The topics of discrimination and citizens’ rights took center stage as public discussions around a draft “Charter for Barbados” continued on Thursday.
The Open Forum, which saw several members of the Republican Status Transition Advisory Subcommittee (RSTAC) on Fundamental Principles, Rights and Freedoms, including subcommittee chair Chereda Grannum; Charter Committee Co-Chair Senator Rev Dr John Rogers and Dr Deryck Murray, Director of the Center for Hybrid Studies (CHyS), have sparked a keen interest in the topic of discrimination in Barbadian society, by especially with regard to homosexuality.
In response to a question as to why sexual orientation was included in the charter under the category requiring protection from discrimination, Dr Murray acknowledged that while the subject was complex, with varying views of across a broad cross-section of society, discrimination in all its forms must be cited and protected by the laws of a nation.
Dr Murray said: âUsually what it is is that you have personal biases; you can afford to have your own personal biases, no one can stop you from saying that you don’t want to be associated with someone who is gayâ¦ or living their life free from interference is problematic.
“We have to remember that in Barbados we have a history of slavery, and we, more than most people, should be extremely sensitive to any issue of discrimination on any grounds, because we know what is to have a legacy of being considered a sub-human, âhe explained.
Dr Murray said sexual orientation should be described in the charter which is seen as a philosophical statement from the general public which is then used to anchor a country’s constitution and guide how all citizens should be treated.
On the government not forcing COVID-19 vaccines for citizens, Dr Murray, the latest head of the now defunct Pan-African Affairs Commission, supported the decision and saw it consistent with Barbados’ impending transition to a Republic.
He said: “I think our government made the right decision in not insisting that vaccines be mandatory, and what that says is that in a charter we would like to say something like this n ‘ is that in the most extreme situations or crises, that we would go for something like that, in terms of harming your self directly on your body.
âYou should be very carefulâ¦ we should have a very high bar for infringing on some of these rights. If you had to reflect this position in a charter, this minimum, we would not go in terms of violation of human rights, and also delimit what would be the extreme conditions under which we would allow the violation of these rights, how could – shaping that language into the charterâ¦ That’s what I think we should be thinking about, what would be in the charter.
During the discussion, International Human Rights Advisor Michelle Brathwaite also cited the topic of poverty in societies as an often overlooked situation that fundamentally violates the basic human rights of most nations.
For her, fighting poverty in the current charter, and perhaps in the Constitution, should be considered a priority.
She said: âI often have discussions with others about whether or not poverty is a violation of human rights; as we define poverty as a lack of access to quality education, a lack of access to quality health care, and to be sure that governments and the state have an obligation to provide the minimum essential levels of this type of rights.
âThe eradication of poverty must be a priority, because poverty infringes many rights which we protect in the Constitution and our laws. “