by Rex Wockner
Panamanian President Martin Torrijos Espino signed a decree July 29 repealing a 1949 law that criminalized sodomy under penalty of a $500 fine or jail time.
The move followed protests by the gay group New Men and Women of Panama and other human-rights defenders, local media said.
The decree, issued by the Ministry of Health and also signed by Health Minister Rosario E. Turner, said the ban was at odds with the Panamanian Constitution and international human-rights treaties Panama has signed.
It also said the law conflicted with the Health Ministry’s policy to “maintain respect for the sexual preferences of each person, without the existence of any type of discrimination” in the operation of its sexually transmitted diseases programs.
According to Amnesty International, 11 nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean continue to ban gay sex — Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
All of the countries are former British colonies.