The Riverton Landfill is on fire. We stopped by – how does one ‘stop by’ a landfill fire? emmm…. anyway….here are some of the pictures I got.
The Riverton Landfill is on fire. We stopped by – how does one ‘stop by’ a landfill fire? emmm…. anyway….here are some of the pictures I got.
A blog written by one of our foremost children’s authors Diane Brown about her journey as a writer.
Diane Browne has written over 40 stories/books. She has been published by Ginn in the United Kingdom; Harcourt Brace and Friendship Press in the USA; Heinemann Caribbean, Carlong Publishers, Arawak Publications, and the Ministry of Education in Jamaica.
She has been a visiting author for the Students’ Encounter Programme at the Miami Book Fair, and has presented papers on children’s literature at the National Association of Teacher’s of English, UK; the International Association of School Librarianship, the International Reading Association and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She has frequently participated as trainer/consultant in writing workshops for both writers of children’s fiction and textbooks, in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
My journey began when I was quite young; I loved books. I read the usual books, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys as well as listened to Anancy stories. But I knew that I wanted someone
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That’s the provocative title of a lecture given today at the Faculty of Law, Mona Campus, UWI. Kind of.
The lecturer was Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law, King’s College, London. The actual title was “Lesbian and Gay Rights in the Caribbean: Would Decriminalisation Restrict Religious Freedom?” but I think my title is snappier :-) Also, let me acknowledge that there is no such law as the Buggery Law, but the phrase is used in Jamaica as a short cut way of referring to sections 76 and 77 of the Offences Against the Person Act which state that:
76. Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable
crime of buggery, committed either with’ mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned
and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years.
77. Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of my assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years,
with or without hard labour.
Professor Wintemute started by sharing his personal story of growing up gay in Canada, in a society which told him that same-sex relationships were a sin.
“The message from my society was that I should hate myself. I had two plans, become a monk, or pay for a psychiatrist to cure me.”
Saying he eventually made peace with who he was, Professor Wintemute went on to outline the original legal status of all the countries in the British empire where, in 1957, sex between men was unlawful everywhere.
Fast forward to 2014, and sex between men has been decriminalized in all 47 members of the Council of Europe. Also, of the 35 member states in the Organisation of American States, sex between men has been decriminalized in 24 of the 35 member states. The other 11 states? All Commonwealth Caribbean countries with the exception of the Bahamas which decriminalized such relations in 1991.
He pointed out that according to the European Court of Human Rights, blanket bans on same sex activity are a violation of privacy rights.
In Dudgeon v UK, for example, the European Court of Human Rights said:
“…the offences are committed whether the act takes place in public or in private, whatever the age or relationship of the participants involved, and whether or not the participants are consenting. It is evident from Mr. Dudgeon’s submissions, however, that his complaint was in essence directed against the fact that homosexual acts which he might commit in private with other males capable of valid consent are criminal offences under the law of Northern Ireland.
“…The Commission saw no reason to doubt the general truth of the applicant’s allegations concerning the fear and distress that he has suffered in consequence of the existence of the laws in question. The Commission unanimously concluded that “the legislation complained of interferes with the applicant’s right to respect for his private life guaranteed by Article 8 par. 1 (art. 8-1), in so far as it prohibits homosexual acts committed in private between consenting males.”
“41.The Court sees no reason to differ from the views of the Commission: the maintenance in force of the impugned legislation constitutes a continuing interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his private life (which includes his sexual life) within the meaning of Article 8 par. 1 (art. 8-1). In the personal circumstances of the applicant, the very existence of this legislation continuously and directly affects his private life …either he respects the law and refrains from engaging – even in private with consenting male partners – in prohibited sexual acts to which he is disposed by reason of his homosexual tendencies, or he commits such acts and thereby becomes liable to criminal prosecution.”
Professor Wintemute also cited cases from the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and a case from the Inter American Court of Human Rights, Atala v Chile, where the Court ruled that a court order that children of an openly lesbian mother should be taken away, violated the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
“The cases show that this trend is not limited to the Global North,” Professor Wintenute stated, citing cases from Ecuador, South Africa and Hong Kong.
The recent case in India, where the Supreme Court reinstated a law criminalizing homosexuality, he called “embarrassing” and said the court had refused to look at any developments outside India.
On the issue of religious freedom, Professor Wintemute said sexual freedom can co-exist along with religious freedoms in Jamaica.
“The starting point is a separation of law and religion,” he said. “…a law needs a justification outside a religious text.”
He said that decriminalization has not led to same-sex marriage in, for example, the Bahamas where decriminalization occurred over 20 years ago, and said fears of such consequences are unfounded as each country can proceed to discuss reforms at its own pace. He also noted that legislation in the UK and Canada has been specifically enacted to provide that expression of opinion on a religious matter shall not constitute an offence.
In Canada, Criminal Code s. 319 (3) (b) : “No person shall be convicted of an offence…if in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text.”
In the UK, the Public Order Act 1986 s. 29JA provides that “…the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intending to stir up hatred.”
“ …for the future for Jamaica, I hope the criminal law will be amended in the next year or two, this will be a minor concession. It will reduce stigma and give more gay and lesbian people the courage to come out and talk to their neighbours, and that is what will change things.”
A lively question and answer session followed including a contribution by Dr. Wayne West, from the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, who raised the issue of a Jamaican couple who had been living in the UK and fostering children. They were forbidden from fostering other children when they stated that if a child told them he/she was homosexual, they could not agree to tell that child that it was alright to be homosexual.
Professor Wintemute responded by saying that foster care authorities have to act in the interests of the child, and that the Johns would have been denied the opportunity to foster on the same basis that a White Supremacist couple would have been denied if they said they would not be able to tell a black child he/she was equal to a white child.
Sincere apologies to anyone NOT in my constit tutorial, I promise this will never happen again!! Students please prepare as follows:
1. The concept of Parliamentary sovereignty has been overtaken in the case of the Commonwealth C’bean constitutions by the concept of constitutional supremacy.
Discuss with reference to Collymore and the cases on page 17 of the worksheet
2. See Questions for Tutorial Discussion on your worksheets – pages 36-37 – prepare questions,3 & 4
3. What are the main principles in Collymore and Symonette?
Here are a few of the human rights stories making news around the world that I find interesting.
1. Reparations could be a step closer for the indigenous Maya Achi community in Guatemala, three decades after hundreds were killed to clear the way for a dam to be built.
The Guardian reports that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank financed the construction of the dam and survivors have been calling for the institutions to pay reparations for years.
The fresh hope comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to sign a bill that will, among other things, instruct the World Bank and IDB to report on steps taken to implement the provisions of a 2010 reparations plan.
2. The UK government continues to declare that it will not obey a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that a blanket ban on allowing prisoners to vote was a human rights breach. The stand-off has led to the Justice Secretary announcing plans to curtail the role of the ECtHR in English law, and ensure the supremacy of Britain’s highest domestic court, the Supreme Court.
3. A UK House of Lords enquiry has heard that the human rights of mental health patients are being breached, as some judges are refusing to hear testimony from such patients, the Independent reports.
4. In one of the latest salvos in the war over judicial appointments in the United States, President Obama is being accused, in a case now before the Supreme Court, of violating the constitution in making recess judicial appointments.
5. A man from a Pacific island failed in his bid to acquire refugee status in New Zealand as the world first climate change refugee. The decision was made last November, but I report it here because it is novel and interesting, and you may have missed it.
There is useful comment on the case here.
As Jamaicans continue to test the still new 2011 Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, we could see some intriguing cases before the Supreme Court this year, such as the issue of the undated Senate resignation letters, a challenge to the buggery law, and a test of the constitutional provision for the right to a healthy environment. Such cases are important in delineating the limits of a constitution and specifying the protection it offers.
The Undated Senate Resignation Letters
Former Senator Arthur Williams has indicated that he intends to pursue his claim that Opposition Leader Andrew Holness’s use of undated resignation letters to force him and Christopher Tufton out of the Senate violated his constitutional rights. Williams says the letters were intended to be used only in the event of Opposition Senators wanting to break with the party on the Caribbean Court of Justice. If the case goes to conclusion, we could see the court pronouncing on something that lawyers have been arguing over for years – what power, if any, do political leaders have to remove senators who they themselves appointed?
Williams has said he is seeking the following:
“ A Declaration that an undated letter of resignation and a letter authorizing the Defendant to date and use the same which had been signed by the Claimant were used by the Defendant other than for the purpose for which they had been given and therefore were unlawfully used and accordingly are void and of no effect.
A Declaration that based upon the Claimant’s stated position that he would not resign as requested, he had effectively revoked the said letters.
A Declaration that the very fact of requesting these undated letters of resignation from all persons to be appointed as Senators under nomination of the Leader of Opposition is contrary to Jamaica ’s Constitutional scheme.
A Declaration that the undated letters of resignation are void as being inconsistent with the Constitution by seeking to give to the Defendant the right or power to effect the resignation of the Claimant at the Defendant’s volition.
A Declaration that by using the undated letters of resignation for the reason that the Claimant did not support the Defendant in the election for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Jamaica Labour Party and the Constitution of Jamaica.
A Declaration that the use of the undated letters of resignation on the basis that the Claimant did not support the Defendant in the election for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party contravenes the Claimant’s constitutional rights to the freedoms of conscience, association and expression protected by section 13 (3), (b), (c ) and (e) of the Charter of Rights.”
Those section of the constitution provide for
(b) the right to freedom of thought, conscience, belief and observance of political doctrine;
(c ) the right to freedom of expression;
(e) the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Challenge to Buggery Law
Then there is the challenge to the buggery law brought by Javed Jaghai. Jaghai is seeking a declaration that;
“The right to privacy in the Charter of Rights and/or the right to equality excludes private sexual activity between consenting male adults from being criminalized under the Offences Against the Person Act (sections 76,77,79) or a declaration that private sexual activity between consenting male adults are excluded from those sections of the OAPA as a matter of statutory interpretation;
An order that sections 76 and 77 of the OAPA will continue to govern non-consensual anal intercourse and anal intercourse with minors.”
The sections of the OAPA cited are:
76. Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with’ mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned & kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years.
77. Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour.
79. Any male person who, in pub!ic or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour.
Right to Healthy Environment
There is also the possibility that within the context of the potential transhipment port development on the Goat Islands that environmental advocacy groups may seek to test the significance of Section 13 (3) (l) of the Charter which provides for:
“the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage.”
This is an interesting provision in the Charter. Environmental rights are regarded as many scholars as so-called third-generation rights (civil and political rights being first-generation rights, social, economic and cultural rights as second-generation) and there is debate as to the extent of their justiciability. Parliament’s deliberate inclusion of this provision in the Charter is therefore interesting, and I will be eager to follow a court case testing this provision.
So stay tuned, interesting days are ahead!
Thanks to all the visitors to my blog this year. As always in Jamaica, it’s been an eventful year (when isn’t it?) and there’s been a lot to talk about. I didn’t achieve all my goals for the blog but I certainly continued to develop my concept for it. I have more plans and there’s more to come in 2014 so do stay tuned. Who know, perhaps that podcast that Carole Beckford is urging me to do may be on the horizon! Below is my summary from the folks at WordPress.com.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 46,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.