By Peter Espeut
I consider myself a human-rights activist, but I am not happy with what I see happening within the human-rights movement in Jamaica, which, apparently, has been captured by special-interest lobby groups.
For more than 20 years in this column, I have lobbied for the human rights of persons accused or suspected of being guilty of crime, and I have accused Jamaican policemen of extrajudicial killings. Human-rights activists have a bad name in some circles because they say we support 'criminal rights', and have no sympathy for the police.
But, we say criminals have human rights, too. Nowhere have I argued that criminal behaviour should be normalised or accepted by society. That doesn't mean that persons suspected, or even convicted, of crime should be beaten or killed. Because they are humans, even guilty humans, they have inalienable rights.
I have consistently argued that no one should be subject to physical abuse or violence because they have a homosexual orientation, or because they like to have sexual intercourse with animals, or with a group with persons of both genders, or because they like to dress in the clothes of the opposite sex. To support such violence is to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people their human rights. Any human-rights activist worth his salt must aggressively defend the human rights of this oppressed minority.
But 'gay rights' are another matter entirely. The gay lobby wants much more than human rights; it wants homosexuality to be considered 'normal', and it wants all the sexual options to be taught in the curriculum so that high-school children can know its members have the right to choose who and how many people they can have sex with.
They also want the age-old institution of marriage redefined to include other sexual permutations than the old-fashioned man-woman link-up that has been considered normal over the last many millennia.
What 'gay-rights' activists want is for modern society and modern values to be completely reconstructed in their own image and likeness; and since religion (be it Islam, Judaism or Christianity) is incompatible with this, religion itself must pack its bags and go!
It seems to me that the gay agenda has found its way on to the agenda of Jamaican human-rights lobby groups. There are exceptionally bright people in these organisations, and well-intentioned people; I am surprised that they have been taken in by the false logic put forward by 'gay-rights' advocates.
I hear Jamaican human-rights advocates saying they support 'gay rights' rather than 'human rights for gay people'. I hear Jamaican human-rights advocates labelling others 'homophobic', suggesting that people who disagree with homosexuality are mentally ill.
The word 'homophobia' was created by 'gay-rights' activists as a term of abuse for straight people; it should be declared hate speech, and its use considered a criminal offence and a breach of human rights.
Now, so-called human rights activists are openly attacking the Church - not specific actions of the Church, mind you, but the very existence of the Church - as the cause of evil in the world. Three days ago in this newspaper, Yvonne McCalla Sobers wrote: "The Christian Church's monopoly over religious beliefs produced corruption, tyranny, and condemnation of all learning and education. The result was the misery, illiteracy, serfdom, squalor, disease, and untold suffering of the Dark Ages. In contrast, ancient pagan states of Africa, Asia, and Europe were the cradles of civilisation."
Christian denominations like the Baptists and Moravians are responsible for the poverty and inequality in Jamaica. She wrote: "In the post-slavery period, some Christian denominations provided schools for those who were newly freed. Poor blacks generally received just enough primary education to qualify them for low-status jobs. A handful of blacks reached high school and the exceptional black was able to earn a university degree. Christian-directed education, therefore, mirrored the divisions of the plantation."
If only the Church did not exist, things would be so much better!
I am disappointed that someone with such a good record in exposing human-rights abuses by agents of the State should put forward such an unbalanced analysis of history.
Even though two-thirds of Jamaicans claim allegiance to one Christian denomination or another, her argument is that Jamaica is not a Christian country because one-third of Jamaicans (it's really about one-fifth) adhere to no Church. Because her son and herself are in the secularist minority, their views must prevail over the majority. How medieval! And like the Dark Ages!
Peter Espeut is a sociologist and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.