News Report: Homophobic Lyrics Infringe on Right to Life

By Danielle Campbell
 
Homophobic lyrics belted out by Jamaican artistes, who are noted for their extremely anti-gay stance, has been described as an infringement on a fundamental human right to life. This is according to a SASOD Representative who was making a presentation at the Human Rights Symposium held at City Hall on Monday. The forum was in observance of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and was held under the theme, “What Difference Has It Made?” The representative said that though persons hold varying theories on the issue of sexuality, living with diversity is one of the truest spirits of human rights. He stated that SASOD’s work is premised on the view that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” as guaranteed under Article (1) of the UDHR. He stressed that since homophobic lyrics calls for the killing and maiming of gays, then it is an infringement of their fundamental rights to life. “Article (4) of the UDHR guarantees the right to life yet in minibuses and at State-owned venues, Jamaican artistes and Guyanese deejays are allowed to whip up frenzy to “Bun batty man”, a reference they claim to their biblical teachings.
 
“One CD has a DJ who intersperses his ‘bigging’ up of Carib Beer and GiftLand with calls to ‘kill all chichi man’,” the representative said. He observed that many private sector entities sponsor events where deejays and artistes violate human rights of gay people by calling for their destruction. “The private sector – GT&T, Digicel, Buddy’s, Ansa McAl, others, have no problem supporting these calls to kill homosexual people, not only in music but on the internet…,” the SASOD member noted. A recent discussion thread on the website “GuyanaPalace.com” was seen with the heading, ‘Should gays be allowed to live?'.”
 
The discussion on that Guyana Palace forum has shown a range of opinions including one person’s confusion. That person said, “Can the name of this thread be changed somewhat so as not to make it seem that anyone who disagrees with homosexuality is not frowned upon as someone who wants to ‘kill’ homosexuals? The name of this thread is just too distasteful in my opinion.” According to SASOD, the name was later changed to “Homosexuality”.
He pointed out that it is possible to request of some minibus operators to change the music from those calling on listeners to kill homosexuals.
 
“I urge those of you who use minibuses to try that. While all of us here will speak on the rights we expect, all of us also have duties towards those who for one reason or another cannot achieve their full potential in our society.
“We all have an obligation towards each other to ensure that our common humanity is nurtured.” The SASOD representative remarked that true human rights can only be achieved when the State disallows teachers to beat students, when domestic violence is given the same urgency as other crimes, when HIV positive persons are accepted for employment; when disabled persons are assured decent work, when drug kingpins are caught instead of the poor who carry small portions of drugs, when there are economic and fiscal policies which ensure a decent quality of life, and when democracy becomes fully inclusive and participatory at all levels.
 
The right to privacy secured under (Article 10) is denied by Section 351 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act which seeks to criminalise sexual activity between consenting male adults and which is preserved as an offence like rape.
The right to work in (Article 23) is the most affected among the economic rights as many persons in Guyana are discriminated against in employment because of their perceived sexual orientation, and are too scared to raise these issues in the public domain for fear of further victimisation. According to SASOD, in March, the Ministry of Health, the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the National AIDS Programme Secretariat posited a moot for a debate entitled “Teachers who are homosexual/lesbian should not be allowed to teach”.
 
He questioned whether teachers are discriminated against due to any other factor including their gender, ethnicity, religion or otherwise. The SASOD representative argued that the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being is also at conflict with discriminatory practices within the healthcare system where for example, specific HIV interventions with men who have sex with men are driven underground. He detailed that the right to equal protection of the law without any discrimination is denied by omitting sexual orientation from Article 149 of the Constitution.
 
“We lost the opportunity in 2001 and then 2003 to improve our human rights legislation when the President and the Parliament succumbed to the homophobia of sections of the Christian and Muslim communities rather than side with the calls for reason and tolerance articulated by other sections of the religious community and civil society,” the SASOD representative detailed. In November 2007, the Yogyakarta Principles were presented to the United Nations. The Yogyakarta Principles are a set of principles on the application of International Human Rights Law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. They were developed by a group of human rights experts including judges, academics and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
 
Article (1) asserts that people are endowed with reason and conscience, and should therefore act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood. “Let us then commit to education, frank, and open dialogue and to listen to each other… SASOD salutes those individuals and organisations whose work epitomises that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the Representative stated.
 
This report is from Kaieteur News of 14 December, 2007
The text was also full printed in Dayclean , Vol 1 No 5 of 14 December, 2007.
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