, and if a woman is forced to perform fellatio, that is not considered rape, and the perpetrator (depending on the mood or discretion of the judiciary) may serve less than three years in a correctional facility…

The misogyny (that must be the term for it) that is being proliferated by some human rights advocates is evident in the narrative being crafted into the SOA – that the SOA is homophobic – clearly this exists in their minds only. What I find quite disheartening in this regard is that scores of individuals and organisations have been writing to the Joint Select Committee calling for all sorts of actions about this ‘homophobic piece of legislation’, and have wilfully ignored the mainstay of the review, which is to provide more protection for women and children, and any possible revision of the SOA into an Act based on the principle of gender equity. Gender equity in this regard means that persons will be punished in an equitable manner once they exact any form of sexual violence against any individual regardless of their sex or gender. It is for this reason that some human rights advocates are calling for the use of gender neutral or gender blind language throughout the Act, and for a ‘redefinition’ of rape that includes all forms of forced penetration of mouths, anuses, and vaginas…

Why are we hijacking the review of the SOA with our misogyny? Don’t be surprised if the LGBT community labels you as an ally of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship et al. Your advocacy on this is reflective of theirs.

Will the ‘real’ human rights advocates please stand up???

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