Jamaica: Gay marriage endorsed by top daily newspaper

Elephant Man and Beanie Man perform Jamaican dancehall artists such as Beanie Man have been banned from the UK over homophobic lyrics

Jamaica's top national newspaper has run an editorial arguing the island nation should recognise same-sex marriage, in a country where gay sex is still outlawed.

In an editorial on Thursday, The Gleaner says the Jamaican constitution's definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman was unfair, calling it a "deep-seated, if slowly receding, homophobia". Enshrined as Section 18 in the constitution, it is "an assault on the principle of equality of people, people's right to forge relationships, and their right to equal protection under the law", the paper says.

There has been a 20% fall in the number of couples getting married between 2005 and 2010, and the most recent census in 2011 shows that 70% of people over the age of 16 - the legal age of marriage - remained single, The Gleaner reports. With divorce rates up 30% in Jamaica, allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot might revive a social institution in decline, The Gleaner suggests.

A rare challenge to Jamaica's 1864 anti-sodomy law is pending before the country's supreme court, and has whipped up a campaign by religious conservatives who want to keep the law in place. Jamaica has often been criticised by activists over its attitudes towards gay rights. The lyrics of many reggae and dancehall musicians feature homophobic references and gay people are often singled out for violent attack. A 2012 US State Department report described homophobia in Jamaica as "widespread". But there also reports of growing tolerance, and during her 2011 election campaign, Prime Minister Portia Simpson called for the repeal of a law that effectively bans gay male sex.

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