Jamaica needs a human-rights institution
THE EDITOR, Madam:
There has been much dialogue over the years about the establishment of a national human-rights institution to help safeguard the human rights of Jamaicans. National human-rights institutions (NHRIs) are state bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to promote and protect human rights. They form a part of the state apparatus and are funded by the State. NHRIs play an important role in ensuring that the government meets its human-rights obligations.
LGBT Jamaicans are routinely deprived of their human rights. In the analysis of human-rights report received by Equality For All Foundation between 2011 and 2020, the right to life, liberty and security of the person is the most violated right, accounting for 54.9 per cent (358) of the total violations reported. These violations include, but are not limited to, physical and verbal assault, mob attacks, displacement with violence, and sexual abuse.
The limited protections for LGBT people under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution, as well as the retention of the buggery law, perpetuate the stigma and discrimination faced by members of the community.
While the offices of the Ombudsman (to be subsumed into the Electoral Office of Jamaica) and the Public Defender exist, their functions do not fully cover human-rights promotion and protection. Only some instances of rights abuses are protected as part of a broad mandate.
A Jamaican NHRI that adequately addresses the concerns of the LGBT community and other vulnerable groups is one that is in full compliance with the Paris Principles. These principles state that the NHRI must be empowered to promote and protect human rights; must have a broad mandate backed by law; and should be able to make submissions to Cabinet, Parliament and other state bodies concerning the promotion and protection of human rights.
This will enable to that NHRI to review laws, implement international human-rights norms, and bring claims on behalf of victims of human-rights abuses.
Policy and Advocacy Manager
Equality For All Foundation