Sunday, April 21, 2024

EDITORIAL: Let’s advance the cause of human rights


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SINCE THE DEATH last Thursday of the revered South African icon Nelson Mandela, there have been many reflections on his life and the things for which he stood. At the heart of much of what he wanted was respect for human rights. This recognition of human rights must be an ideal to which we should all aspire if we want a better, fairer and more just society.
It is regrettable that Barbados has no active non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to human rights matters. This has left much of the advocacy on human rights to a few defiant individuals and, in some cases, organizations with special interests.
The absence of a dedicated lobby group here is most unfortunate, especially in light of the proven usefulness in Jamaica of the watchdog group Jamaicans For Justice.
In some other regional countries similar groups exist and play an important role in the defence and promotion of civil liberties.
One of the hindrances to the birth and acceptance of human rights NGOs in Barbados is that over the years such groups were seen in a negative light. The attention of local human rights groups has been largely focused on fighting the death penalty, still an emotional issue for many Barbadians.
What we need to recognize is that human rights are not limited to death penalty matters but encompass a range of issues at the core of democracy. Transparency and fairness, respect for others and the upholding of their rights regardless to class, colour and even sexuality must be observed.
In Barbados, we need to pay far greater attention to the rights of people accused of various crimes, some of whom find themselves on remand for excessive time.
This simply is not right. There are also issues of women’s rights and gender equality that still generate legitimate discussion, given the level of domestic violence and the trafficking of women which still takes place.
A new human rights issue which we must engage is that related to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. It is not an issue with which many people in our society – particularly fundamentalist Christians – will want to deal with, but as a nation we must confront it if we are not to infringe the rights and freedoms of these individuals.
Unfortunately, it is not going to be easy for some in our society to accept that a man on remand has rights, that women must have the same opportunities and privileges as men, and that those in the LGBT community must be treated with respect. But if we want all people to live in a fair and just society, then we have no choice but to uphold their human rights.


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