Advocate

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Kingston, Jamaica
Advocate

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Government Should Protect The Rights Of All Jamaicans

Jamaica claims to stand in solidarity with other nations in its commitment to respect and preserve human rights of all its citizens. However, I am perturbed by the fact that the fundamental human rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens are continuously hindered and violated, while the constitutional human rights of criminals and corrupt politicians are protected. In light of the current Dudus-Manatt commission of enquiry, Dorothy Lightbourne and the Government of Jamaica are strongly of the view that the terms of the US extradition request of Christopher Coke, an alleged drug and gun trafficker, breached his constitutional rights, particularly freedom of expression, privacy and freedom of conscience.
Interestingly, this is the first time in the history of Jamaica that the Government has openly defended the constitutional rights of an alleged crime lord.
On the other hand, the constant breaching of the constitutional rights of people within vulnerable communities in Jamaica is never of such great concern or priority to the Government and Jamaican society, at large. What about the rights of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS discrimination? What about the said rights of gays and lesbians living in Jamaica? What about the rights of people living with disabilities?
misplaced priority
It is clear that the constitutional rights and freedom of accused gang lords and criminals are of top priority to the Government of Jamaica, and also to ensure that they are protected by all means. Shame! Shame!
Therefore, Jamaica's faith in fundamental rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women is nonsensical and erroneous when a group of people or an individual is subjected to brutality and discrimination.
It is time for the Government of Jamaica to protect and preserve the human rights of ALL Jamaicans in the same way it protects the constitutional rights of reputed crime lords and criminal elements. Human rights are rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alarming Violence Among Students

Our students are dying! The alarming surge of violence among students in Jamaica since the start of the year needs urgent attention. One too many students are being stabbed and beaten daily in and out of schools. I am deeply saddened and perturbed by the malicious and murderous trend of criminal activities affecting our children in Jamaica.
On January 26, 16-year-old Alton Clarke, a student, was stabbed to death at the entrance to the Vere Technical High School in Clarendon. In addition, a group of schoolboys got into a fight which ended in two being stabbed. Prior to these incidents, another student was badly chopped with a machete by another student in Portmore, St Catherine, a few days after the resumption of classes. Criminal behaviour by students is intolerable.
Schools losing sight of core function
It is presumed that the majority of schools across Jamaica epitomise juvenile centres and have lost sight of their core function - educating our children. At the same time, are teachers and parents guilty of recycling criminal elements within our society by silently addressing the issue of crime and violence in schools and homes? If so, this is a clear indication of failure on the behalf of guardians, teachers and other leaders in our country.
For too long, inner-city youth have been faced with the pressure of fighting gang wars and, at the same time, attending school. Our boys and girls are harmed with guns, knives and other deadly weapons. Teachers and parents alone cannot stop violence among students in schools. Therefore, every Jamaican needs to play a role in stemming this monstrous behaviour.
Furthermore, if our students are dying, Jamaica's future generation will be non-existent. Is this the Jamaica we all want to live in, where our children are attacking and killing each other? Let us rise up and protect Jamaica's future.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ban Corporal Punishment


I strongly support Education Minister Andrew Holness' call for the banning of corporal punishment in schools across Jamaica. This legal and inexcusable act of cruelty to correct the undesirable behaviour of students has no place in the education of children and it violates their human rights.
According to Benson (1937), "In 1935, there were 350 whippings in Jamaica by order of the courts, all but one of which were for juveniles." This cultural practice gradually became customary and socially accepted within families and in educational institutions. Corporal punishment in schools is lawful in Jamaica. The Education Act states that "teachers may administer reasonable corporal punishment", hence, the recent deadly assault on a fifth-grade student, who lost most of the sight in his left eye when a teacher allegedly hit him in southeast St Andrew a week ago. Clearly, this is an act of barbarism.
Infliction of pain
Corporal punishment is believed to involve the infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining as a method of changing behaviour, such as, hitting, punching, kicking, pinching, or use of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks, or others). The method is considered to be violent and unnecessary.
The current provision within the Education Act that permits the administering of corporal punishment by teachers violates the human rights of a child under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991), which ensures children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse and exploitation, as well as the Child Care and Protection Act (2004), which speaks to the rights of children to be free from corporal punishment in places of safety.
The practice should be immediately banned and sanctions imposed on those who commit such violation. In fact, the Government of Jamaica should be held accountable for permitting such brutality.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Biased Human-Rights Organisation


All Jamaicans are entitled to equal rights, justice and support from allhuman-rights organisation initiatives. As such, I am immensely concerned about the motive and core mission of a popular human- rights group here in Jamaica. The perceived image of the lobby seems skewed, biased and prejudiced against members of the state and/or law enforcers in Jamaica.
Based on a news report aired on Nationwide 90 FM on January 13, 2011, the lobby stated: "One in every five - approximately 309 - civilians was killed by the hands of the State in the year 2010."
The group and families of the deceased are appalled and insisted on immediate action from all levels of the justice system in Jamaica. Human-rights violations by the State have become a habitual practice over the past years, which have driven fear and hatred into individuals who are affected by actions of the police. This is an offence meted out to the people of Jamaica and should not be tolerated.
Balance Missing
On the other hand, according to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, in a press statement issued on November 7, 2010, "The murder of Constable Dwayne Brown in November brings to 15 the number of police personnel killed in Jamaica so far this year."
These unlawful killings call for immediate and equal attention by both the human-rights lobby and the Government, just as extrajudicial killings of civilians by the State.
Often, civilians' families and friends seek accountability and justice for extrajudicial killings of loved ones.
But, what about good police constables who have been slain while serving their country? What about their families? Aside from the Government, who is there to stand up for their rights?
Therefore, Jamaica needs a more transparent, impartial and equal human-Rights advocates. Further-more, the current lobby appears only to cater to civilians, and should live up to its vision, as well as the hope, of all law-abiding Jamaicans to see "a Jamaica where the rights of all are ensured; where there is equal opportunity for citizens to realise their full potential and enjoy a sense of well-being; and where our culture is enhanced and respect shared".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Revisit HIV/AIDS Policy


Dear Mr Prime Minister,
This is an urgent call for you to support the inclusion of health status under the non-discrimination clause in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom bill currently under review. The need to make provisions for the prevention of HIV and AIDS-based discrimination and to protect the human rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and other related matters in Jamaica should be a national priority.
Discriminatory practices in workplaces and schools include mandatory testing as part of admission, enrolment and recruitment requirements; barring, or blacklisting HIV-positive applicants, or relieving employees of their duties when their HIV status discovered. The reality is that many cases go unreported and unchallenged daily. Such unfair treatment of persons on the basis of their HIV status continues not only in Jamaica workplaces but also in the health sector. This is discriminatory.
Abolish mandatory testing
If the Government is serious about protecting the basic human rights of all Jamaicans and is keen to create an enabling an environment free of stigma and discrimination, then it must support the termination of workplace and school health policies which discriminate against persons living with HIV/AIDS.
It should abolish mandatory HIV testing for employment; remove punitive laws, policies and programmes that foster stigma and discrimination and block effective responses to HIV.

Bullying And Cowardice In Schools


I am appalled by the recent reports of barbaric and inhumane acts of bullying at a prominent teachers' college in Kingston and the cowardice of the institution's administrators in failing to reprimand the perpetrators of such acts.
On December 7, it was alleged that a student at the teachers' college was blackmailed, chased, and attacked by fellow schoolmates after a taped phone conversation between a male student pretending to be gay and the victim, who was presumed to be gay, was broadcast and amplified via loudspeakers, emails, and cellphones to other students and staff members on campus.
Bullying is an act of injustice and cruelty on those who have been victims of such acts. In fact, often in schools and other institutions, one in every three students has been verbally and physically harassed and abused by a bully (whether male or female). The victims often subsequently suffer from several mental-health disorders, such as stress and depression, which often lead to suicidal attempts.
The Ministry of Education needs to address this issue. For teachers in training, vigilante acts and assaults are unacceptable, and should not be tolerated in the education system. Some parents and guardians are jittery about the safety of their children in the 'care' of teachers who are not sensitised to gender and social differences students may portray. If teachers in training are acting as bullies, how can we then trust them with the lives of our children?
unreported and unchallenged
Due to a blind eye given to the incident by members of staff and the institution, the perpetrators go unpunished, while the victim remains in hiding and out of school. Many cases like this go unreported and unchallenged. Something has to be done, and urgently. One too many is the cry of victimised students across Jamaica who are facing bullies in every shape and form.

Kartel, Beenie Must Stop The Bickering


Dancehall has always been associated with a culture of violence, which is contributing to the occurrence of criminal activities and spiralling crime rate in Jamaica. As such, I am deeply concerned about the growing and noticeable bickering between popular dancehall artistes Vybz Kartel and Beenie Man, and the potential re-enactment of something similar to the Gully versus Gaza crisis in 2009. The implications of such bickering are far-reaching and may become damaging to the people of Jamaica.
According to a Star reporter (Henry, 2010), "The deejay, Beenie Man, expressed feelings of being 'dissed' and disrespected in Kartel'sDancehall Hero song, in an interview aired December 14 on Nationwide 90 FM's 'Ragashanti Live'. Further-more, Beenie Man feels that the lyrics in the song are directed at him." This may seem futile; however, it has the potential to create mayhem in the country, and, therefore, requires immediate attention.
conflicts
Dancehall is seen as a patriarchal space where the hunger for dominance among popular deejays has become infectious and virulent. If not monitored carefully, conflicts between dancehall artistes will result in a flare-up of violence in the Jamaican society, which often requires the input of the Government and security forces. Conflicts in dancehall predominantly result from one being 'dissed' lyrically or physically by another artiste.
In 2009, the Gully versus Gaza conflict rained turmoil in Jamaica. Several dancehall supporters who aligned themselves with respective alliances were killed and homes were destroyed in defence of one's alliance. In my opinion, it was a bloody year in dancehall. We do not want a repeat of this. We do not want any more war! Nowadays, Jamaican youth are like machines as they are easily led and directly influenced by dancehall culture and artistes.
Therefore, it is time for Beenie Man and Vybz Kartel to stop their petty bickering before it escalates into something beyond their control. Youth on the streets cannot be tamed. They call themselves 'Bad Man' and they will kill for their 'Daddy'. So, listen! It is time to stop the foolishness, and let's end 2010 and begin 2011 with peace, love, and happiness in the music industry.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Skin Bleaching Phenomena in Jamaica

Skin BLEACHING/LIGHTENING may adversely affect the health of those persons who engage in such practices. However, while I am very concerned about the fundamental rights and freedoms of those who decolourize their skin one should question the motive of the Ministry of Health in Jamaica to rid the society of such practices. This cultural practice is very influential and trendy, but not communicable.

According to a case study of Suriname, “The use of bleaching cosmetics increases with the younger ages: 35% of those below the age of 26 is user; 17% of those aged between 25 and 40 and only 10% of  those older than 40.” (Menke:2002). This is alarming! Skin bleaching is considered to be unhealthy and a societal problem affecting young people. In fact, in the same way, smoking and drinking alcohol over a period leads to certain cancers and other internal impairments within the human body. Therefore, one is encouraged to desist from such practices.

Similarly, it is perceived that the impact of skin bleaching in Jamaica is as significant as the data’s from Suriname. Sadly, however, there is no scientific research nor are there surveys carried out in Jamaica in order for an educated audience to substantiate or to critically analyse the claims of the Ministry of Heath in regards to the cultural and medical implications of skin bleaching amongst the populace.

It is believed by several dancehall adherents and misguided skin bleachers that skin bleaching is not a terminal or deadly practice. However, health implications may arises, due to excessive de-pigmentation of the skin from the use of illegal cosmetic creams.  Today, the manifestation of skin bleaching/lightening in Jamaica predominates as a dancehall aesthetic; and re-defines the ideology of beauty and identity within the society. As such, bleaching ones skin is not directly related to self-hatred.

Skin bleachers have the right to freedom from discrimination and alienation on the grounds of COLOUR or “Superficial COLOUR”. Even Rastafarians demand their right to the use of marijuana for religious and sacred purposes. We should not try to hinder the rights of people to change the colour of their skin or identity, but rather correct perceived cultural abnormalities through awareness and education. I strongly agree with the Ministry of Heath to institute stricter enforcement of regulations aimed at clamping down on illegal skin-fading creams. Nonetheless, one must be mindful of and respect the rights of persons to legally lighten their skin colour surgically or by the use of authorized creams. 

Written by:
Dwayne Brown