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Standing up for human rights

Published:Saturday | January 1, 2011 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir;

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