Regional civil society organizations call on the Caribbean Community heads of government at their July 4-6 summit on foreign policy to fully join the Inter-American human rights system and to implement an Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) that every state supported last month. CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action) Saint Lucia, CariFLAGS (Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities) and CVC (Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition) are joined by NGOs, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana, home to the CARICOM Secretariat, and United and Strong in St. Lucia, where the meeting is being held.
The annual OAS SOGI resolution, no longer a novelty, has been supported by every Caribbean state for the past five years. Among several other actions, this year’s text (AG/RES 2721) calls on member states to:
- “consider, within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems, adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity” and
- “consider signing, ratifying, or acceding to, as the case may be, the inter-American human rights instruments”.
“Other citizens in the Americas have all these human rights protections guaranteed by Inter-American regional instruments and mechanisms that millions of CARICOM citizens simply do not enjoy,” says SASOD’s Joel Simpson. Guyana’s SASOD helped pressure its government through the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process to undertake a national consultation on whether the state should continue to criminalize cross-dressing, and same-sex intimacy between consulting adult men in private. “One has to wonder how committed our leaders are, when the region is so underdeveloped in terms of human rights. Human rights protections are part of citizen security. We live in countries in the hemisphere where the state’s local protective mechanisms are the weakest and indicators of inequality, like access to justice and HIV rates, are the worst. And our citizens don’t enjoy recourse to regional bodies when our local protections fail,” Simpson adds.
The advocates also protest CARICOM’s marginalization of civil society participation in regional governance and demand a greater voice in contributing to the future of the Caribbean. “CARICOM doesn’t yet have the simplest structures for routine civil society participation, unlike most other regional institutions,” adds Trinidad-based Colin Robinson, who is leading the private-public partnership to develop a region-wide human rights advocacy network CariFLAGS. CariFLAGS leaders include NGOs in Antigua, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Advocates note however, that PANCAP (the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS), is one of the few regional mechanisms that has genuinely sought to include civil society in its governance. CARICOM’s Head for Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS, St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas just last week endorsed a new complementarity in mission between the new Caribbean Public Health Agency and PANCAP, with the latter sharpening its focus on human rights, vulnerability and social justice.
“If we’re serious about PANCAP’s commitment to human rights, what we are asking are these two concrete steps by Heads of Government to express that”, says Flavia Cherry of CAFRA Saint Lucia, which is also campaigning to strengthen protection of sexual and reproductive rights regionally. “PANCAP paid serious attention to the resolution, but it’s the politicians who have to act on it.”
Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)
In St. Lucia: +1 758 285-2048
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
In Guyana: +592 698-1174
Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS)
In Trinidad: +1 868 758-7676
Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)
In Jamaica: +1 876 474-8847
AG/RES. 2721 (XLII-O/12)
HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND GENDER IDENTITY
(Adopted at the second plenary session, held on June 4, 2012)
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT resolutions AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08), AG/RES. 2504 (XXXIX-O/09), AG/RES. 2600 (XL-O/10), and AG/RES. 2653 (XLI-O/11), “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity”;
That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that instrument, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status; and
That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and security of his person without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed, or any other factor;
CONSIDERING that the Charter of the Organization of American States proclaims that the historic mission of the Americas is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;
REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights;
Of the creation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Unit for the Rights of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexual, Transsexual, and Intersex Persons (LGBTI), and of its work plan, which includes the preparation of a hemispheric report on this issue;
Of the Second Report of the IACHR on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, according to which organizations that promote and defend the human rights of LGBTI persons play a fundamental role in the region in terms of public oversight to ensure compliance with the states’ obligations vis-à-vis the rights to privacy, equality, and nondiscrimination, and are faced with obstacles, among them, murder, threats, criminalization of their activities, the failure to take a focused approach to the investigation of crimes committed by both state and non-state actors against them, and discourse calculated to discredit the defenders of the rights of LGBTI persons; and
Of the Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, presented to the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2008; and
NOTING WITH CONCERN the acts of violence and related human rights violations as well as discrimination practiced against persons because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,
- To condemn discrimination against persons by reason of their sexual orientation and gender identity; and to urge the states within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems to eliminate, where they exist, barriers faced by lesbians, gays, and bisexual, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in access to political participation and in other areas of public life.
- To encourage member states to consider, within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems, adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- To condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against persons by reason of their sexual orientation and gender identity; and to urge states to strengthen their national institutions with a view to preventing and investigating these acts and violations and ensuring due judicial protection for victims on an equal footing and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
- To urge states to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who work on the issue of acts of violence, discrimination, and human rights violations committed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
- To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to pay particular attention to its work plan titled “Rights of LGBTI People” and, in keeping with its established practice, to prepare a hemispheric study on the subject; and to urge member states to support the efforts of the Commission in this area.
- To request the IACHR to prepare a study on legislation and provisions in force in the OAS member states restricting the human rights of individuals by reason of their sexual orientation or gender identity and to prepare, based on that study, guidelines aimed at promoting the decriminalization of homosexuality.
- To urge the member states that has not yet done so to consider signing, ratifying, or acceding to, as the case may be, the inter-American human rights instruments.
- To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly on the implementation of this resolution. Execution of the activities envisaged in this resolution will be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.