Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Don't let ignorant Jamaicans hijack gay rights

Published:Sunday | October 12, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Nevada state senator Kelvin Atkinson wipes tears from the eyes of Sherwood Howard during a rally to celebrate an appeals court ruling that overturned Nevada's gay marriage ban in Las Vegas on October 7. Atkinson proposed to Howard when he had heard about the ruling last Tuesday.-AP

Jeremy Soutar & Joshua A. Ramsamugh, Guest Columnists

The Citizens Advocacy Group International (CAGI) uses this opportunity to make it abundantly clear that the line "The opinion of the people ... has no bearing ...", which was selectively used by Simone Johnson in her letter to the editor ('Don't call us idiots for not backing buggery') was calculated to mislead the public and to incite further hostility against the well-researched studies on, and advocacy against, the abuse of human rights, in whatever form it may appear, and the unjust vilification of gays and MSM in Jamaica.

As was clearly outlined in our article published in this newspaper, the line was used within a context: "The opinion of the people has no bearing on the fact that the buggery law is unconstitutional and infringes upon the rights of gays and men who have sex with men (MSM), including bisexual men."

That is to say that even though the Gleaner-Bill Johnson poll indicated that 91 per cent of participants believed that the buggery law should remain intact, that does not change the well-established fact that the buggery law touches on and goes beyond the very important civil and constitutional rights of gays and MSM.

The fact is that the buggery law is unconstitutional and should be repealed.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), all persons of all countries, whether gay or straight, are guaranteed the following:

Article 1 - "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights":

You have the same human rights as everyone else in the world, because you are a human being. These rights are inalienable - they cannot be taken away from you.

Article 2 - "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind":

You should not suffer discrimination, or be deprived of any of your rights, because of your race, colour, sex, language, religion or political opinions. When it comes to respect for your basic rights, it should not matter what country you were born in, what social class you belong to, or how rich or poor you are.

Article 5 - "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment":

No one should suffer treatment or punishment that is cruel or makes them feel less than human.

Article 7 - "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law":

You have the right to be treated by law in the same way as everyone else. You have the same right to be protected by the laws of your country as anyone else.

Article 12 - "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation":

No one has the right to intrude in your private life or to interfere with your home or family without good reason.

Article 19 - "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression":

You have the right to tell people your opinion. You should be able to express your views, however unpopular, without fear of punishment.

It is the collective view of this human-rights organisation and its affiliates that a significant number of Jamaicans, particularly the males, are illiterate, ignorant and subjective and lack the basic conversational principles of logical thinking and objective outlook, especially on matters touching on gay sex and the buggery law.

That is why we were not surprised by the support for the retention of the buggery law from respondents in the polls.

We can't seem to fathom what Johnson of the Love March Movement meant when she said that we were under the "guise" of "human-rights activists" or how that takes away from the democracy, in any way, of the Jamaican people whether they are for the buggery law or against it. The simple explanation for our confusion of her assertion is because it is total nonsense. One cannot logically extract sense from nonsense.

The fact is that whether the Love March Movement, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society or Jamaica CAUSE wishes to use more euphemistic terms to identify better with the homophobic members of society, ignorance and illiteracy are pervasive. Call a spade a spade. It also remains a fact that Jamaica is one of the most homophobic places on earth.

We stand firmly by our assertion that the opinions of the 91 per cent of persons polled who indicated that the buggery law should remain are ignorant, misguided, biased and illogical. Their opinions were made out of sheer passion and the obvious lack of thought with the absence of regard for the rights and entitlements of gays and MSM.

It matters not how the members of the three church groups view the opinions expressed by the respondents in the Johnson polls, especially since it supports their efforts to castigate, subjugate and vilify members of the LGBT community and restrict their rights.

We have charged the parliamentarians, at least the ones who are sensible and know the difference between right and wrong, and who are cognisant of the sanctions if the Government of Jamaica should continue to violate the international treaties to which it is bound, to ensure that the rights of members of the LGBT community are protected and that gays and MSM are afforded the same rights and equal protection as their heterosexual counterparts.

The assertions from Johnson of the Love March Movement have clearly highlighted the ignorance, apathy and bias which we spoke of. It would serve them well to educate themselves on human rights before they make a fool of themselves when they march against the rights of LGBT members.

This human-rights organisation is reminding Justice Minister Mark Golding of Article 30 - "Nothing in this declaration (the UDHR) may be interpreted as implying ... any right to engage in any activity ... aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth":

There is nothing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that justifies any person or state doing anything that undermines the rights to which persons are all entitled.

Jeremy Soutar is administrator and Joshua A. Ramsamugh, assistant director of services, of Citizens Advocacy Group International. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jeremy.soutar2@yahoo.com.