She underscored this point in a speech delivered by Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, during Wednesday’s (April 9) opening ceremony for the three-day Caribbean Consultation on Justice for All and Human Rights Agenda, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.
Mrs. Simpson Miller said Jamaica, like most other Caribbean countries, has signed several international agreements, designed to guarantee the human rights of individuals who “have been treated with disrespect and have to continuously confront discrimination.”
These, she pointed out, include: the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights.
The Prime Minister said the Government of Jamaica will also shortly be introducing the Disabilities Bill to Parliament, which will “protect the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, for the first time, in our law”, as also legislation addressing sexual harassment.
Mrs. Simpson Miller contended that integrity and impartiality are “essential features” for sustaining human rights, pointing out that “like all West Indian Constitutions, ours, here in Jamaica, guarantees basic human rights of all citizens.” In this regard, she added, “the state cannot justifiably favour the rights of one part of its citizenry over any other.”
The Prime Minister noted that progress and change, though slow, has been made across the region in relation to countries’ efforts to safeguard human rights.
She, however, suggested the need to develop and advance a public education agenda for promoting the rights of everyone, and assured that Jamaica is committed to justice and equality.
Mrs. Simpson Miller said the consultation is both timely and vital in helping to pave the way for developing a formula that provides the basis for achieving a level of zero discrimination.
“The Justice for All process provides opportunities for rich dialogue of various stakeholders. These include: parliamentarians, faith-based leaders, representatives of the private sector, the youth, and civil society organizations. Through this process, we hope to identify meaningful options on which there is sufficient consensus for our governments to take action,” she added.
The forum is being staged from April 9 to 11 by PANCAP in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica; the University of the West Indies (UWI); and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM), under the theme: ‘Advancing Justice for All and the Human Rights Agenda’.
Over 90 participants from Jamaica and overseas are discussing and deliberating issues pertaining to advancing the human rights agenda, in the Caribbean. Key among these are issues deemed restrictive to the successful implementation of the Caribbean’s response to HIV and AIDS.
The Justice for All Programme, coordinated by PANCAP, is an advocacy platform aimed at increasing awareness around HIV-related stigma and discrimination and their impact on access to prevention or treatment services.
The programme is being coordinated under the patronage of St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, and United Nations Secretary-General Envoy for HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean, Professor Edward Greene.
The consultations ultimately aim to develop a PANCAP Roadmap for the reduction of HIV-related stigma, eliminate discrimination, and increase national HIV responses by creating a facilitative environment and removing discriminatory laws and practices.