Rights of minorities

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ALL human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” – Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

It has been one year and four days since it was reported in the media that President David Granger said he was “prepared to respect the rights of any adult to indulge in any practice which is not harmful to others,” when the issue of LGBT rights was broached. While it is commendable that the President, despite his strong religious views accepts the fact that despite us all not being the same in terms of class, gender and sexual orientation, we deserve equal rights.

He has appeared non-committal on it since his ascendancy to office, as have some in his Cabinet. This was seen particularly in the difference between former Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge.

Lawrence on several occasions touted the need for LGBT rights, once saying “we have to wake up to the realisation that these are human beings whose human, political and social rights are being violated.” Whereas Greenidge as of recent, in defending the government’s move to vote against funding for UN gay rights stated that “in the absence of pronouncement supported by public opinion, Guyana has consistently refrained from taking positive action on sexual orientation matters in the international arena.” What Greenidge essentially says here is that minority rights depend upon which direction the majority goes.

I guess I can see the rationale behind this, even if it is a blatant disregard for human rights because with a narrow win in their last election, we can see why the coalition may not necessarily want to vex conservatives with the “liberal agenda.” Even while they have progressive members they have done or offered nothing other than words of support rather than actively lobbying for equal rights.

When one looks at the Guyanese atmosphere, we see once again how LGBT rights will continue to be curtailed. It does matter if the laws rooted in our oppression are not currently enforced, their very existence alone tramples upon the equal right to exist and choose who we love and what we wear.

We need leaders that aren’t just giving lip service to placate us, we need leaders willing to follow through despite of the backlash they might receive from the religious community because despite popular opinion, Guyana is a secular state.

Guyana has been pandering to the religious sector for way too long on this issue, and while I know those in office are hindered by their own religious views, their religious convictions should not supersede the secularity of the State as defined by the Constitution.

In closing I’d like to quote myself in a similar column last year when I still held out hope that the coalition would act on ensuring all its citizens and not only the majority, have the same human rights following the President’s words.

“Asking for equal rights is not an issue of the minority trying to impose their lifestyle on the majority. This is about the minority’s civil rights, and the right to love and marry whomever they choose being respected. Many don’t see the reason behind fighting for LBGT rights; but that’s only because they have been privileged to grow up in societies in which their heterosexual orientation is considered normal; and as such, they have not had to fight for their rights.”