JFLAG calls upon Senate to do the Noble Thing

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In a press release today (Wednesday, March 30) the Jamaica Forum for All-sexuals and Gays called upon the members of the Upper house of Parliament to ensure that they capitalize on the present opportunity to decisively protect the human rights of all Jamaicans. The Senate is expected to meet for two days beginning the 31st March, to discuss the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms whereby it is expected the Bill will be passed with complete Bi-partisan support.

All Rights are for All People

J-FLAG has noted that by “Passing the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms without clear recognition that disability, health status and sexual orientation are the grounds for non-discrimination in Section 13 (3)(i) would be to undermine the strides that have been made globally to guarantee human rights for all persons in a society. At a minimum, J-FLAG proposes that Section 13 (3)(i) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms simply reads ‘the right to freedom from discrimination”.

J-Flag’s press release represents an appeal to the collective conscience of the Senate, as this is the final Parliamentary hurdle that the bill is required to clear. The Senate may choose to amend the Bill on the floor of the house. However, should the Senate choose this route; the Bill will be sent back to the Lower House for further deliberations by Members of Parliament (MPs). MPs can impose their will on the Senate by re-submitting the original Bill to the Senate whereby Senators must approve the Submission.

The Senate (or Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament) is made up of 21 senators, with thirteen (13) so selected on the basis of recommendations by the Prime Minister and eight (8) by the Leader of the Opposition. All senators are appointed by the Governor-General.  The role of the Senate is usually to operate as a review body for Bills passed by the lower house (the House of Representatives).

To see a full text of the JFLAG press release please click OPPORTUNITY RIPE FOR SENATE TO SECURE RIGHTS OF ALL_March30_2011[1]. The list of Senators is:

  1. Senator Dr. The Hon. Oswald Harding – President
  2. Senator the Hon. Dorothy Casieta Lightbourne – Leader of Government Business
  3. Senator the Hon. Dwight Augustus Nelson, CD
  4. Senator Kamina Johnson Smith
  5. Senator the Hon. Arthur Hugh Washington Williams
  6. Senator Aundre Christopher Franklin
  7. Senator Warren Meaden Newby
  8. Senator Hyacinth Deloris Bennett
  9. Senator Dennis Meadows
10.  Senator Desmond Anthony Augustus McKenzie
11.  Senator Thomas George Lewis Tavares-Finson
12.  Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte
13.  Senator Ian Murray
OPPOSITION
14.  Senator Arnold Joseph Nicholson, QC – Leader of Opposition Business
15.  Senator Navel Foster Clarke
16.  Senator Sandrea May Falconer
17.  Senator Mark Jefferson Golding
18.  Senator Norman Washington Grant
19.  Senator Keith Desmond St. Aubyn Knight, QC
20.  Senator Noel Bancroft Sloley
21.  Senator Basil Llewellyn M’Wallimu Burnett Waite
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J-FLAG Response Disappoints

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In response to questions posed by the Pink Report concerning J-FLAG’s Advocacy Programme, The Executive Director of the entity has responded by saying “with respect, it’s the PINK REPORT” on JFLAG’s own Facebook Group page. We here at Pink are not sure of the meaning behind the statement, however, do note that it came after questions were raised about the credibility and thus veracity and accuracy of the Report’s Saturday publication entitled Under Attack Part II: Parliamentary Committee Briefs raise questions about JFLAG’s Advocacy by one of its (JFLAG’s) own volunteers/employees.

We here at the Pink Report would like to point out to our readers that the information provided in the above publication was taken from the official report of the Parliamentary Committee on the Charter of Rights and from JFLAG’s own website (which incidentally was emailed to us by the Executive Director). As a consequence if JFLAG is raising questions about the truthfulness and credibility of its own information and that of the Parliament of Jamaica, Pink in no way can be held responsible for that. Indeed the very accusation by JFLAG and its agents may take us down the dangerous path of second guessing every piece of information and literature coming out of JFLAG, a path that we are not remotely interested in contemplating. Rather we will take the statement as an unfortunate emotional reaction that even without the request of forgiveness, we shall like good Christians turn the other cheek forgive, forget and move on!

Notwithstanding we would like to submit to JFLAG that a Warmingtonian response to questions is not in the best interest of the organization or any Human Rights lobby group for that matter. The specific instance of which we speak pertains to a Facebook conversation regarding a JFLAG poll question “Do you agree with the question/statement: why discussions in its Group Page on Facebook have focused mainly on requesting information regarding Human Rights abuses but no articulation of what those Rights are or what JFLAG intends to do with the information if and when given!” Please note the text of the following conversation:

RY:         DB (JFLAG representative), I actually thought that to myself… I just never expressed it. All I    ever see is request for information.

DB:        Scroll down on the wall RY…take a look at the discourse about the constitution and charter of rights…I myself made suggestion on how particular persons may apply for redress based on their violation/abuses. There are contacts for agencies who can assist. When you have that, then tell me that all you have seen is request for information.

The response from the JFLAG representative has the same material effect as Shut UP, and might we add GO TO HELL. Pink views this is as remarkably abusive and raises questions as to whether the entity genuinely cares for feedback from its own constituents. We publicly implore JFLAG to reign in and train its volunteers/employees on appropriate etiquettes as it regards treatment of clients. We also kindly request adressing the issues raised in the Saturday article in a forensic and professional manner. We still do hope for a response to the questions raised!

We had hoped that by raising these questions, JFLAG would have responded by highlighting the work they have been doing behind the scenes. Indeed the opportunity was theirs to point out that they have been coordinating responses with other Human Rights organizations due to the very present dangers of being the public face of homosexuality. They could have even indicated that that there has been an attempt to get a newsletter off the ground, the efforts of which the PINK Report was to be a part of but has failed to live up to its commitment in this regard and that activities are being planned to ensure that content is added to their website to ensure that community members are better informed about activities they undertake. It is to be noted that Pink regards the 2001 written submission as conforming to the highest standards of advocacy on the matter of Rights. What confuses us is, what could have possibly occurred such that the Committee could have been left with the impression that JFLAG was willing to barter inclusion of rights protections for minorities with repeal of buggery and related laws and what has been done since 2001 to educate members about inter alia the Charter and Rights in general. We ask not for mendacity or barbed attacks but a proper distillation of the entity’s work programme, JFLAG will note that it is not the questions that will embarrass us but the answers.

Looking to the Future

At the core of the debate is the Charter of Rights! The Bill is now at the floor of the Upper House, the Senate. Whilst the Leader of Opposition business in the Senate, Senator A.J. Nicholson has already indicated the total support of the PNP benchers he has called for a complete discussion on the Bill’s provisions among the Senators. This delay represents the last real opportunity that JFLAG and the wider Gay community has for initiating amendment to the Bill, which we are aware of. We humbly submit that the time has come for all members of the community to unite behind whatever initiative that JFLAG chooses to engage the Members of the Senate. We propose that a Great Email Campaign be done where persons directly email senators with content to be provided by JFLAG.

In another matter, we here at Pink do sympathize with the young lady from the UWI who was the victim of a cartoon attack. We, however, congratulate her on her fine electoral victory nonetheless. We hope that she will view this challenge not as a set back but as an opportunity to use her time in office to sensitize persons about respect and tolerance for persons of minority orientations including that of gender classifications. We note that the report indicated that the young lady in question was open and out prior to her election and as such her victory possibly marks the first time in Anglophone Caribbean History that an openly homosexual person has been elected to office. This is yet to be substantiated, however, it should be celebrated.

Under Attack Part II:Parliamentary Committee Briefs raise questions about JFLAG’s Advocacy!!

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The Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne Q.C, Member of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament

A paragraph in the 2001 Report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on its deliberations on the bill entitled an Act To Amend The Constitution of Jamaica to Provide for A Charter Of Rights and for Connected Matters, has begun to raise questions about JFLAG’s advocacy programme at that time.  The paragraph notes that:

It is important to record that the representatives of J. Flag have stated that they regard the legislation which criminalizes buggery between persons as the essence of discrimination against homosexuals, particularly in relation to its enforcement against male homosexuals, and, therefore, that if a recommendation for the repeal of that legislation in relation to consenting adults in private is as far as the Committee would be prepared to go, they would be grateful for that concession.

The particular areas of concern relate to:

  1. The assertion that Section 76 of the Offences Against the Person’s Act which criminalizes buggery represents the essence of discrimination against homosexuals, particular in relation to its enforcement against male homosexuals.
  2. The precise understanding of the use of the term concession especially with regards to the principled stance of demanding inclusion of sexual orientation within the Bills Section13.2j Freedom from Discrimination

The paragraph is at odds with JFLAG’s own name and mandate, as minority groups such as Lesbians and some transgendered individuals are not directly affected by the Buggery Law yet remain homosexual, in the case of the former, and marginalized. Furthermore, homosexual men not engaging and when not engaging in anal sex are at a low risk of prosecution owing to the difficulties and peculiarities of proving anal disturbance due to sex. Yet these same persons will face discrimination as it regards a host of issues including access to education, health care, employment, career advancement, choice of housing, security etc. Notably, the paragraph is at odds with the entity’s own written submission to the committee which highlighted the institutionalized nature of homophobia in Jamaican society (a copy of which can be seen by clicking here a summary of which can also be seen here).

Interestingly, the Committee urged JFLAG to carry out further research as to the Constitutions (ie global best practice) which guarantee protection against

Professor Trevor Munroe: Committee Member

discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation; the laws which would be inconsistent with such a constitutional provision; scientific data as to the causes of homosexuality; and whether there has been an increase in homosexuality following on such a liberalization of the law in other countries. We are currently awaiting a response from JFLAG as to whether the further research was conducted and the findings communicated to the members of the Parliamentary Committee between 2001 and November 2010, when the Lower House debated the bill. However, the current Executive Director, Dane Lewis, who joined the organization in 2008 has preliminarily noted in email correspondence that “as I have only just joined the organization in the last three years, I cannot speak to what I do not see on file. As far as I know there was no other opportunity to respond to the issues raised by the committee, as has been the case for a number of years.”

When quizzed about JFLAG’s own public education and advocacy programme concerning the Charter of Rights during his tenure in the post, the Executive Director noted the entity’s funding challenges in developing and executing such a programme. In addition, the Programmes Manager at the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, Ivan Cruickshank has lamented the complete absence of sustained followership in the Gay Community. However, observers will question why a copy of the Charter of Rights is not placed on the organization’s website or why discussions in its Group Page on Facebook have focused mainly on requesting information regarding Human Rights abuses but no articulation of what those Rights are or what JFLAG intends to do with the information if and when given! Notwithstanding we are still awaiting an email response regarding the organization’s Public Education Programme regarding the Charter of Rights

Under Attack Part I: Unedited notes from the Parliamentary Committe to Review the Charter of Rights

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Section 13(2)(j)

Freedom from Discrimination

The right to freedom from discrimination, as formulated in the provision which the

Bill would insert into the Constitution as section 13(2)(j), is as follows:

“The right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of:-

(i) gender;

(ii) race, place of origin, social class,

colour, religion or political opinions;”colour, religion or political opinions;”.

A recommendation was made in a written submission by the Coalition for Community Participation in Governance, which was signed by its chairperson, Mrs. Linette Vassel, that the word “gender” as used in the proposed section 13(2)(j)(i) and in section 24(8) should be replaced by the word “sex”. The submission is attached as Appendix 3. In the Concise Oxford Dictionary the word “gender” is defined as meaning the grammatical classification of nouns and related words, roughly corresponding to the two sexes and sexlessness. It defines the word “sex” as meaning either of the main divisions (male or female) into which things are placed on the basis of their reproductive functions and the fact of belonging to one of these. The Committee agrees with the recommendations that the appropriate word to use in the proposed section 13(2)(j)(i) is “sex” and not “gender”. To ensure, however, that the use of the word sex is not interpreted to include “sexual orientation”, the Committee would wish that an express indication be given in section 13(2)(j) that the word “sex” is there used as meaning male or female.

 

Calls for Brakes to be applied to Charter of Rights

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The Houses of Parliament

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbian All-Sexuals and Gays yesterday called on Members of Parliament to not rush the debate on the Charter of Rights through the Assembly. The Group in its press release noted that it “is urging the Jamaican Parliament to make provisions to protect the human rights of all Jamaicans, and provide a framework to reduce discrimination against all persons including Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered (LGBT); persons with disabilities and persons affected by particular health conditions such as HIV in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms”.

The Group has indicated that it is not opposed to the principle of a Charter of Rights and reaffirms its committed to the process of Constitutional Reform. However, it does wish to advise that the Charter should serve as the basis of human rights recognition for all in the Jamaican society irrespective of sexual orientation.

Parliamentarians are expected to cast their vote on the Charter of Rights Bill this week, as Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced. Golding, who had piloted the Bill in the Lower House of Parliament and closed the debate last December, said the vote will be taken in the Lower House tomorrow, and then the provision will be sent to the Senate for further debate. The Bill is expected to be passed with full support of both sides of the political divide as Counsel for the Opposition A.J. Nicholson has indicated that the PNP benches will be in full support of the motion.

The Jamaica Forum for All Sexuals and Gays has over the past year stepped up its public advocacy on the matter of Tolerance for the rights of LGBT individuals. These activities have included street demonstrations in Kingston, Radio interviews and utilization of forums on popular social networking site Facebook. Please click for a copy of the Proposed Charter of Rights Bill and JFLAG Press Release

Bangkok Confidential: Part II

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Bangkok Skyline

Freshly cut orchids in my room, fresh flowers on the room service tray, white handkerchiefs in the conference bathrooms instead of paper towels, and a coffee maid to brew you a fresh cup of coffee from beans.  These are a few awesome offerings here at this relatively inexpensive hotel.  Nestled in the centre of the hustle and bustle of the Armari neighbourhood of Bangkok, the Armari Watergate Hotel clearly capitalizes on the cheap labour Thailand offers. There is a beautiful Thai princess that greets you as you exit the elevator or about to enter the dining room with that welcoming genuflect.  Further, there is a girl or a boy at every corner to greet you in like fashion and to direct you just in case you take the wrong turn.  Managers (some who seem to be western) are just as caring, escorting you out of elevators, inquiring about your meal at breakfast or lunch or just asking you how you are enjoying your stay.

(Sidebar) Everyone here is so small and cute, like figurines to make a great collection.

Tuk Tuk, one of the primary means of transport along with the taxi bike

So today I went for a walk as I insisted I must see even the street on which I am living for the duration of my time here. I stepped out into the busy street, busy with cars, tuck-tucks and people.  (I will ride in my tuck tuck tomorrow).  There are just as many tuck tuck taxis as they are car taxis, but what was amazing was the taxi bike!  Yes like the tuck tuck, you can hop onto a motor bike and get to your destination in no time.  This makes a lot of sense as the city is plagued with traffic congestion.  If I am brave enough I may even take the bike when I next need a taxi. I am sure that will break 40 UN safety rules.

Anyways, story! So as I stepped out of the hotel and I was swiftly offered a tuck tuck taxi by this man who I assumed was the owner.  I said no, no-no, I am going walking. Then he pulls me aside and offered pretty girl, and before I could process the offer he whipped out a pocket catalogue of nice girls for me to purchase.  Now me neva buy Pum Pum yet from I born so this was wrong for me in several ways. Anyway I again said no-no, belying my curiosity as I whisked myself away to my planned pure and chaste walk free from iniquity.

For the first time I was walking in down town.  The civic planners seem to make the best use of the space considering their population.  Buildings go up high to accommodate multiple stores, road are broad and organized in one ways and there is an overhead crossing at ever major intersection.  You smell the drain all through the walk on the streets. Some places, while not dirty, seemed unkempt and old.  However , it was just as fascinating to look at, especially to see the alleys that run off the main road and how the people make use of them with all kinds of shops.

The sidewalks were apparently made broad enough to accommodate sellers as they peddle their wares on nice appointed shelves as far as the eyes can see.  This is where you see cheapness, not to mention the knock off everything, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, you name it them have it. From movies to handbags to blackberry phone, dem have it.  Now when you talk about bargain galore, US$3 bag, US$3-US$4 shoes, US$3 TShirt, US$5 shirt, 4 socks for US$1, all of this on the road side, and good quality stuff too.  I just stop at one point because it was just too much to digest and as I never come here to come shop and bankrupt myself like I did once a month last year, or mek Jamaica immigration harass me like the last time.  But it was genuinely too much.  So Friday I may go pickup a ting or two but I will not be sucked into shopping.

A Sample of the food on offer

Oh mi neva tell unu bout the breakfast.  Fried rice, noodles, chop suey, chicken soup and some wholeep a Thai things I can pronounce were on the buffet.  This was good for me the first day cause I never eat dinner cause a the jet lag and I man did hungry bad in the morning. So I got some chicken and rice the morning and “I mash dung dat” or as my Belizian friend would say “I connek up dat – one time”.  Of course they also had western and Indian breakfast items which I had the following day. The food is amazing, when you have so many options to choose from.

I still waiting for Poy and Sypo, my two Thai friends to call me or come look for me.

Anyways,  lata again wi talk.

The Pink Ambassador