Thursday, December 10, 2009

Human Rights Day

Sixty one years ago today the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and set down the basic principles at the heart of the human rights movement. “Human Rights Day” is a high point on the UN calendar and organizations and activists around the world are holding events today to commemorate the anniversary. I am saddened to see that there will be no official marking of this day in my country. But I am grateful to still have the means to make a personal call to end all forms of discrimination, here and everywhere.

Bahamians who are comfortable love to talk about how there is no discrimination to speak of in the Bahamas. But the rest of us know the truth. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message today: “No country is free of discrimination.” And he pointed out that “discrimination targets individuals and groups that are vulnerable to attack: the disabled, women and girls, the poor, migrants, minorities, and all those who are perceived as different.”

His words make me think of the girl who was raped by a police officer while in custody this past summer. She and her parents know about the terrible danger girls are in because of discrimination against them. I remember too the woman from three years back who was dragged through the street naked by arresting police and held naked in the public area of the station for several hours like an animal on display. She also knows all about the nature of discrimination against her kind, ie, woman, unmarried mother, poor. I think about the thousands and thousands of women battered and abused in their homes every day across this land of islands. I think about the recent efforts to change laws that would return to married women the right to press rape charges against their husbands and all the hateful opposition that we heard, most of it coming from that premier oppressor of women, the church.

I am also thinking of my friends who are Gay and who struggle every day against a hatred especially reserved for them, and think of those who have fled the country all together in search of equality and inclusion.

And yes, I am thinking of myself too and the discrimination I have been able to survive and transform so that I can be here writing these words.

I write on this day to affirm human rights for all people who are at risk for discrimination here and around the world and once again call on my government to begin to take some serious action against violence against women and children in the Bahamas.

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