Standing Up For Human Rights

Jamaica Gleaner Company

As CARICOM citizens, we are proud that a majority of Caribbean nations stood up in the United Nations General Assembly on December 22 and voted together, in the words of the Rwanda delegation, to “recognise that … people (of different sexual orientation) continue to be the target of murder in many of our societies, and they are more at risk than many … other groups”.

Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada and St Kitts-Nevis joined 85 other nations in voting specifically to mention sexual orientation, in a biennial UN resolution, as one ground of vulnerability for being murdered or executed unlawfully for who you are.

All but one of our Caribbean governments had supported an effort in committee by a bloc of Arab, African and Islamic nations, several of which execute gays and lesbians or would like to, to remove the reference. We appreciate their responsiveness, with the notable exception of Trinidad and Tobago, to our reasoned appeals. We salute the foreign ministries of Belize and Jamaica who communicated with gay and lesbian voters about their December vote, a welcome measure of accountability and transparency in our foreign policy.

Non-discrimination

On the other hand, the St Lucia delegation seems not to have listened to their prime minister’s pledge in Parliament this April to “stand against stigma and discrimination in all its forms” and “guarantee non-discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual orientation”. St Lucia stood apart from CARICOM in voting no.

We, in the Caribbean, have lived largely free of the levels of violence experienced by postcolonial nations like Rwanda . But we continue to harbour a colonial mentality that some groups are more worthy than others; and homophobic killings are a reality several places in the region. We hope that, without the need for atrocity to teach us this lesson, our governments will mature in their understanding that everyone has an essential right to equality and protection because they are human.

The vote is a hopeful sign that in 2011 Caribbean governments may get serious about their commitments to these rights at home.

I am, etc.,

MAURICE TOMLINSON

Montego Bay, Jamaica

on behalf of

Dr Marcus Day & Kenita

Placide, St Lucia

Ashily Dior & Brendon

O’Brien, Trinidad and Tobago

Vidyaratha Kissoon, Guyana

Nigel Mathlin, Grenada

Caleb Orozco, Belize

Daryl Phillip, Dominica

Victor Rollins, Bahamas

ENDS

Some notes:
Commendable the conversations about regional recognition for sexual identities and associated matters, it’s all well and lovely to stand up for human rights, the yadda yadda of grandstanding but it boggles my mind when are we really going to talk about our own inter and intra community stigma and discrimination we so easily meet out to each other and from the very halls of advocacy itself whether they realize it or not. Invisibility and or oversight in many ways towards bisexuality, lesbian lifestyles and transgenderism, the lack of proper interventions and engagement of the lower social classes, yet the constant cry calls for tolerance comes from the emissaries while we can’t stand each other especially if one doesn’t fit the utopic mold of how persons ought to act or be.
Why aren’t there any open conversations about the aforementioned and why are there selected persons drawn to seminars and fora when it involves the entire community’s state of being, so the corporatism in our advocacy structure it seems continues in 2011 or will there be change anytime soon?
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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

1 thought on “Standing Up For Human Rights”

  1. The conversations have in fact begun. Haven’t you started several? And you’re not just talking to yourself. We need to amplify them. But these things synergize each other: working for state recognition of rights helps create a culture, not just in our own glbt communities but our larger society, that fosters the practice that all human beings are equal. The class and representational issues you describe are by no means unique to glbt leadership; our vulnerability to them is perhaps a product of our own marginalization.

    Also, while “sexual orientation” was the language used in the resolution, the debate in the UN was also about transgender and, to a lesser degree, bisexual people.

    The letter is about hope and celebration, which are critical tools in liberation. The energy of those who do not fit the utopic mould are perhaps better spent on our own advocacy for rights that sets a different moral standard and achieves more important successes than the selected emissaries’; and on building communities that are inclusive. It’s so much more productive to build a better house than to decry the crooked one with too few rooms your cousin erected. Happy New Year to an important voice in Caribbean glbt advocacy!

    Like

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