Equal rights for all Jamaicans
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Jamaica is at a crucial point in recognising the human dignity of all its citizens. This, as the vote on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms will be taken in Parliament today.
Ideally, this charter should be as inclusive as possible and create a framework for a consistent approach to the rights of all Jamaicans, including the minority of those whose sexual orientation currently makes them vulnerable to hate crimes and other forms of institutionalised discrimination.
Currently, institutionalised discrimination is inconsistent in Jamaica. On the one hand, Section 13.1 of the 2004 revision to the Public Service Staff Orders - which has the force of law - prohibits discrimination in the civil service on the grounds of, inter alia, sexual orientation. On the other hand, the proposed charter, which will govern all other Jamaicans, contains no such grounds for non-discrimination.
Further, the proposed charter re-entrenches the country's 1864 anti-buggery law, despite the fact that this law has been held to constitute discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by treaty bodies to which Jamaica has subscribed.
Whoever drafted the 2004 Public Service Staff Orders understood that no good purpose could possibly be served by criminalising the private lives of consenting adults. This progressive and enlightened view needs to be reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
I am, etc.,