Assessment shows “Jamaicans view human rights as a foreign concept”

3 years ago

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The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) has partnered with the Office of the Public Defender on a human rights campaign, entitled, ‘Everybody Have Rights! Know Yuh Rights. Report any Violations Now’.          

NFPB Technical Officer in the Enabling Environment and Human Rights Unit, Nicola Cousins, said that the need for the campaign arose out of a baseline assessment done as part of the National HIV Response between 2017 and 2018.

“From that, we learned that Jamaicans view human rights as a foreign concept – an imposition from First-World countries such as the United States and Canada,”

she shared.               

The perception, she explained, was that human rights were aligned to

“an agenda to promote wide-scale acceptance of persons we consider to be key and vulnerable, primarily men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender women etc”.

Cousins said that persons who were consulted for the baseline assessment believed that it was necessary to move away from that narrow framing of human rights, and it was felt that this could be done by developing a campaign to increase awareness of human rights among Jamaicans in general.

The process to craft the campaign began in December 2019 when a technical advisory panel was assembled.   

The panel consists of representatives from ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), our civil society partners like the Jamaica Network for Seropositives, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network and our faith-based partners.

The campaign has three primary objectives – to increase knowledge of basic human rights, empower Jamaicans to report human rights violations, and to promote a human rights-based approach to service delivery.         

It focusses on four specific rights that were selected following focus-group discussions during the formative assessment phase and are listed in order of importance. The first three are from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is the amendment of the Jamaica Constitution in 2011 and the fourth was taken from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These are the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to equitable and humane treatment by any public authority in the exercise of any function; the right of everyone to protection from search of the person and property, respect for and protection of private and family life, protection of other property and of communication; and the right to health.

The four calls to action are to Know Your Rights, Report Rights Violations; Quality Service for All, and Respect Due Every Time.                                                 

The campaign was launched on Human Rights Day, December 10 2020, with the first deliverables rolled out on January 11, 2021, and is expected to last one year.