In recognition of Human Rights Day, United and Strong Inc pays tribute to all human rights defenders, advocates and activists in Saint Lucia, the region and globally.Today’s celebrations belong to all of US – men, women and children because we all have rights; EQUALLY.
As Human Rights Day is observed around the world December10, we remember the creation, 63 years ago, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration is today one of the fundamental texts establishing respect for human rights as a guiding principle in international relations. However much more remains to be done to make every citizen aware of the impact of this declaration and allow its full potential as an empowerment tool to be achieved.
Principles of equality and non-discrimination of all persons are enshrined within the constitution, but are regrettably not applied. In 2011 at the 10th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), (a Human Rights peer review monitoring tool established by the United Nations (UN) in 2006), St Lucia and 15 other countries were reviewed, and accepted a number of recommendations. We call on our government to honor its commitment to “Ensure that thorough investigations of allegations of acts of violence committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or identity are promptly conducted.”
It was appalling that our government was unable to fully accept the recommendation to “Take the necessary measures to ensure that the constitution guarantees the same rights to all inhabitants of the country, without distinction based on sexual orientation”. It was further disheartening to hear our government reject the recommendation to “Repeal any legal provision that criminalises consensual relations between adults of the same sex”, and was unable to respond to the recommendation to “Combat the discrimination against LGBT persons through awareness-raising and education campaigns to begin at school.”
How can we even talk about equality when we discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation? “Respecting human dignity requires us not only to erase such archaic laws, but to ensure legal protection for all of us, whether straight or gay, from ridicule, oppression and those crimes that have their basis in discrimination because of gender, race, class, religion, health status, sexual orientation or other distinguishing differences.”
The law, however, is the easy part. More difficult is culture, and infinitely more challenging and urgent are the attitudes that culture can breed.
Even inside families, the protective circle of unconditional love is broken by fear and embarrassment of the gay family member, sometimes with repercussions that are so damaging and soul-destroying that the very will to live is lost. Out in the cruel world, survival reduces loving, wonderful, beautiful people to lives of secrecy and lies, warping relationships and causing needless pain. In a world already short on love, why should it be denied?
It is time to open our closet of skeletons and allow the light of truth in. Denial is far more damaging to the state of our souls and the fabric of our nation than the truth that sets us free of doubt and ignorance.
We remind our government that the rights of the minority must not be held hostage by the tyranny of the majority.
As we continue towards equality for all, we call on the Constitutional Reform Commissioners to publically release their final report and recommendations, to ensure that this process remains accountable and transparent to the people of Saint Lucia.