Ja­maica to ac­count for how it han­dles hu­man rights is­sues

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

JA­MAICA IS to ac­count for how it has been han­dling hu­man rights is­sues such as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and those re­lat­ing to per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties when it at­tends the 118th ses­sion of the United Na­tions (UN) Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee con­fer­ence, which will be held in Geneva next week.

The coun­try will also be called upon to re­spond to is­sues con­cern­ing vul­ner­a­ble groups such as the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity when it makes sub­mis­sions at the con­fer­ence.

Ja­maica rat­i­fied the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights (ICCPR) in 1975. It es­tab­lishes in in­ter­na­tional law the right to life, lib­erty; pro­tec­tion from tor­ture, cruel and de­grad­ing treat­ment, and dis­crim­i­na­tion; and the free­doms of ex­pres­sion, as­sem­bly, re­li­gion, and a range of other rights. The ICCPR is legally bind­ing. Ad­her­ence is mon­i­tored by the UN Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee – an in­de­pen­dent body that con­ducts pe­ri­odic re­views of coun­tries.

Ivan Cruick­shank, pro­gramme man­ager at the Caribbean Vul­ner­a­ble Com­mu­ni­ties Coali­tion, who was among the pre­sen­ters ad­dress­ing jour­nal­ists at a brief­ing yes­ter­day, said there was ur­gent need for Ja­maica to im­ple­ment a com­pre­hen­sive frame­work to ad­dress vul­ner­a­ble groups such as per­sons liv­ing with the hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus (HIV) and vul­ner­a­ble groups.

He noted that this was among the is­sues that con­tin­ued to linger from pre­vi­ous re­view ses­sions.

“The ma­jor con­cern is that HIV and health are not pro­tected us­ing any leg­isla­tive frame­work. The com­mit­tee went on to fur­ther en­quire about the in­sti­tut­ing of anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion within the ab­sence of some com­pre­hen­sive health pro­tec­tion by the con­sti­tu­tion. They asked to what ex­tent the HIV work pol­icy is being mon­i­tored,” he said.

“There is the is­sue of re­dress. There’s a na­tional HIV re­port­ing re­dress sys­tem. That sys­tem is housed with an NGO (non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion). It’s not owned by the Gov­ern­ment, and so it doesn’t have the re­sources that are re­quired to give an ef­fec­tive and com­pre­hen­sive re­dress,” he con­tin­ued.

“So even though, since 2005, we have had 267 re­ports com­ing into the sys­tem, very few of those cases have been re­solved. It doesn’t have the man­date to com­mand re­dress from any en­tity that is iden­ti­fied as of­fend­ing. What is needed is a re­dress sys­tem to be in­te­grated as a na­tional sys­tem owned by the Gov­ern­ment, with the man­date that re­dress can be re­ceived by those who com­plain.”

He said the on­go­ing de­lay in fast­track­ing the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health (OSH) Bill into law has pre­sented sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in pro­vid­ing more pro­tec­tion for vul­ner­a­ble groups.

The OSH Act will rep­re­sent an up­grade to the ex­ist­ing Fac­to­ries Act and will in­clude ar­eas such as the rights and du­ties of work­ers. It will im­pose sanc­tions and rec­om­mend com­pen­sa­tion for on-the-job in­juries.

OTHER CHAL­LENGES

“The other chal­lenge we have in re­la­tion to HIV and health re­lates to the le­gal bar­ri­ers for key pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing young peo­ple and ado­les­cents, who con­tinue to be at a dis­ad­van­tage in terms of ser­vice de­liv­ery be­cause of the leg­isla­tive bar­ri­ers. It’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion with key pop­u­la­tions such as sex work­ers and men who have sex with men,” he said.

“Key is­sues that we would like the com­mit­tee to re-em­pha­sise with the Gov­ern­ment are to move to­wards an over­ar­ch­ing anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion frame­work and to move speed­ily to im­ple­ment the Oc­cu­pa­tional Health Safety Act,” he said.

Su­san Goffe, hu­man rights ad­vo­cate, and George Young, who rep­re­sented the ad­vo­cacy group Stand Up Ja­maica, also gave pre­sen­ta­tions.

The ma­jor con­cern is that HIV and health are not pro­tected us­ing any leg­is­lati ve frame­work.

In this 2006 photo, a sex worker known as Choco­late strikes a pose along Glouces­ter Av­enue in Mon­tego Bay as she tries to woo prospec­tive clients. She was among sev­eral women who of­fered sex as a busi­ness in the tourist cap­i­tal then.

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