Tuesday, June 03, 2008
In your editorial of May 26, you claim that the prime minister “got it right” with respect to his (reaffirmed) opposition to homosexuals serving in his Cabinet. With due respect, I think that both you and the prime minister got it entirely wrong.
Neither you nor the prime minister sees the fundamental folly of sexual orientation being a basis for excluding qualified Jamaicans from serving in the Cabinet. Given the prime minister’s stance, what is to prevent other public sector executives from excluding qualified (but gay) Jamaicans from jobs in the public service or statutory corporations?
Like the prime minister, you justify discrimination against homosexuals on the basis of Jamaica’s well-entrenched homophobic culture. Both you and the prime minister trot out this xenophobic mantra that Jamaica will not allow its values to be shaped by external pressures. This position appears to be grounded more in ignorance and prejudice than research and critical thinking.
A little research on your part might reveal that opposition to Jamaica’s anti-gay culture is not primarily or solely the province of “external” pressure groups. There are Jamaicans (albeit a minority) who have consistently advocated that Jamaica’s anti-homosexual culture violates fundamental human rights standards, such as the right to privacy and the right to equal treatment under the law.
Further, ultural exceptionalism does not exempt a state from its obligation to uphold international human rights. Accordingly, Jamaica’s homophobic culture does not exempt it from respecting international human rights for all Jamaicans, regardless of sexual orientation. Jamaica is a voluntary member of the international human rights community, as exemplified by its ratification of certain international human rights instruments such as the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights. In light of this, what rational basis do you or the prime minister have for privileging Jamaica’s homophobic culture over international human rights law?
So-called “external” lobby groups are more than entitled to demand that Jamaica lives up to its international obligations, in much the same way that Jamaica sought to “impose its values” on apartheid South Africa. Such a demand cannot be equated to “sullying Jamaica’s name” or forcing acceptance of a gay lifestyle on Jamaica.
On pandering to prejudice, both you and the prime minister got it right. On promoting principle over prejudice, you both got it wrong.
O Hilaire Sobers