Cayman’s human rights debate goes global

| 12/03/2009

(CNS): The world’s leading international human rights watchdog has picked up the current debate in the Cayman Islands regarding section 16 in the Bill of Rights of the proposed Constitution and issued a global press release stating that the territory should revise the draft constitution to give full protection to all against unequal treatment, and the British government should ensure that this happens. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sent letters to both the governor, Stuart Jack, and the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, urging them to make section 16 a free standing right.

In its worldwide release HRW explained that Cayman is going through the process of voting on a new constitution and told the story of how the government had eliminated what was originally proposed as a free-standing guarantee of equality before the law but had limited anti-discrimination protections only to rights expressly included in the constitution.

“This means that large and critically important areas of daily life would not be covered, including access to jobs, housing, and medical treatment,” HRW states. The release says that it is understood that the government has succumbed to pressure from religious groups, and the action was apparently intended to deny protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

“The British government is using a double standard, approving a draft constitution for an overseas territory that gives fewer protections than British citizens enjoy at home,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights programme at Human Rights Watch. “Equality means equality, and it should apply across the board.”

Human Rights Watch urged the British and Cayman governments to ensure that protections in the new constitution apply not only to discrimination by the state, but also to discrimination by private entities. The HRW also cited the work of Equality Cayman, a nongovernmental organization which has strongly criticized the scope of the proposed language for section 16 in the draft constitution, stating that it offers inadequate protections against prejudice and inequality. “Protecting against discrimination and promoting equality should be core purposes of a bill of rights,” said Dittrich. “The territory’s new constitution should not fall short of that aim.”

In a letter to the governor the widely respected group urged support for full protections against discrimination in the new constitution. “We urge you and your government to support the introduction of a new section 16 in the Cayman Islands constitution that will include a free-standing right not to be discriminated against in all aspects of life,” wrote Dittrich on behalf of HRW. “This right should apply to all people in the Cayman Islands on a broad range of grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity. This free-standing right should apply against discrimination originating both from acts by the government and by private parties in the Cayman Islands.

Equality Cayman intends to submit its petition to government this weekend requesting a choice at the referendum between the originally proposed free standing right and the laterally introduced closed right in section 16. Despite the passage of the referendum bill, the grass roots organisation is still hopeful that the government will listen to their proposal.

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  1. Jab-Jab says:

    In response to the question of who’se on the HRC:

    • Sara Collins (Chair)
    • Vaughan Carter (Deputy Chair)
    • Tammy Ebanks-Bishop
    • Melanie McLaughlin
    • James Austin-Smith
    • Nathania Rankin
    • Dr. Victor Look Loy
    • Anthony Akiwumi
  2. Jab-Jab says:

    HRW should stick to hosting film festivals and leave the debate to people who know what they’re talking about as HRW are obviously clueless. "Double Stadards" indeed. More smoke and mirrors. Whichever side of this you fall on, focus on the facts, otherwise the undecied will reject you as the charlatans you are. Which is all HRW, HRC  & EC are.

  3. Help Is Needed says:

    If Equality Cayman want to have a proper consititution for Cayman this turn of events with HRW shows the way – they should contact Stonewall and Liberty in London.  Ms. Merron’s blind eye to homophobia will not go down well with these very influential organisations.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hmmh!! now the whole world is involved in this debate, ha ha ha, what are the Pastors saying now??? ha ha ha!!

  5. anonymous says:

    All Caymanians deserve a better constitution than what is offered in the current draft.

    Please sign  Equality Cayman’s online petiton found at


    "Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’"                    

     –Martin Luther King Jr.

    • Anonymous says:

      why do we need all of these people in our business?  I didn’t know Governor Jack could decide what goes in the constitution.  I thought that we the people of the Cayman Islands decided.  I would like to know who are the members of the HRC group.  Are they Caymanians?  Are Caymanians really being represented?  Why don’t we just put the whole thing to the vote and let the people decide.  All tghe people not a select few.  And please no more pity stories.  people get sick of hearing those.