An unheeded warning

| 25/10/2010

There were many people who raised the alarm about the plight of the country’s most vulnerable in the wake of the constitutional compromise made over section 16 and the right to non-discrimination. Not enough people listened, however, and as the HRC and Equality Cayman warned, one year after the implementation of the constitution legislation regarding people with disabilities is a long way off.

The immovable intolerance of the church representatives over their objection to any kind of rights being given to homosexuals or transgenders was so powerful they managed to ensure that many others with varying degrees of vulnerability would not have the right to be free from discrimination either.

It probably comes as no surprise that more than eighteen months after the legislative sub-committee’s report was given to government no proposed legislation to protect the disabled has materialized.

We were warned that this is exactly what would happen and why the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights needed a powerful anti-discrimination clause – government simply could not be trusted to pass the necessary meaningful legislation.

The Human Rights Committee and Equality Cayman in their campaign to have section 16 apply to all areas of public life were wiser than the rest of us. They knew that the government would continue to drag its feet when it comes to implementing real and far reaching legislation that could genuinely create a fairer and more equitable society for those suffering both physical and mental disabilities.

The implementation of the Bill of Rights, which forms part of the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009, in two years time will only protect those with disabilities in the parameters of the areas covered by the Bill of Rights, such as the right to a fair trial, but it won’t give the right to have wheelchair access to the courtroom.

There are so many areas of public life denied to those with mental and physical disabilities and an opportunity was presented with the implementation of the Constitution but because of outdated prejudices and bigotry over sexuality the moment was lost.

The irony, of course, is that those who profess to care for the weak and the vulnerable, the ones who teach the lessons of love and compassion and selflessness from the pulpits every Sunday, are the ones that have condemned thedisabled to be at the mercy of fickle political administrations.

Their homophobia and obsession with sexual sin has brought us to this point where, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the disabled in Cayman are not much better off than they were at the end of the first decade of the 20th.

Governments can never be trusted to get to grips with legislation that isn’t a big vote winner or income generator, especially in difficult economic times. The chance was there to force the government’s hand to enact legislation to protect the disabled with section 16 in the Constitution – the chance to demonstrate that the people cared enough to enshrine rights for those who are the most vulnerable in the highest law of the land.

But the moment was lost and because the church was so repulsed by the idea of two people, who might love each other but happened to be of the same sex, having an official union of some kind they were prepared to sacrifice the elderly, the sick, women, children and, of course, people with disabilities.

Some time ago the charismatic and most definitely Christian Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu gave an interview with the BBC in which he lamented the church’s obsession with people’s bedroom habits and in particular homophobia. He pointed out that the church as an institution seemed to care less and less about the incredible inequalities in the world and the desperate plight of the poor and vulnerable. He said its leaders spoke little against a structural system that allowed two thirds of the world’s population to live in abject poverty but it ranted and raved about gay marriage and homosexuals being ordained constantly.

Here in the Cayman Islands the church’s protest against section 16 was strongly linked to homophobia. The irrational and illogical obsession with the issue of sexuality has landed us here with still no protective legislation for those that need it most and no real protection in the Constitution either.

Perhaps the church could now at least try and redeem itself by a supporting a campaign to get the necessary legislation passed to protect those which it exposed. After all we can live in hope.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Very informative and brilliantly written viewpoint.

    Can someone please post a list of the church representatives that opposed this section so we can always remember who opposed real progress in Cayman?

  2. Joe Anonymous says:

    Grand Cayman has always been a culture built on self serving and self preservation and survival of the individual over all.  Nothing has changed.  Read the headlines.  Look how leadership leads.  See where all the money CIG gets goes.  Do the math.  Face the facts.  Grow up.  Have your parents get you a Government job. Live happily until the money stops coming in or they start doing audits.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hang on a Minute! The "constitutional compromise" ensured that Cayman does have a Bill of Rights in line with most modern countries.  it is, in the particular instance referred to by Ms. Wisdom, precisely in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Had the more extreme position advocated by the Human Rights Committee and Equality Cayman been insisted upon by the government, the new constitution would never have been approved on referendum.  That would have meant that Cayman would have continued not to have any constituionally enshrined Bill of Rights at all.  Which is preferable, a Bill of Rights, which though falling short of the ideal, meets international standards, or no Bill of rights at all?

      • Joe Bananas says:

        Which is preferable? A bill of rights that is not belived or followed by the people? A bill of rights that falls short but is not followed by the people and its leaders? Or no bill of rights?  Does it matter?  Keep hanging on for a minute.  Thebill of rights will come right after all the audits are made public and all the crooks are held responsible. Just keep hanging on.  Just wait.  Wait.  I’ll be right back with your money.  And your rights.

  3. Alan Nivia says:

    Cayman can only gold-plate the existing ECHR guaranteed rights, it has no constitutional power to undermine rights already guaranteed for residents by the UK.  So most of the limitations on rights in the constitution are unconstitutional.  Cayman could have shown real Christian values by adding further rights – and the protection of the disabled would have been a great example.  But greed, fear and homophobia ruled and has resulted in a temporary framework that will not last.

  4. Anonymous says:

     Very well written. Thank you to the author! 

    As someone who was deeply involved with Equality Cayman, it feels good to know that at least somebody out there gets it. 

    This thing will go down as one of the most bizarre and unfortunate episodes in Caymanian history. 

    The preachers and politicians who did what they did in the name of their prejudice against gays will not fare well in the judgement of history. 

  5. Good Love says:

    Most of the people most obsessed with gays are closeted gays themself.