At a recent Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) public forum on the proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms, David Wong Ken, attorney-at-law, reminded the audience that human rights were not gifts of the State but were the birthright of every individual.
The State should, therefore, only seek to limit these rights if there is an overwhelming state interest, as this protects minority groups from the ‘tyranny of the majority’. These rights and freedoms of course include privacy, freedom of speech and respect for bodily integrity.
In most democratic societies, it is the courts which determine the validity of laws limiting human rights. This is the basis of the doctrine of separation of powers.
Yet, in response to why sexual orientation was excluded from the grounds of non-discrimination in the charter, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, minister of justice and attorney general, emphasised views expressed on radio talk-show programmes and submissions by the powerful lobby Lawyers Christian Fellowship. By the same token, all laws regarding sexual offences, ‘obscene publications’ and abortion have been permanently saved from judicial review under the new charter.
LACK OF LEADERSHIP
This action by the Government betrays a glaring lack of leadership on the matter of human rights, despite our international obligations, as found in OAS Resolutions 2435 and 2504 on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. There is also clear contempt for our courts, a complete disregard for the doctrine of separation of powers, and the supreme arrogance of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship that they will always know better than judges regarding what is best for Jamaican society, even in an evolving democracy when they are long dead and gone.
The charter presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica to forge a new path of human-rights recognition for all its citizens, as well as a new sense of respect for the rule of law. Instead, this wonderful experiment has been hijacked by a narrow-minded set of persons who have a perverse preoccupation with what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms.
I am, etc.,
Montego Bay PO #2