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Jaevion Nelson: Marginalisation, oppression run counter to human development

Published:Wednesday | May 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMJaevion Nelson

It appears a great many of us - media practitioners included - are clueless about how the contravention of the rights of minority groups such as people with disabilities (PWD) and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people can impact Vision 2030, our national development plan to make Jamaica a developed country by year 2030.

"Enriching the lives and freedoms of ordinary people is fundamental" to the process of human development (UNDP). Therefore, when we violate these rights - development, security, assembly and livelihoods of individuals and groups - we undermine their development.

The Human Development Report (2000) highlights that "human development and human rights are close enough in motivation and concern to be compatible and congruous, and they are different enough in strategy and design to supplement each other fruitfully". Therefore, a more integrated approach to human development can bring significant rewards and facilitate in practical ways the shared attempts to advance the dignity, well-being and freedom of individuals in general. Thankfully, our parliamentarians have, to some degree, recognised the symbiotic relationship between rights and development and will not fall prey to the fearmongering tactics of the Love March Movement and Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society.




Human rights are important because they serve to empower oppressed and marginalised groups within society. Equally, rights provide the catalyst from which societies, development policies and laws encourage and promote equity and social justice among people and within groups. Rights, as argued by Yash Ghai (2001) in Human Rights and Social Development: Towards Democratisation and Social Justice, facilitate democracy and participation as well as accommodating diversity of languages, identities, cultures and models of development. Therefore, human rights enable people, whether collectively or individually, to make claims (as rights-holders) to secure their capabilities and freedoms. As a result, development led by government and/or non-state actors to improve human social and economic conditions must enable people regardless of their respective identities, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight, to both contribute and benefit from any progress made.

When broadly defined, human development "focuses on the enhancement of the capabilities and freedoms that the members of a community enjoy" (UNDP, 2000). These capabilities and freedoms have been summarised by Amartya Sen (1999), winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, in his book Development as Freedom, to include adequate and nutritious food, health, and participation in community and decision-making processes of one's country (UNDP, 2000). In addition to this definition, Allen & Thomas (2000) highlights that development is commonly seen as a form of progress, which eventually "implies increased living standards, improved health and well-being for all". Conversely, studies have also shown that development is not always positive or to the benefit of the people to whom the intervention is targeted. This is especially so where development is in contravention of individual's human rights or excludes certain groups or individuals.

There is a clear need for public policies and laws to both acknowledge and make provisions for the protection and promotion of the human rights of LGBT Jamaicans, their allies and families.

As the UNDP so aptly puts it in its Human Development Report (2000), "human development is essential for human rights, and human rights are essential for human development". Therefore, the Government must consider the implications of the dearth of human rights within relevant laws and policies if it intends to ensure the full and wholesome development of each individual towards the achievement of our development goals.




It is the responsibility of Government to ensure that considerations are given to the challenges all communities of people experience when designing policies and programmes. The Government must be commended for its efforts to promote and secure the rights of LGBT Jamaicans over the years. We have come a long way as a people, despite the palpable level of fear and the continued discrimination and violence perpetrated against LGBT people in our country.

The Government cannot abdicate its responsibilities to protecting and promoting the rights of all persons. No one's rights are more important than the others', but we must recognise that some are at more risk than others. Groups like Love March Movement, of course, have a right to express their views, but we cannot allow their bigotry to become policy or law. I recommend that best strategies be identified and supported by other evidence and rights-based ideologies; thereby ensuring that development impacts positively on the voiceless and most vulnerable.

n Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to and