HRC rejects compromise

| 18/01/2009

(CNS): Some deft political maneuvering at the constitutional talks may have resulted in a bill of rights that government, opposition and the churches are willing to live with and which satisfies the UK’s international obligations, but it has been rejected outright by the Human Rights Committee. During the closing session on Friday, the HRC described the situation where the non-discrimination section of the bill of rights will not be a stand alone right as “morally repugnant”.

Section sixteen of the bill of rights working draft, which deals with non-discrimination, will be re-written in the proposed document in a way that will set it only within the context of the constitution, effectively removing it as a stand alone right. This would remove any possibility of a horizontal application of non-discrimination but also pave the way for possible discriminatory legislation in future or interpretation of existing legislation outside the constitution as not necessarily being unconstitutional for a number of groups, not just homosexuals or transsexuals.

Commenting on the move, Minister Alden McLaughlin, a former chairman of the HRC, made it clear that this is not unique as the same applies in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that this ensures the Cayman Islands will have an effective bill of rights that will protect the people — something that was not in sight before this compromise was made.

“We have made enormous progress with this,” he said. “When we first started talking this week I wasnot sure we would ever be able to resolve the problems on this section, but this way we have enshrined the right of non-discrimination that meets the UK’s obligations and doesn’t unduly worry the representatives from the religious community. I am surprised at the HRC’s reaction as we thought they were also willing to compromise on this.”

However, the HRC closing statement, read by Melanie McLaughlin, contained a personal message of disappointment from the Chair Sara Collins, who said that because of concerns over discrimination towardshomosexuals the bill of rights would now discriminate against many other groups.    

“My personal view, held with great sadness, is that we have not done justice in this process because the HRC, and the views it represents, have literally been pushed aside. In the process, it seems that some of us have shown ourselves prepared to do harm to many to avoid doing good for a few,” Collins stated.

“History will judge us for what comes out of this process. We should be judged, therefore, on an accurate record. I speak for myself and the Committee in saying that we will not support a Bill of Rights which is not built on the principle of equality for all. I speak for myself, and wish it to be on the record, when I say that we should be clear that this includes homosexuals, for all purposes.”

The non-discrimination section within the bill of rights which deals with the rights of people not to be discriminated because of a number of issues, not least their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation, has been the persistent stumbling block to the formation of a new constitution for Cayman since the discussions began back in the 1990s. Moreover, the power of the churches here is such that those wishing to advance the constitution were concerned that if the Cayman Ministers’ Association and the Seventh Day Adventists were not on board with the final document, the entire constitution could be thrown out as a result of community pastors preaching against the whole document because of one clause in the bill of rights.

The HRC stated, however, that it believes the weakening of the right to non-discrimination will significantly restrict the right for all. In the original draft working document it was a free-standing right which also relates to many groups and types of vulnerable people, including the elderly, children, mentally and physically handicapped persons and women.

“None of the grounds of non-discrimination, apart from sexual orientation, generated any controversy or public debate. However, in an effort to minimise the protection given to one group – namely homosexuals and transsexuals – it is now proposed to limit the right of non-discrimination for all these other persons as well. This is a retrograde and appalling move,” Melanie McLaughlin stated. “The HRC remains firmly of the view that it is ill-conceived and morally repugnant for the Government to now limit the right of non-discrimination for any group of people. Equally, the Government should not sacrifice the better constitutional protection which was being given to everyone else in our community in order to give less protection to one particular group, namely homosexuals or transsexuals.”

The HRC had a number of other concerns including the treatment of juvenile offenders, which McLaughlin said had not been addressed. “The current practice of incarcerating youth offenders, including girls as young as 13, at an adult prison, while making no provision for treatment or education, is a disgraceful state of affairs,” she stated.

She also raised the issue of self-determination and a need to provide future scope should Cayman wish to move towards independence in the future, and she again mentioned widening aspiration rights to include health care and housing for all. McLaughlin also reiterated the committee’s desire to see the constitution written in plain and understandable English.

Sir Ian Hendry, leader of the UK delegation, stated that the bill of rights would be discussed further along with nine other issues when the talks moved to London for the final round of deliberations in February, chaired by the Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Overseas Territories, Gillian Merron.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In, response to the poster who states that "being gay is a choice", how right you are. That is what was about in the first place, the freedom of choice. Just as you have the right to choose to practice religion, they too have the right to choose to be gay don’t they?

    To the poster who talks about teenage sex, etc becoming an acceptable part of society; We once thought slavery was ok too, then decided otherwise. Some call it evolution, or is that still a bad word around here? What’s your point?

  2. Anonymous says:

    It is about time we stand up in Cayman for the principles of equality. Who says that we have to simply do the bare minimum that is required under the ECHR? As I understand it, other countries have the kind of free-standing right that the Government is planning to give up so there is no reason why we cannot have the same level of protection for all groups here. It must be wrong if that affects all of the other kinds of people that were originally included – women, children, the elderly, the disabled – as well as homosexuals.  We should be motivated by tolerance and not hate. Some people may have decided not to speak up because they thought this just affected homosexuals. However, the negative effects are now much more wide-reaching. It is good to see that people are willing to stand up and be counted in saying that there should be equality for all, and that there are those of us who care for all people, even the least among us, the powerless, or the ones who don’t have a voice of their own. That should be what Christianity stands for too.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s about time Caymanians stand up for their values and not be bullied by liberals from elsewhere who think think the highest moral value is tolerance for every form of evil. If you stand for righteousness you are labelled as "hateful". If you encourage evil you are "open-minded" and "loving". Good becomes evil and evil becomes good. Actually, it is out of love that we warn you to turn away from your shameful conduct. If we hated you we would encourage you on the path to destruction.

      In order to share in the prosperity Lot moved close to Sodom and tolerated what went on around him. But for his righteous uncle, Abraham, he would have been destroyed as well.     

  3. Annoymous says:

    While I understand the dissappointment of Sara Collins Chair of the HRC I have to state that we are a small community and personally I would not want my children being taught by a homosexual teacher in school that being gay is good.  My Christianity teaches me otherwise.

    I would go further to state that a member of my family whom I loved dearly passed away from aids and they were gay.  However, on their dying bed they gave their life to Christ and asked forgiveness of the choice in lifestyle that they made.

    I also understand and appreciate that the Gay Community must have their rights, I personally, don’t feel that those rights need an extension to our Caymanian society.  We are too small to accept, and entertain the public display of civil unions proposed for Gays in the draft constitution, in our community.

    Let’s pass this one on and not be part of the rest of world who entertain these rights. I am sure that there are other nations of this world who do not entertain these rights or even allow it to be apart of their society.  We know we have Gays living amoungst us, can’ we continue on this path without having to make it a right.

    How I see it, if it was ok to begin with then there would be no need for any of us to fight to have it put into a constitution or law for permission to be granted.  Therefore, it is wrong, and my Christian heritage tells me it is and that is the belief I will live to fight to keep out of our community for as long as we can.

    Being Gay is a choice, it is not hereditary.  It is a choice that is not Godly and all Gays know this to be true.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The statement made by one reader that "Any Biblical scholar will tell you that the references to homosexuality are really only passing thoughts and not in any way central to Christianity" has either seriously misunderstood Biblical Scholars, is lying, or has come into contact with one of the new breed of Biblical Scholar which includes Atheists! Yes Athiests.  This statement is completely wrong, but I won’t bother quoting directly from the Bible to you, since you obviously reject Biblical teaching and it would be a waste of time.  I will instead explain it this way.  At one time it was morally unacceptable for us to have sex outside of wedlock.  Then as time passed and more and more people had sex outside of wedlock, society accepted it.  This acceptance was largely because the people who were having the moral debate at the time were not the generation that started having sex outside of wedlock, they were their children.  However,  while it was now accepted, the idea of teenage sex was still immoral.  Then teenagers started having sex more and more until it was progressively accepted.  Today, the idea that teenagers should not have sex is so foreign to us, because it has been happening for so long that we have forgotten it never used to be accepted, and so we have accepted it as normal and therefore right.  In other words human beings are capable of getting used to things.  But I ask you, is the fact that we have accepted it proof that it is right?  No.  It is simply proof that we want to do what we want to do and that we will justify it any way we can.  It is the same with homosexuality.  The Church does not have the right or the mandate to attack homosexuals.  But the Church has to say whatGod says is right and wrong.  We cannot and will not stray from it.  We humans as a species have proven time and again that we do not have all the necessary skills to decide right and wrong.  God does though.  But I don’t want to ram his judgement down your throats.  I want to pray that He will open your eyes to see what is truly right and truly wrong.  I want you to see the love that He has for us and that this love, not hatred is the reason He has declared many things to be wrong.  But at the end of the day, whether you are Caymanian or otherwise, if you cannot accept what God says, in a country that is trying its best to serve Him, then you are free to go to a country that does not care for Him, respect Him or believe in Him.  Read what it says on the bottom of the Cayman Crest.  It is there because we meant it when we put it there. You have been blessed because of it.  Please by all means continue to be blessed by it as part of our family, but respect our rights to set the rules in accordance with the desires of our Daddy.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is offensive to me that the Ministers Association and Pastor Al have inserted themselves into this process and pretend to speak for the people. They have taken the cause of the subsugation of homosexuality in the Cayman Islands pretending that it materially effects the country choosing to ignore poverty, crime, domestic violence and adultry so as not to offend people.


    • Anonymous says:

      The CMA and the SDA speak for the members of their respective churches which are not inconsiderable. Those who shout the loudest are heard. They did not insert themselves into the process, they were invited. We are entitled to uphold our values and not enshrine someone else’s morally bankrupt values under the guise of ‘human rights’.  Isn’t it funny that the only people who are apparently not entitled to freedom of speech are religious people, particularly Christians.  so much for the tolerance of the extreme left. The Church is not about being popular; it has a mandate to speak the truth and stand for godliness even if some find it offensive. Evil always finds good offensive.  

  6. Anonymous says:

    There is one and only one reason why the churches wanted a seat at the table. They wanted to ensure that there is an absolute limit of Human Rights to what they consider the biggest threat on earth, namely homosexuals. They hide their personal and social bigotry by quoting a few irrelevant phrases from the Bible. Any Biblical scholar will tell you that the references to homosexuality are really only passing thoughts and not in any way central to Christianity.

    That the PPM and UDP “stacked the deck” by allowing two seats at said table, is the real disgrace here.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There are some people on this island that should read the book ‘Animal Farm’ and pay close attention to the central theme "we’re all equal but some are more equal than others".  It amazes me how much ignorance there still is in the world…

  8. Anonymous says:

    It is very tempting to believe that we are upholding people’s rights by including people who engage in a sinful lifestyle. Make no mistake, when we stand before the Almighty on a one on one basis, I do not want to have to give account of why I "knew better" than Him.

    God is not a tyrant and has given us all the love we need to mend our ways and come back into fellowship with Him. If the light that has enlightened us is based on darkness, how great is that darkness!

    Caymanians and other God fearing people who call these blessed islands home, wake up and speak up, or it will be too late andthe dark hand of the New World Order will be upon us and it will be too late to escape. You will become fugitives in your own country as they hunt you down like animals for being ‘haters’.

    Pray and fast and seek the Lord while He may be found.

    Masonic forces, left wing forces and morally bankrupt forces will all be broken by the Hand of the Almighty.

    • Ben Dover says:

      Given that there are, on average, 153,781 deaths per day, and only 86,400 seconds per day.  It’s unlikely that in the half second you have to explain to the almighty, you’d be able to put anything across anyway.

      I wouldn’t worry about explaining how you let the "abononation of sodomy" occur and instead concentrated on fitting into half a second how you justify prejudice against another of the almighty’s people.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Excuse my confusion but isn’t this the same government that publicly stated that homosexuals are welcome here after two tourists were arrested for cavorting in public: they were given a formal public apology from Minister Clifford & DOT.

    So why does the government care to try to discriminate against gays in the constitution? it shouldnt matter now that they have already drawn that line in the sand. If the churches think they have gained anything here, it is a hollow victory only.

    disgusting hypocrites.

  10. Anonymous says:

    "The current practice of incarcerating youth offenders, including girls as young as 13, at an adult prison, while making no provision for treatment or education" – is this true?

    what is that about?

    i think its very smary of the HRC to add that it: it just shows that we have bigger fish to fry than gays? or was this a one-off case of a girl being locked up?

    CNS, as a regualr reader, I would appeciate a follow up on this please!

    CNS note: You might find the HRC report on The "Lifers" interesting. Read down to the Appendix.

  11. Anonymous says:

     The position taken by these religious leaders betrays the true content of their character.

    They care nothing about fairness and justice for their fellow humans. They are concerned only with defending their warped view of the world, no matter how out-dated and morally indefensible it may be.   

    So sad. 

  12. Anonymous says:

    If the original draft had it as a free standing right for everyone (elderly, disabled, children), why is the government changing it? Ans: to appease the religious right-wing’s homophobia.
    As I understand it, the HRC’s complaining that now the limitation done up to lessen rights of non discrimination also necessarily affects everyone else then too.
    The governments proposal to limit the right of ND only ties into things covered in the BOR, but not things like healthcare which affects EVERYBODY; so the HRC’s objection is valid.

    The question is: why are the government changing this right?

    The HRC seem to think (from closed talks) that it is because of the churches fanatical campaign against gays.

    And the purpose of the bill of rights is not just to discharge our international obligations!
    It is a legal document of supreme importance that reflects the values of a country.
    That is a disgusting attitude towards human rights- which means CAYMANIANS rights!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Quite frankly the whole process is repugnant. The biggest issue to date was the inclusion of the church in the first place. If Pastor Al and the Seveth Day Adventists would get off their high horses and go back in to their churches to preach to those who choose to go and listen to them this would probably all have been settled a long time ago. I can’t recall ever opening my door on a Sunday morning to a friendly group of homosexuals who have just popped by to try to convert me, the same couldn’t be said about the Seventh Day Adventists. Find something else to do other than blatantly attack the homosexuals, I doubt they would find you particularly appealing anyway Pastor Al. They have just as much right to be gay as you do to practice religion.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The HRC seems to have forgotten that the main purpose of the Bill of Rights is to satisfy the European Convention on Human Rights which has been extended to Cayman. As Minister McLaughlin rightly says, the scope of Article 14 of the European Convention (non-discrimination) is limited only to discrimination with respect to rights under the Convention. In other words, one must prove discrimination in the enjoyment of a specific right that is guaranteed elsewhere in the Convention (e.g. the right to freedom of expression – Article 10). Even Protocol 12 (which was not agreed to by the UK) which extends this prohibition still limits it to legal rights e.g. those provided for in our domestic law, but does not seek to extend it to any discrimination. This makes eminent sense since other it would prohibit appropriate distinctions being made on the basis of your legal status, e.g. citizenship vs. non-citizenship.  I do not see how this threatens groups such as the elderly, mentally handicapped etc. who will have the same rights as anyone else under the Bill of Rights. It follows that it is not, as the HRC suggests, "morally repugnant" but consistent with our international obligations as well as international norms.  

    We had also better be careful about "aspirational rights" such as the right to education. Exactly who would possess these rights and what obligations would it impose upon the government? For example, would it mean that the Government must provide free primary and secondary education to all children resident in Cayman. How would we pay for it?    

    I believe it is the HRC’s position that is misconceived.      

    • Anonymous says:

      Aspirational rights means just That.

      We aspire to those ideals..nothing in that binds the Government to provide anything that it cannot afford.