My Human Rights Day Plea: Embrace Difference and Celebrate Diversity

To deny people their human rights, is to challenge their very humanity.

–Nelson Mandela

20131209_125424-1Yesterday I sat for approximately three hours with a wonderful sage and storyteller – Thomas Glave – as he chronicled the human rights movement in Jamaica with regard to the LGBT community. I realised that though the cultural and ICT contexts have changed, the vision then, continues to be vision now. There are two ways to look at this:

  1. No real progress has been made since the vision is no different
  2. While we have achieved quite a bit in advocating for the LGBT community there is more work to be done

I prefer the second interpretation. It also speaks volumes to the institutionalised marginalization of the LGBT population. We have been “squeezed out” of law reform, we have been “squeezed out” of a number of policies, we still face discrimination at healthcare facilities and we are now chastised almost on a daily basis by the church and in our music.

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There is an inherent problem with how we treat with difference. Here in Jamaica we do not have a culture of respecting, accepting or celebrating diversity, even though we are “out of many, one people”. And it is for this reason we treat the “other” with dissonance. We cannot seem to do what Father Garth Minott asked us to do – “put the human being first”.

How do we move from this point to adopting the Vienna 1993 Declaration on Human Rights, to, among other things

[Recognise] and [affirm] that all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person, and that the human person is the central subject of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and consequently should be the principal beneficiary and should participate actively in the realization of these rights and freedoms…[?]

It is not a hard task to treat all people with love, respect and equality. Many of us continue to perpetuate the social inequalities that exist and have done nothing actively or passively to correct the sometimes inhumane way we treat with difference. We stand idly by or participate in the public verbal and/or physical abuse of a mentally unstable individual, or a gender non-conforming teen, or even a woman.

We need to unlearn savagery, brutishness and apathy.

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I have learned to celebrate diversity and speak on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. Let us choose today and every day to be guided by love. #iChooseLove, do you?

Happy Human Rights Day!

PS. Join the human rights movement today as we stand in solidarity at Emancipation Park from 5:00pm to 6:30pm.

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