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JM | Nov 11, 2020

LGBT rights underscored among ‘must-fix issues’ at Jamaica’s UN Human Rights review

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith says Jamaica has done much to improve its human rights standing in the international community.

There are, however, many countries that continue to stress the need for the island to do more.

Across the board, several states attending the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Wednesday (November 11), recommended Jamaica enhances efforts to combat all forms of discrimination.

Firstly, they wanted the island to uphold and protect the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community by decriminalising same-sex relations between consenting adults; and to strengthen efforts to eliminate discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Among them, The Netherlands, Canada, Argentina and Australia recommended that Jamaica be more committed to decriminalising same-sex relations by 2025.

Greece, Mexico, Iceland and Italy argued that the island should abolish the death penalty and impose a moratorium on capital punishment, while Venezuela underscored the need for a review of Jamaica’s detention centres.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, who headed Jamaica’s delegation to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the island on Wednesday. (Photo: Twitter @KaminaJohnsonSmith)

Ghana and the United States recommended Jamaica be tougher on human trafficking, while Haiti urged the island to take further steps to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

The panel of 70 countries present at the 36th session of the UPR, commended Jamaica for its national development plan, Vision 2030.

The island was also praised for the adoption of the National Strategic Action Plan to eliminate gender-based violence; the establishment of a Gender Advisory Council in 2018; as well as its ongoing efforts to reduce crime.

Minister Johnson Smith, speaking at the island’s UPR session, assured that the Jamaican constitution safeguards the rights of all citizens, irrespective of class, colour, creed or gender.

Continuing, Johnson Smith alluded to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms—amended in 2011—which replaced Chapter Three of the Jamaican constitution.

“The charter enshrines fundamental rights and freedoms; significantly, the charter applies to the state and between individual citizens. It, therefore, inculcates respect for human rights at all levels of society by holding all persons, including the state, accountable,” she said.

The minister further acknowledged that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed Jamaica’s long journey to tackle extreme poverty, as well as equal access to medical care and education, among other issues.

“Our participation today is particularly significant in a context where we continue to grapple with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has exacerbated many of our socio-economic development challenges and further threatens to impede the efforts, which are underway at the national and global levels, to achieve our sustainable development goals,” Johnson Smith argued.

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