News Report: CARICOM Heads of Government Urged to Strengthen Sexual Rights

Posted By Stabroek staff On July 5, 2012 @ 5:10 am
 
Regional civil society organizations have called on the Caribbean Community heads of government at their July 4-6 summit in St Lucia to implement an Organization of  American States (OAS) General Assembly resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) that every state supported last month. They were also urged to fully join the Inter-American human rights system, according to a press release from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) yesterday. CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action), CariFLAGS (Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities) and the CVC  were joined by NGOs, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana, and United and Strong in St. Lucia, where the meeting is being held. The annual OAS SOGI resolution has been supported by every Caribbean state for the past five years, the release stated.
 
Among several other actions, this year's text calls on member states to "consider, within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems, adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity" and to "consider signing, ratifying, or acceding to, as the case may be, the inter-American human rights instruments." "Other citizens in the Americas have all these human rights protections guaranteed by Inter-American regional instruments and mechanisms that millions of CARICOM citizens simply do not enjoy, SASOD's Joel Simpson noted. The release said further that SASOD helped to pressure the Guyana government through the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process to undertake a national consultation on whether the state should continue to criminalize cross-dressing, and same-sex intimacy between consulting adult men in private.
"One has to wonder how committed our leaders are when the region is so underdeveloped in terms of human rights. Human rights protections are part of citizen security. We live in countries in the hemisphere where the state's local protective mechanisms are the weakest and indicators of inequality, like access to justice and HIV rates, are the worst. And our citizens don't enjoy recourse to regional bodies when our local protections fail," Simpson stated.
 
Meanwhile, the advocates also protested CARICOM's marginalization of civil society participation in regional governance and demanded a greater voice in contributing to the future of the Caribbean. "CARICOM doesn't yet have the simplest  structures for routine civil society participation, unlike most other regional  institutions,"  said  Trinidad-based Colin Robinson, who is leading the private-public partnership to develop a region-wide human rights advocacy network CariFLAGS.  CariFLAGS leaders include NGOs in Antigua, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
 
The advocates noted, however, that PANCAP (the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS), is one  of  the  few  regional  mechanisms  that  has  genuinely  sought  to  include  civil  society  in  its governance. CARICOM's Head for  Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS, St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas just last week endorsed a new complementarity in mission between the new Caribbean Public Health Agency and PANCAP, with the latter  sharpening its focus on human rights, vulnerability and social justice, the release added. "If we're serious about PANCAP's commitment to human rights, what we are asking are these two concrete steps by Heads of Government to express that,” said St. Flavia Cherry of the St. Lucia-based CAFRA, which is also campaigning to strengthen protection of sexual and reproductive rights regionally."
 
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