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Human rights for all

Published:Thursday | May 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM
United States Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater
Chilean Ambassador Alfredo Garcia
EU delegation head, Ambassador Paola Amadei
Spanish Ambassador Celsa Nuño
German Ambassador Josef Beck
Canadian High Commissioner Stephen Hallihan
British High Commissioner Howard Drake
Belgian Ambassador Frederic Meurice
French Ambassador Ginette de Matha

The following is an op-ed in observance of International Day Against Homophobia, signed by ambassadors to Jamaica.

Throughout history, all societies and cultures, at one time or another, assessed members of certain groups as being 'lesser' or even less than human. Race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and many other factors - including sexual orientation - formed the bases for these attitudes. This is a hard, very painful truth that all of us must accept. Though difficult and hurtful, we should acknowledge that nations and societies have moved forward on many fronts. For example, in attitudes towards women, religious and ethnic minorities, and in many other areas, all of us can point to enormous changes, even though discrimination and other forms of oppression still continue and must be resisted and fought at every turn. The struggle to accord human rights to all is continuous; it will never end.

In the struggles to recognise the humanity of those who differ from us, the justifications for continuing discrimination or oppression might have appeared different at first glance, but most often were based on inability or unwillingness to accept the humanity of those whose very being we assessed as not being ours. Hence, the bases for oppression - religion, race, gender, and ethnicity - were used to define 'the other', not one of us. A person's sexual orientation could be described as one of the last frontiers in our efforts to tap our personal, religious, and moral values to accept every human being as 'one of us', and to recognise that everyone should enjoy equal rights and recognition. These rights should include, at the very least, freedom from harassment, discrimination, and intimidation, and bullying.

On this International Day Against Homophobia, it would be useful for all, Jamaicans, and everyone else, including members of the diplomatic and international community, to look deeply within ourselves to examine our own attitudes towards those we see as 'the other'. Let us reflect on relatively recent times in history when nearly everywhere on this planet someone cited the same reasons that we hear today with regard to members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community to justify not just discrimination or non-acceptance, but even violent oppression against members of other races, religions, genders, or nationalities.

Embrace change

We are encouraged that during the state opening of Parliament on May 10, we heard the Government call for embracing meaningful change, given the challenges this country faces and must overcome, and that that change should be embraced, inter alia, " ... in the way we treat each other". We welcome the pledge to continue to fight against the scourge of crime and violence, acknowledging that Jamaicans are a "creative people, richly blessed with wisdom, strength and courage". We acknowledge Jamaica's very proud history of resisting oppression. We hope that reflection will help all of us to recognise our common humanity, and will encourage us all to open an inclusive and honest dialogue aimed at ending discrimination and oppression, including that which is based on a person's sexual orientation.


H.E Pamela Bridgewater, US Embassy

H.E. Paola Amadei, EU Delegation

H.E. Alfredo Garcia, Embassy of Chile

H.E. Frederic Meurice, Embassy of Belgium

H.E. Stephen Hallihan, Canadian High Commission

H.E. Howard Drake, British High Commission

H.E. Celsa Nuño Garcia, Embassy of Spain

H. E. Josef Beck, Embassy of Germany

H.E. Ginette de Matha, Embassy of France

H.E. Jorge Constatino, Embassy of Panama